6+ – or as it’s often called, “Short-Deck” – Hold’em is the latest development in the poker evolution embraced by some of the game’s biggest stars.
The basic idea is that all the 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and 5’s are removed from the deck so the game is played 36 cards instead of the regular 52. This changes the situation quite drastically, not just strategically but also regarding the rules – the hand ranking is different from regular Texas Hold’em due to the changes in probability.
All that considered, Short-Deck is still part of the community card family of poker. That means that the play is almost identical to NLHE, making it easier to get used to for a player who is familiar with the most popular version of poker out there – which is virtually every poker fan.
Since it’s a very fresh new format, many casinos and online poker rooms haven’t adapted it yet. It’s a common game in Asian casinos but not so much in Europe and America. The biggest online room, PokerStars, added it very recently in January this year. Some of the other big card-rooms such as PartyPoker or 888 haven’t added it yet, though. You can also find it in the selection of some of the smaller sites, for example, Bet365.
Unlike regular Hold’em where two players post the small and big blind, respectively, Short-Deck Hold’em is usually played with an ante structure with an additional button blind. This means that every player at the table needs to put a certain amount into the middle before the cards are dealt. Meanwhile, the player on the button has to put in an extra blind bet.
Then, two cards are dealt to each player face down. Since there is only the button blind, the action starts to the player sitting next to the dealer button, to their left. The player Under the Gun has the option to either call the blind (that move is called “limping” and it’s not advisable strategically), fold their cards or raise. If a person raises, the others need to match the raised amount in order to stay in the pot. If no-one calls a raise the hand is over and the last aggressor claims the pot.
If there is at least one call, three cards are dealt face up on the board, the flop. These are community cards, any player can use them to improve their hand. After that a betting round follows starting from the left of the button. Then, if there are still players in the hand, a single card is put on the board, face up again. Players have the option to bet again. Another card and another round of betting follows before showdown.
Aside from the blind structure, so far the game play is identical to No-Limit Hold’em. However, that changes at the showdown. The number of cards in the deck are changing the probability of certain hands. This changes the Hold’em hand ranking. In 6+, it goes as follows, from weakest to strongest:
Two of the same ranked card.
Two of the same ranked card and another two of the same ranked different card.
Five cards following each other in rank, suit discounted.
Three of a kind/Trips/Set
Three of the same ranked card. (AAA)
Three of the same ranked card and two of the same ranked different card.
Five cards of the same suit. (, all of the same suit)
Four of a kind/Quads
Four of the same ranked card.
Five cards of the same suit, following each other in rank.
( of the same suit)
Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of the same suit.
Also, please note that an A through 9 makes a straight – similar to the wheel in regular NLHE.
At showdown, whoever can make the strongest 5-card hand out of their 2 hole cards and the 5 cards on the board wins the money in the pot.
In Short-Deck poker, the button is an especially valuable position to have since in addition to having position on your opponents you also get better pot odds pre-flop. This is because of the button blind structure. This means you should play even more hands from that seat than you would be playing 52-card Hold’em.
Flush draws are less valuable since you only have 5 outs instead of 9. That means you need to bluff and call with them less often. If you do make a flush, however, you don’t need to be afraid of paired boards anymore – remember, a flush beats a full house in this game. Speaking of paired boards, they happen a lot more often than in regular NLHE because of the number of different ranked cards are lower.
As for starting hand ranges, your suited connectors go up in value compared to NLHE, meaning you should play them more frequently. Meanwhile, off-suit broadway cards, even , are less valuable. That is because in this game, straights, sets and full houses happen more often, top pair-good kicker rarely takes a big pot. You need to keep that in mind for post-flop play as well.
Short-Deck poker became popular in the high stakes live cash games in Asia. This a very recent development, only started a few years ago in the 2010’s.
Some of the European and American pros who occasionally played in those games also got familiar with it and shared their fondness of the game with their online audiences. The first and biggest proponent of 6+ Hold’em was online poker legend Tom “durrrr” Dwan.
Soon many other big name card-players followed Dwan which culminated in a live streamed super high stakes 6+ poker cash game in Jeju, South Korea.
Notable 6+ Professionals
As we mentioned, Tom Dwan was the first player who openly embraced the new game in the European-American poker community.
Later, Jason Koon tallied some impressive results in Short-Deck tournaments. He won the HK$1,000,000 short-deck Triton High Roller in Montenegro, finished 3rd in the HK$500,000 short-deck event in Jeju and cashed in the short-deck event at the 2018 Poker Masters.
Since this variation of poker originated in Asia, it is only fitting that some of the best Asian 6+ players get a mention also. Tan Xuan finished second in the HK$1 million Short Deck championship in Montenegro, and he was in the super high stakes Jeju cash game as well. Malaysian businessman Paul Phua is also a player who frequent plays Short-Deck cash games and tournaments.
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