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Isaac Haxton Plays His First Short-Deck Poker Event, Wins $176,000

The Aria Poker Room

Short-deck poker made its North American debut in the 2018 Poker Masters this week with high-stakes pro Isaac “Ike” Haxton adapting on the fly and eventually locking down the $176,000 first-place prize.

Haxton had never played the Hold’em variant before he entered the $10,000 buy-in tournament at Aria in Las Vegas and found himself learning as the tournament progressed. He seemed to get a handle on it because he outlasted all 55 entries and beat fellow poker pro Maurice Hawkins heads-up to take the title.

Short-deck, also known as 6+ poker, has gotten the poker world buzzing with its propensity for action-packed games and brand-new strategies. It’s threatening to become the biggest breakout poker variant since Full Tilt Poker revolutionized the online game with fast-fold Rush Poker in early 2010.

The game is deceptively simple. The standard 52-card deck is “shortened” by removing all cards with values less than six. The remaining 36-card deck makes for an action-packed game thanks to the numerous high cards.

Haxton Closes in on $20m in Earnings

Isaac Haxton is one of the bona fide masters of the high-roller live tournament circuit but it’s been a while since he outright won a major tournament.

In fact you’d have to go all the way back to 2016 when Haxton outlasted all competitors to take down the €25,000 buy-in EPT Prague High Roller for $594,356.

That’s not to say Haxton hasn’t been busy, however.

The former Magic: The Gathering pro has been on fire at the 2018 Poker Masters with three final tables, including a sixth, fourth and now a first-place finish for a haul of just over $300,000.

Thanks to his consistent success on the high-stakes circuit, Haxton is now up to just shy of $20 million in lifetime live tournament earnings. That puts the 32-year-old firmly in the top 20 all-time poker earners.

Earlier this week it appeared that poker pro/author Brandon Adams was firmly in the lead in pursuit of the fabled purple jacket, which is awarded to the ultimate points earner over the course of the seven-tournament series.

Here’s a look at the points standings at the midway point of the Poker Masters with Haxton just 30 points behind Adams.

  • 1. Brandon Adams — 510 Points
  • 2. Isaac Haxton — 480 Points
  • 3. Keith Lehr — 300 Points
  • 4. David Peters — 300 Points
  • 5. Jonathan Depa — 270 Points

Short-Deck Headed to PokerStars?

The resounding success of short-deck poker on the high-stakes circuit has gotten even casual poker fans interested in the new format.

Unfortunately, there are very few places that actually spread the game. That could be changing as poker media organization Pokerfuse spotted an image for “Six Plus Hold’em” in the PokerStars client.

The European iPoker network already offers a version of short-deck poker but the scope of PokerStars could potentially provide an entirely new level of exposure for the budding game.

Programming short-deck poker into the PokerStars client likely poses some problems because it tweaks the fundamental poker hand rankings. Because there are fewer cards in the deck, the chance of hitting a straight goes up while the chance of a flush decreases.

Because of the shorter deck, a flush is actually the third-best hand behind only four of a kind and straight flushes. Three of a kind is usually better than a straight as well although that one varies somewhat from organizer to organizer.

Short deck is a breath of fresh air for Hold’em because it encourages all-new strategies and is very much “unsolved.” The game also brings a degree of mystery because it originated in super high-stakes private games in Asia.