A royal flush

Short Deck Poker Strategy: What is Short Deck Poker?

Short Deck Poker is a variant of poker that’s gained popularity in the past few years. The game, also called 6-Plus Poker, originated in Macau’s high roller poker rooms. As new Short Deck Poker strategy information emerged, the game gained more attention in the USA and around the world. Now, a few online poker sites offer 6-Plus Poker. Players who master Short Deck Hold’em strategy can gain a decided advantage over opponents. 

Short Deck Poker Rules: How to Play 6+ Hold’em

In Short-Deck Hold’em the standard 52-card deck has 36 cards, removing all deuces, treys, fours and fives. It’s known as Six Plus Poker because the lowest card in the deck is the six. The game can be played with anywhere from 2-10 players but is often played with six players.

  • Hand Rankings: These are different then standard Texas Hold’em, because the odds of hitting certain hands changes with the shorter deck. 
  • Sets and Straights: It’s easier to hit straights because the cards are more connected. It’s easier to hit sets because of fewer alternate hand ranks. 
  • Aces High: Aces are once again high and low but this time they stand in for the five instead of the traditional deuce. That means you can make a straight with 9-8-7-6-A. 
  • Lots of Action: Short-Deck Poker is a great action game and can be fantastic for an entertaining home game or a particularly interesting online session.
  • Soft Competition: Since everyone is still learning the game it’s easier to find softer tables where players don’t know how to play. 

Here are the re-worked poker hand rankings for Short-Deck Poker (*reflects a hand that’s ranked differently):

  1. Royal Flush
  2. Straight Flush
  3. Four of a Kind
  4. Flush*
  5. Full House
  6. Straight**
  7. Three of a Kind
  8. Two Pair
  9. One Pair
  10. High card

*A flush ranks higher than a full house in this game. 
**There are variations of Short Deck Hold'em where a set beats a straight.

What’s the Best Short Deck Poker Strategy?

Short-Deck Poker strategy is developing, so the perfect strategy is still unformed. Like Hold’em in the early 2000s, it’s going to take some time for the correct strategy to emerge. On the bright side, this puts everyone at the same level right now. Those who grok the game quickly gain a huge skill advantage. With that said, a few basic tips can improve your win rate quickly. 

  • Understand the Rules: If you’re coming from traditional Texas Hold’em it will take some time to learn the new hand rankings. For instance, watch out for the pesky A-6-7-8-9 “wheel” straight that catches some new players off guard.
  • Relative Hand Value: Like players in Pot-Limit Omaha, certain rock-solid Texas Hold’em hands aren’t as solid in 6-Plus Poker. Simply put, you’re going to get better hands more often. You’ll be dealt pocket aces twice as often as regular Hold’em. Expect to have strong hands beaten more often. 
  • Sets are More Common: It’s easier to hit a set in Short-Deck Hold’em. Because there are fewer cards in a short deck, you are up to nearly 20% to hit a set. That’s roughly one out of five times. In ordinary Texas Hold’em, you only hit a set roughly one out eight times.
  • Straights are Much More Common: Because the deck has been stripped down you are much more likely to make a straight. In fact, if you have an open-ended straight draw on the flop, the odds of making a straight by the river rocket all the way up 45%. Aggressively play your straight draws and you will generally have equity even if your opponent calls with a made hand.
  • Flushes are Less Common: The same cannot be said for flush draws as only five cards left of your particular suit left in the deck. Because of this, Short-Deck Hold’em flushes are frequently the nuts. They beat full houses and you’re less likely to face a bigger flush. 
  • Suited Cards: That means that while the value of many mid-to-premium hands goes down, suited cards are quite valuable and a fantastic way to scoop massive pots when you hit.
  • Be Aware of Variance: Short-Deck Hold’em is an action-packed poker game and players should keep that in mind when deciding what stakes game to play. With No-Limit Hold’em players generally want to have anywhere from 50-100 buy-ins in their bankroll. With Short-Deck it’s probably worth having at least 60+ buy-ins.
  • Don’t Go On Tilt: There’s simply more luck involved with Short-Deck so don’t be surprised if you have massive winning or losing sessions. Try to keep a level head and skill will eventually prevail over variance.
  • Don’t Be Afraid of Over-Betting the Nuts: Most new players in Short-Deck Hold’em will be enthralled by the number of premium hands they’ll be getting. If you’ve got the stone-cold nuts, then you shouldn’t be afraid of putting serious cash in the middle of the table. There’s a good chance they’ve got something strong as well.
  • New Players Have a Hard Time Folding: New players will likely have a hard time folding their hands, which would be monsters in regular Hold’em, so make sure you maximize your profit.

What Are the Best Starting Hands in Short Deck Hold'em?

The list of premium hands is much different in 6+ Poker, so don't go into the game assuming standard Texas Hold'em logic applies. Instead, keep the following Short Deck Hold'em tips in mind. 

