Short Deck Poker Strategy

Short Deck Poker Strategy

Is there a winning Short Deck Poker strategy? 

No tactic guarantees you a 100% victory, but adhering to specific tips and recommendations can noticeably enhance your results – skills and profit – over the long run.

This article introduces strategic approaches to playing poker with a reduced pack (36 cards only). 

We will discuss essential statistical data which nails the strength of starting hands in 6 plus and examine pivotal structural elements that contribute to a sound strategic game.

Introduction to Short Deck Poker Strategy

6+ Hold’em is a kind of poker where a 36-card deck is used (52 cards in full-pack formats). This is the most notable characteristic that differentiates Short Deck from traditional and time-honoured Texas Holdem rules.

The fact that all cards lower than 6’s are stripped-down gives players a higher probability of collecting combinations, which are considered strong in NLH (no limit holdem). For instance, full house or straight. What's more, it's possible to finish the given hands more often. Your chances to complete a random combo here are 14.1%, whereas in NLHE this indicator equals 4.6%.

On the other hand, this simplifies the play process, as there are only 630 starting hands (1 326 in NL Hold’em). The number of unique starters is 81, compared to 169 in the classic variation.

6+ Holdem vs Triton Holdem

There are two types of Short Deck format – Triton and 6 plus. The first version has close links to the popular Triton Poker series, which is famous for providing high roller games. And 6+ is presented in some poker rooms, so everyone interested can play it online. However, these two variants have some distinctions in hand order (ranking). Both consider a full house to be lower than a flush, but a straight is still stronger than a set (trips) in Triton games, while in Holdem 6 plus – set (or trips) is higher than a straight.

Many professionals prefer Short Deck over traditional Hold’em. Tom Dwan is one of them; he is a big fan of the stripped-down pack games as they promise much more excitement and action. Here is the video of the famous cash game pro explaining how to play SDP:

Understanding Hand Probabilities

Here are the probabilities of completing a specific combo, using a random starter:

HandProbability in 6 plus
Straight Flush
Four of a kind0.57%
Full House7.59%
Two pair38.3%
One pair27.74%
No pair2.81%

Selecting the optimal rankings for a 5-card hand here is a nontrivial process. The above table demonstrates that players will get one pair less often than two pair. The same goes for a straight, as this combination appears more often than trips. However, it's crucial to consider that the Short Deck board pairs by the river in 66% of cases, compared to 49% in Full Deck games.

This is not as controversial as it may initially seem. If the board remains unpaired by the river, the probability of getting two pair is only 6.2%, and one pair is 14.5%.

Short Deck Hand Example
Short Deck Hand Example

The screenshot below shows a hand involving famous poker players and big fans of the SDP format – Tom Dwan and Timofey Kuznetsov. Tom was dealt AJo (in the high jack), while Timofey got 89s (in the cut-off).

short deck poker strategy

The 9-8-7 rainbow flop brought Kuznetsov two pair, namely eights and nines; Dwan had a lot of outs to improve on the following streets, which is what happened. The 6♠ that came on the turn completed Tom’s gutshot straight draw, leaving Timofey four outs to strengthen his two pair to a full house. The K♦ appeared on the river, securing Dwan’s victory in the first run since he collected an A6789 straight.

As we already know, all 2s,3s, 4s, and 5s are taken out of the pack, so Ace plays both low and high here (just like in the standard variation). Therefore, A6789 is the lowest straight in Hold’em 6+ and the best possible hand on this board. If an eight or a nine had appeared on the river, Timofey Kuznetsov could have won the first run by hitting a full house, which beats a straight.

6+ Holdem Strategy Tips and Advice

While Short Deck differs from NLH, it doesn't totally disregard familiar strategic approaches when playing offline. However, these formats do have some significant differences. Here are some fundamental tips to learn first:

  • Open-limping is profitable

Open-limping is considered unprofitable in full-pack battles, while here, it plays a crucial role in your game strategy. It’s advised to make the limp-reraise range wider by adding some strong hands like K-K and A-A to protect the limping hands from opponents’ raises.

