Short Deck/Six Plus Hold’em: Rules & Strategy

Short Deck – or Six Plus Hold’em as it is called in the ipoker network – is an exciting new variation of Hold’em played with a deck of 36 cards rather than the usual 52, thus bringing about different hand rankings.

It follows that these changes have an influence on such key factors as the odds, hand values, probabilities and, in turn, strategy. With this in mind, here is a review of the rules as well as a few tips so that you can more easily get to grips with this intriguing and increasingly popular variant.

Six Plus Hold’em came to us from the high stakes Cash games of Macau and was introduced to the rest of the world’s poker public by legends Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey.

The game has a cool, exciting look about it which, as we know, is already half the battle in determining whether something will catch on in online poker. Just how much so is still to be seen, but it has potential, and with all new kids on the poker block, this introduces a new opportunity for serious players to look for an edge at a time when strategy is still new territory for most.

How to play Short Deck/Six Plus Hold’em

So, let’s see the rules of this new variation of traditional Hold’em!

As the name suggests, the main difference between Six Plus and regular Hold’em is that the deck is stripped of all cards from 2 to 5, leaving 36 cards instead of the standard 52. Note that Aces are still low, making the initially counter-intuitive A6789 the lowest possible straight (the ‘wheel’), while TJQKA is still the highest

holdem vs holdem1

Due to the shorter deck affecting the comparative values of the cards, so there are differences in terms of the strength of some hands, and it’s here that we first need to reset what we have grown used to and make a mental note of specific hand ranking differences. Notably, with this short deck format, 3-of-a-kind beats a straight, while a flush now beats a full house! Confused? You’ll get used to it.

Six Plus Hold’em mostly mirrors traditional Hold’em in terms of the betting streets, but there’s a key difference when we get to the River. At this point, instead of a final community card being dealt, the players themselves each receive one more card.

In the final round of betting players need to make a 5-card hand that combines 2 of their 3 hole cards and 3 of the 4 community cards.

holdem vs holdem 2

Hand Ranking in Short Deck/Six Plus Hold’em

Traditional Hold’em

    • Royal flush (highest)
    • Straight flush
    • Four of a kind (quads)
    • Full House
    • Flush
    • Straight
    • Three of a kind
    • Two pair
    • One pair
    • High card (lowest)

Six plus Hold’em

  • Royal flush (highest)
  • Straight flush
  • Four of a kind (quads)
  • Flush
  • Full House
  • Three of a kind
  • Straight
  • Two pair
  • A pair
  • High card

Strategy Tips

Clearly, using a 36-card deck, with far fewer low cards, increases the chance of getting bigger hands, and this in turn generates more action – and fun – for players, which explains the game’s rise in popularity.

It also means that players have to adapt their way of thinking about hand values, probabilities and so on.

Pay attention to the following:  

  • The odds of hitting certain draws are different.
  • The shorter deck affects the probability of getting certain hands. For example, you’re more than twice as likely to be dealt pocket aces in Six-plus Hold’em than you are in regular NLH!

Finally, players being dealt a third hole card instead of there being a fifth community card introduces yet more implications. Significantly, it becomes more likely that players will improve their hands, so this needs to be factored into final-round betting strategy, including weighing up the odds of this or that player making this or that hand. Again, such calculations are part of NLH, too, but this is a different, specific game in its own right, and needs to be approached as such.

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Daniel Berger

Hi Guys, I am Daniel the chief content manager of YourPokerDream.
I have been working in the poker industry for almost 10 years now.
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· Published 14.01.2018 · last updated 04.03.2021