Short Deck Poker: Strategy of the Game

Strategy for Short Deck Poker

Also known as 6+ Hold’em, Short Deck poker has been around for many years. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the online favorite games of many players at the iPoker Network (including William Hill Poker, Ladbrokes Poker, and Bet365); PartyPoker; and PokerStars, for a long time. Its recent rise to popularity has moved it to other gaming platforms such as 888poker and Tiger Gaming. You might wonder; why is it gaining such popularity among players? Well, the major reason was because it has more natural gaming actions. This means if you like the adrenaline pumping kind of game, Short Deck Poker should definitely be a strong gaming consideration for you.


Really, it is not very usual that a new variant of poker will gain so much traction in the poker community but that is exactly what the Short Deck Poker has done within the last couple of years. Interestingly, no one thought it would gain so much interest when players first started playing it. For the record, the game began as a basic gambling game at the high stakes games in Asia. However, within a short period of time, it began to attract more attention in the poker community as players started discovering new strategies that could help them win at the game. Recently, it has received significant attention across North America and Europe, especially since a number of star studded Short Deck Poker High Roller events have taken place. Top among the stars that participated in the events are Tom Dwan, and Phil Ivey, among others. The game was also part of the schedule for the 2019 World Series of Poker.


The fact is that the game of Short Deck poker has come to stay and the earlier you accept this and start learning the ropes, the better equipped you will be to win at the game. Today, the game has risen in popularity and is now been offered by a selection of online poker platforms. No doubt, it is one of the very few games that almost all players are still learning the strategies involved in playing. In this blog, we will explore the different strategies involved in playing the games as well as the rules that apply to the game. It is essential to mention that the game is also sometimes referred to as 6+ Poker or Short Deck Hold’em. Additionally, it is a fun, fast paced variants of the basic Texas Hold’em game.


Rules of Short Deck Poker

Instead of the standard 52-card deck used in the different variations of poker games, the Short Deck game uses only 36-card deck. This means all the treys, deuces, fours, and fives are removed from the deck of cards. This poker variation is also known as Six Plus Hold’em because the lowest value of the card within the deck is the Six, which aptly explains the reason for the name. Generally, the game can be played between two to ten players at the same time but most times, it is played with six players at the table.


There are quite a number of reasons why this game is unique in its own way. Apart from the fact that it has special deck, the functioning of the rankings is also another unique thing about it. The rankings of the game have been reworked and this is basically because the odds of hitting specific hands changes significantly with shorter deck in the game. For example, a player has more probability to hit sets or straights due to the fact that all the cards are more connected than in any other variants of poker games. In Short Deck poker, Aces are either low or high but in this case, they stand in for five instead of the conventional deuces. This means that you can have a straight with a set like 9-8-7-6-A.


Based on all these factors, this variant of poker game is fully packed with action and can be an exceptional option for entertaining home game, or an interesting online gaming session. The fact that practically everyone is still learning the rope of the game makes it easier for players to find less aggressive game tables where the other players are also learning the game. The implication of this is that you won’t be much at a disadvantage when playing this game because almost everyone at the table with you is also learning the game.


Below are the reworked poker hand rankings for the Short Deck Poker game:

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


The number with asterisk (*), which is a flush ranks higher than the full house. It is important to note that there are some other variants of Short Deck where sets beat straight.


The Best Short Deck Poker Strategy

As mentioned earlier, Short Deck is technically a new game that is just getting traction among players. This also makes its strategy an almost uncharted territory. In fact, it can be categorically stated that the best strategy of the game is still in its developmental stage. If you could recall the strategy development of Hold’em poker game in the early 2000s, you would understand the long process that is still involved in the development of the game’s strategy. No doubt, it will take some time for the best strategy to emerge but you can be sure that when it finally emerges, there will be many opportunities for players to exploits in the game. It is also essential to mention that there are not many resources that have been released to help players learn about the game.


The good thing about this whole scenario is that it places everyone at the same plain ground. Practically everyone is just learning the game and starting at the same level. This means there is no big disparity in the skills of players. In other words, no player has a significant edge over another player as far as Short Deck poker is concerned. Having said this, let’s look at some basic strategies that can help you enhance your win rate at the game.


Know the Rules

This may sound basic but the fact is that you cannot win a lot of Short Deck hands without a good understanding of the rules that apply. Of course, if you are learning to play this variant of poker, you definitely know about Hold’em and you probably play the game good. The downside to being a proficient player of Hold’em and trying to learn Short Deck is that it will take more time for you to learn the new hand rankings of the game. However, it is not beyond you. You should try to memorize the hand rankings of this game if you really want to be a successful player of Short Deck Hold’em poker game. Additionally, you should look out for the A-6-7-8-9 wheel straight that can catch you off guard. Many new players have found themselves in this situation and it can really be dicey working through it.


