Short Deck game strategy

Short Deck strategy

​If Short Deck poker is a new game format for you, then this article will come in handy. By reading it, you will get acquainted with some important information on key features that dictate the right game strategy, as well as learn the strength of the starting hands and frequency of the finished hands. So, let's immerse into the world of Hold’em 6+ poker.

What is Short Deck Poker?

Short Deck poker, also referred to as 6+ Hold’em is a kind of poker game, in which a 36-card deck is used (52 cards in full deck formats). This is the most substantial characteristic that distinguishes Short Deck from other Hold’em games.

The fact that all cards, which are lower than 6’s, are removed, gives players a higher probability of collecting combinations, which are considered strong in NLH (no limit holdem), like full house or straight. What's more, it's possible to finish the given combinations more often. For instance, your chances to complete a random combination in 6+ Hold’em are 14,1%, whereas in NLH this indicator is equal to 4,6%.

On the other hand, this simplifies the play process, as there are only 630 starting hands (1 326 in NLH). As for the unique SH (starting hands), their number amounts to 81, in contrast to 169 in NLH.

6+ Holdem vs Triton Holdem

There are two types of Short Deck Poker – Triton Holdem and 6+ Holdem. Speaking about Triton Holdem, this version is played at the popular Triton Poker series, which is famous for providing games for high rollers, and Holdem 6+ is presented in some poker rooms, meaning that you can play it online.

However, the two variants have some differences 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 Holdem games, while in 6+ Holdem – the set (or trips) is higher than the straight.

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

Probabilities in Short Deck games

Here is the probability to complete a certain combination, using a random SH, in Short Deck format:

HandProbability in Short Deck
Straight Flush
Four of a kind0,57%
Full House7,59%
Two pair38,3%
One pair27,74%
No pair2,81%

You can see that players will get one pair less often than two pairs. The same goes for a straight, as this poker combination appear more often than trips.

Ante structure in Short Deck

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

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

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

Features of Short Deck Poker

  1. A shorter deck is used: 36 cards instead of 52 cards.
  2. Some hands are ranked in a different way compared to Texas Hold 'em (a flush trumps a full house; a set or trips sometimes ranks above a straight). 
  3. The following hand is considered a straight: Ace, 6, 7, 8, 9.
  4. Each position at the table, except for the button, is more unprofitable in contrast to traditional Holdem games. Therefore, if you want to play postflop from any position (apart from the button), then you need to isolate limpers.
  5. Ante system has a big advantage. There are lots of multi-pots with various preflop scenarios in such games.
  6. Due to the fact that the deck consists of fewer cards, the equity of SH is much closer. This is why you will get one or another hand more frequently.
  7. Equity of suited hands is higher. This makes it possible to apply marginal calls when playing against amateurs.
  8. Pocket pairs decrease in value. If you find that your opponents overestimate these hands, then you can easily isolate them by making big raises on the preflop.

Hand Example

The screenshot below shows a hand that occurred in the short deck cash game involving famous poker players and big fans of Short Deck poker 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

The 9-8-7 rainbow flop brought Kuznetsov two pair, namely eights and nines, but 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 improve 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 deck in short deck games, so Ace plays low as well as high here, just like in traditional Hold’em full deck games. Therefore, A6789 is the lowest straight in Short Deck Poker, and the best possible hand on this board. If an eight or a nine had appeared on the river, then Timofey Kuznetsov could have won the first run hitting a full house, which beats a straight.

Short Deck offline: strategy tips and advice

Short Deck is obviously different from Texas Hold'em but not that much as to completely abandon the familiar strategy when playing short deck offline. However, these poker 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 deck games, while in Short Deck it plays an important role in the game strategy. It’s advised to make the limp-reraise range wider by adding some strong hands like K-K and A-A in order to protect the limping hands from opponents’ raises.

  • Don’t give much credit to offsuit hands

In Short Deck, the big pairs lose their strength as the strength of the flushes grows. Due to that fact, the offsuit hands lose their value and you should play them less aggressively; furthermore, you should play such hands much less frequently. Play more suited hands and pocket pairs (and play them more aggressively).

Conversely, try to play more suited hands as they become much stronger, meaning you should apply a more aggressive strategy when holding them.

  • Be cautious when playing straight draws

Be mindful of the fact that sets are stronger than straights in some variations of Short Deck Poker, meaning that you will no longer be as willing to play your straight draws as in Texas Hold’em. In such games, you have no chances to win the hand (with the straight) against any set (trips).

Of course, applying semi-bluff with a straight draw may be a good option as straight can be a nut hand if you complete it, but most of the time, you will draw dead. Furthermore, your opponents at the table will also be completing sets more often, so you should try to evade set over set spots.

  • Flushes are often the nuts

Flushes often appear to be the nut hands in Short Deck games. So, first, that is because they are placed over full houses in the ranking. Secondly, you are less likely to lose to a stronger flush. This happens because the deck has fewer cards to complete a flush; therefore, the odds that your opponent hits a stronger flush are significantly lower.

  • Semi-bluff low and medium pairs

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

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

  • Be ready to encounter variance

People who prefer Short Deck Poker should note that this poker format 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 Short Deck format, it’s virtually better to have 60+ buy-ins. Short Deck games involve more luck, and you should be ready to have huge unprofitable sessions. Don't let variance take over you. Try to improve your game, and skills will take over variance in the long run.

Short Deck games are quite new on the poker market, so the optimal strategy for offline games is still being developed. But, many hold’em concepts are still applicable here, for example, considering pot odds/implied odds, wide blind defense, 3-betting with the correct ranges, loose play on the BTN, and so on.

Applying specific ideas will be, for sure, dramatically different from those used in Hold'em games, but a deep understanding of classical strategy and poker mathematics as a whole will still be valuable.

Where to play 6+ Hold'em online

Short Deck Poker is becoming very popular, and poker players from all over the globe are learning the strategy of Holdem 6+ games. Many poker rooms provide short deck poker both at low and high stakes:

  1. GGPoker. Try your hand playing short deck cash games at different stakes: from ¥50 to ¥100 000. Short Deck Poker tournaments take place with the buy-ins from ¥50 to ¥250. 
  2. PokerStars. The room provides short deck games at the following limits: NL2-to-NL20 000. There are also poker tournaments available in the given format.
  3. PartyPoker. One can play 6+ Holdem games at the limits starting from NL2 to NL5 000.
  4. iPoker Network. Players are able to play Hold’em 6+ games at five limits. More action is noted at low stakes than at high stakes.

You can find more information on where to play Hold'em 6+ by reading our special article on this topic.

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