  • Pocket Aces and Pocket Kings: One thing to keep in mind with Short-Deck Hold’em is that although monsters like pocket aces and pocket kings are still very strong the other premium pairs take a hit.
  • Pocket Queens and Pocket Jacks: While you might always re-raise with pocket queens and pocket jacks in regular Hold’em, it’s a scarier proposition in Short-Deck.
  • Premium Pairs: Players are much more likely to get premium pairs in Short-Deck so the likelihood of smashing your queens into aces or kings is much higher. Even ace-king offsuit is significantly less strong.
  • AK Suited and J10 Suited: On the other hand drawing hands as ace-king suited and jack-ten suited are much stronger. Jack-ten, in particular, is an incredible hand for Short-Deck and is actually a coin flip against ace-king.
  • Strong Drawing Hands: Hands like T-9, QJ and QT suited are also very strong.
  • Suited Hands: Suited hands, in general, go up in value when playing Short-Deck because flushes beat full houses. Even bad hands like J-6 have some value when they are suited. Like PLO you generally want to be drawing to the nuts. Nothing is worse than realizing your draw is worse than your opponents once you flip your cards.
  • Middle and Low Pocket Pairs: A special note on middle and low pocket pairs: If you’re playing on a site where sets beat straights then there is a lot more value in those hands. In fact, if you manage to hit the top set on a flop then there’s a good chance that’s going to be the nuts.

It’s time to get out there and start playing. In the meantime here’s a famous video of iconic cash game pro, Tom Dwan, explaining how to play the format:

Short Deck Poker Strategy FAQ

What is Short Deck Poker?

Short Deck Poker is a variation of Texas Hold'em that uses a 36-card deck. Sixteen cards are removed from the deck (2s, 3s, 4s, 5s), so the 6-card is the lowest card in the deck. For this reason, many players call this Six-Plus Hold'em. 

Six-Plus Poker began in the high-stakes poker rooms of Macau casinos. Since then, it's appeared as a separate event in major poker tournaments. Short Deck Hold’em is playable on many of the best online poker sites. Keep reading below for the 6+ Hold’em rules, plus strategy advice for beginners and intermediate players alike.

What is the best starting hand in Short Deck Hold’em?

The best starting hand in pocket aces. According to most Short Deck Poker strategy experts, the only real premium hands are AA, KK, AKs, and AQs. Even AQ is marginally a premium hand, so players must approach it with some caution. Hands like pocket queens, pocket jacks, and AK aren't as powerful as they are in standard Texas Hold'em. 

One of the mistakes most card players make when they start playing Short-Deck Poker is to overplay these hands.

Like other forms of poker, the best overall hand is an ace-high straight flush, also known as a royal flush. Because sixteen cards are removed from the deck, royal flushes appear much more often in 6+ Poker. Regular Texas Hold'em has 1,326 potential starting hands, while Short Deck Hold'em has 630 potential starting hands. 

Is Short Deck Poker easier?

Any poker variant is a player-versus-player game, so the difficulty level depends on your opponent. Short Deck Hold’em offers good players more opportunities to exploit, so it is easier for skilled players -- at least at the entry-level. 

At lower bet ranges, Short Deck Hold’em is easier. That's because more loose players exist. These players are used to traditional Texas Hold'em and might not have mastered the new rules yet. For that reason, you're likely to see players making bets that (1) would make sense in standard Texas Hold'em but (2) make no sense in Short-Deck Hold'em. 

How do you play 6+ Poker?

Find an online or mobile poker site with a lot of game options, whether it's tournament or cash game events. These are most likely to offer 6+ Poker games. A growing number of online cardrooms now offer 6-Plus Poker, including Bitcoin poker sites like America's Cardroom, Sportsbook, and Sportsbook.

Does a 3 of a Kind beat a straight in Short Deck Hold'em?

In most versions of online Short Deck Hold’em, the straight still beats a 3 of a Kind. That isn't universal, so players must read the game rules before playing. Some online poker sites rank the 3 of a Kind higher than a straight.

If you aren't comfortable playing with the new rules, play free poker before joining a low-stakes game of Short Deck Hold'em.

Is there more action in Short Deck Hold'em?

The rule of 4 and 2 becomes the rule of 3 and 6, so Six-Plus Poker does increase the action. Be warned, though -- players need stronger post-flop hands to win the pot. Action is greater in the pre-flop which necessarily means post-flop bets are higher, though the amount of players staying in the hand typically goes down. 

Bigger hands are more likely in Short Deck Hold'em. It's easier to hit a set. Aces have a higher value, while the smaller deck makes it twice as likely to receive pocket aces on the deal. At the same time, flushes are less likely, while top pair and top kicker have a lower value. Single-pair hands don't win a pot as often.