Comparative Hand Value

If you are already familiar with Pot Limit Omaha game, you are most likely conversant with the fact that rock solid hands in the game of Hold’em are not really a sure deal. This is the same with Short Deck Hold’em game. Therefore, you should not be surprised when you notice that your full house or set cracks. Clearly put, in the game of Short Deck, you will have quite a number of better hands. As a matter of fact, you will have pocket aces like twice as much as you would have in the standard Hold’em game.


It might be quite helpful when you play to the nuts, which are actually the best hands you can have on the board. A word of caution though; you have to be careful than you normally would to be fine in the game. You have the opportunity to let go of the pocket jacks when you come across a lot of heat in the course of the game.


You will have more Sets

In the game of Short Deck, sets are really common. As a matter of fact, it is very easy to hit a set when playing in Short Deck than any other variant of poker. This is because there is less number of cards within the short deck and you are up to about 20% chance of hitting a set. Now, that is about one time out of five times. In the standard Hold’em game, you only get to hit a set in about one time out of eight times. Well, this might look like a big advantage on the part of Short Deck game. However, you have to keep it in mind that your opponent is also hitting sets as much as you are doing in the game. Therefore, try as much as possible to avoid hitting set over set.


Straights are more common in Short Deck

Yes, that’s right, and this is mainly because the deck has been drastically reduced, which makes it possible for you to make straights more than you would in other variants of poker. The fact is that if you possess an open ended straight draw at the flop, there is about a 45% high odd of making a straight by the river. The implication of this is that you can forcefully play straight draws and still have equity even if the opponent calls with made hand. It is essential to mention that this is not the case with flush draws. This is because there are only five cards that are left of the specific suit in the deck.


Flushes are the King

As you play, you will soon discover that flushes often have the nuts in the game of Short Deck Hold’em. This is not simply because they beat the full houses but because you are not likely to give up to bigger flushes often. Due to the fact that there are less flush cards, there is a less chance that your opponent will have a bigger flush than you have. This means that even though the value of a lot of the medium to premium hands reduces significantly, suited cards in the game are valuable and a great way to shovel huge pots whenever you hit.


Be Careful of Variance

It is very important that you are mindful of the fact that Short Deck poker is an action packed game when considering the stakes to play with. Generally, players go for anything between 50-100 buy-in in bankroll, when playing No Limit Hold’em. However, when it comes to Short Deck, you should have about a minimum of 60 buy-ins in your bankroll. It is essential to mention that there is more luck in this game. Therefore, it shouldn’t be strange to you if you have huge winning sessions, or losing sessions as the case may be, when playing at the table. As much as possible, grow your skills and maintain a level head while playing and you can be sure that you will overcome any variance in the game.


Don’t Shy Away from Over Betting the Nuts

Many new players in the game gets mesmerized by the quality and quantity of premium hands they get in the game. Now, if you have stone cold nuts, you should not be scared to put in big cash at the middle. This is because there is a high probability that there is something strong coming up your way. New players may find it hard to fold their hands, which technically will be monsters in standard Hold’em. Ensure you take advantage of the game and maximize your profit at the table.


Tips for Playing Short Deck as a Beginner

If you are just starting out in the game of Short Deck, it is very critical to understand the strategy and have some tips and tricks up your sleeves to enhance your chance of winning at the game. Before you start playing this variant of poker game, it is important that you first get familiar with other poker games, especially No Limit Hold’em. In case you don’t know how to play this game, it is recommended that you learn the game first and understand the rules. With this foundational knowledge, you can easily build the skills needed to play Short Deck excellently well. For players who already have the background knowledge of NLHE, below are some important tips that will help you develop competence in the game of Short Deck


Tip One: The Rule of 3 & 6

In the case of odds and outs, it is crucial that you are conversant with the rule of 2 & 4. This means you should be able to multiple the numbers of outs that you have by two or four respectively in order to calculate your equity on flop and turn. For Short Deck, this rule doesn’t apply. This is because there are fewer cards in the deck and you have a high chance of completing your draws. Therefore, you have to replace the rule of 2 & 4 to rule of 3 & 6 in this variant of game. What does this mean?