  • Don’t give much credit to offsuit hands

In 6 plus, big pairs lose their strength as the power of flushes grows. Due to that fact, offsuit starters lose their value, and you should play them less aggressively. Furthermore, you should enter the action with such hands much less frequently. Play more suited cards and pocket pairs (and be more aggressive).

Conversely, try to include more suited starters to your range, as they become much stronger. Meaning you should apply a bold strategy when holding them.

  • Be cautious when playing straight draws

Keep in mind that sets have more power than straights in some variations of SDP, which means that you will no longer be as willing to play your straight draws as in NLHE. In such games, you have no chance to win the pot holding a straight against any set (trips).

Of course, applying semi-bluffs may be a good option here, as straight can be a nut hand if you complete it, but you will draw dead most of the time. Similarly, your opponents also will complete sets more often, so you should evade set-over-set spots.

  • Flushes are often nuts

That’s because they are placed over full houses in the ranking. Moreover, you are less likely to lose to a stronger flush. This happens as the deck has fewer cards to complete the given combination; therefore, the odds that your opponent hits a better flush are significantly lower.

  • Semi-bluff low and medium pairs

Medium and low pairs are great for semi-bluffing here, and there are some reasons for this. Owing to the reduced deck, you will improve to sets and four-of-a-kind more often. The value of trips is very high.

In addition, the given pairs have a lot less showdown value than in regular Hold'em, so you probably will not take a check/call line with them.

  • Be ready to encounter variance

People who prefer SDP should note that this type is truly action-packed. Thus, be more prudent in your choice of what limit to join.

NLH players strive to have around 50-100 buy-ins as their bankroll. As for the 6+ format, it’s virtually better to have 60+ buy-ins. Gameplay with shortened pack involve more luck, so you should be ready to bear unprofitable sessions. Don't let variance take over you. Try improving your game – solid skills will take over variance in the long run.

How Ante Affects Your Table Behaviour

In traditional holdem games, two players sitting to the dealer’s left are required to post blinds (mandatory bets made by default in each hand) before all participants involved receive their pocket cards.

Such a system doesn’t work for short deck format, as this game has its structure with antes. According to it, each player engaged in the hand has to post ante, and then, the individual on the button makes a straddle. The one sitting to the left-hand side of the dealer (let it be player A) is the first to make their decision on the preflop.

This specific structure significantly affects the gameplay. For example, in a short deck match (6-max), player A has chanced on a preflop call equal to 7:1, compared to typical hold’em  (with blinds) where this indicator is 3:2.

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Final Thoughts

Given that 6-plus games are quite new to the market, the optimal poker short deck strategy is still being developed. Many familiar hold’em concepts are yet applicable here, for example, pot odds/implied odds, 3-betting with proper ranges, loose play on the BTN, etc. But some manoeuvres won’t work. That's why you should thoroughly prepare and study all the peculiarities of this fascinating discipline.

Applying specific ideas will be, for sure, dramatically different from those used on regular NLH tables, but a deep understanding of classical strategies and poker math as a whole will still be valuable.

💡 How do you win a short deck in poker?

The absence of cards below sixes in the pack injects action and dynamism into the gameplay. So be ready to make unconventional decisions for victory, as many moves regarded as successful in regular NLH may not work here. Keep in mind that the equity of starting hands in 6+ is much closer, and pocket pairs decrease in value faster due to their diminished rank. If you find that your opponents overestimate these hands, then you can easily isolate them by making big raises on the preflop.

Expect many multi-way pots with diverse preflop scenarios; every player's position, except the button, is less advantageous. The key is to adhere to your strategy and effectively exploit opponents' weaknesses.

🎯 What are the best starting hands in short deck poker?

Suited connectors offer the grandest chances of making a flush, and this combination is considered one of the strongest ones.

👀 Does 3 of a kind beat a straight in short deck?

In the 6-plus version, this is indeed true. But in the Triton format, these hands retain their standard positions in the ranking, meaning that a set/trips is inferior to a straight.

Note, however, that both variants with a stripped-down pack – 6+ and Triton – consider flush outranking full house.

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