One, while on the flop, multiply the number of outs by 3 to calculate the chance of making a hand by the turn. Two, while on the flop, multiply the number of outs by 6 to calculate the chance of making a hand by the river or the turn. Three, while on the turn, multiply the number of outs by 3 to also calculate the chance of hitting one of them on river. Below are the specific percentages that you should work with:


OutHitting on the Turn


Hitting on the Turn or River


Tip Two: Flush Draws Lose and Straight Draws Gain Value

In standard Hold’em, if you have a flush draw on flop, you would have 9 outs to enable you make your flush. However, there are just five cards of suits left in the deck of Short Deck. This means the situation is different. So, if you take the 3 & 6 rule into consideration, your chance of hitting one of these is about 15% by turn and 30% by river. Now, this is a bit worse than what you have in the standard Hold’em where you can complete flush draw about 36% of the time by river. Nevertheless, if you get an open ended straight draw on flop, you still have eight outs to make your hand. Note that there are only 31 cards instead of 47. The implication of this is that you will have a bigger chance to attain your hand. Now, the chance of hitting a straight by river is well above 45%. What does this mean? The numbers do not function the same way in the game of Short Deck. You have to understand that your opponent may also have a set and your ‘lucky’ straight draw may already be dead right on the flop. The most common draws that you can have on the flop when it comes to Short Deck poker are highlighted below:


DrawOutsTo Complete by TurnTo Complete By River
Set to Squad13.26.5
Pocket pair to set26.512.7
Gunshot to Straight412.924.5
Flush Draw to Flush516.130.1
Two Over-cards to top pair619.435.5
Set to full house or better722.6*48.4%
Open Ended Straight Draw to Straight Gut-shot plus Flush draw to straight or flush825.845.6
Open Ended Straight Draw + Flush Draw to straight or flush1238.763.2


Asterisk (*) – Please note that on the turn; a set requires 10 outs to be able to fill a full house.


Tip Three: Stronger Post Flop Hands are needed

When you are contemplating on how to play your hands and the specific hands to play, it is important that you watch out for the changes that are bound to occur in the hand strengths. For instance, pre flop hand like the J-T is about a coin flip to something like A-K. This is because all low cards that do not connect with any of these starting hands are not available. In this case, A-K will definitely win on low and disconnected boards’ relative strength will remarkably reduce. The same rule will apply to connected boards.


Tip Four: Hands appear stronger at Pre flop

For those that are used to the standard Hold’em game, you understand that it is uncommon to see premium hands pre flop. For instance, on an average, aces are dealt only once in every 221 hands. However, with stronger cards in the deck, there is a high chance of coming across more premium hands in the game of Short Deck. For instance, you will come across aces at least once in every 100 hands. Additionally, you are more likely to see hand such as A-K in this variant of poker than you would in the regular Hold’em. This is why it seems that most hands appear to be stronger pre flop than they really are in the game of Short Deck.


In the standard Hold’em, majority of players believe that a starting hand with any of the two Broadway cards, that is ten-or-higher is at least playable but the fact is that you are dealt with such hand in short deck at almost one-third of the time. This means that on an average, you have higher hand strength in the game of Short Deck. By the way, your opponent also has strong hands.


In comparison to standard Hold’em, the pre flop probabilities of Short Deck poker are as follow:


Short Deck Probability


Standard Hold’em Probability


Getting Pocket Aces0.95: 1 in 1000.45: 1 in 221
Getting any pocket pair8.65.9
Getting any 2-suited cards22.923.5
Getting Ace King2.51.2
Getting Jack Ten Suited0.630.30
Getting 2 Broadways: Tens or up30.214.3


The Best Starting Hands in Short Deck Poker

It is important to keep in mind that although monsters such as pocket kings and pocket aces are very strong, the other premium pairs also take the hit. Sure, you might want to always re-raise with pocket jacks and pocket queens in standard Hold’em, this is not the best bet in Short Deck game. You are more likely to find premium pairs in short deck, which means the probability of smashing your queen into kings or aces is higher. In fact, the ace king off-suit is remarkably weaker in this case. Conversely, drawing hands such as jack-ten and ace-king are much stronger. Specifically, jack-ten is an unbelievable hand in short deck and it is really a coin flip against the ace-king.


Additionally, hands such as QJ, QT, and T-9 suited are very strong. Generally, suited hands increase in value in Short Deck simply because flushes usually beat full houses. In fact, bad hands such as J-6 even have a level of value when suited. Just like in Pot Limit Omaha, you would want to draw to the nuts and there is nothing as bad as discovering that you have a worse draw than your opponents when you flip your cards.


Another point to note when you have low or middle pocket pairs; if you are playing on a platform where sets beat straights, there is more significant value in the hands. As a matter of fact, if you are able to hit top set on flop, then you have a good chance that it will be the nuts.



When you talk about action-packed game, Short Deck definitely comes up. However, you have to know that it is not all action. No doubt, you will hit many more hands when playing this variant of poker but your opponents will also hit many more, which makes it an even game. However, if you are playing with a newbie in the game, there is a high chance that you will be able to exploit them because they will likely overplay their hands due to excitement. Whether you are a professional or just starting out of the game, there are a good number of platforms where you can play and learn more skills about the game. Check out platforms like William Hill Poker, PartyPoker, PokerStars, and Bet365 Poker to access some of the best Short Deck poker game.