Mastering 6+ Hold’em: A Complete Guide to Short Deck Poker

short deck poker

6+ Hold’em, also known as Short Deck Poker, has exploded in popularity over the past few years. This fun poker variant plays much like traditional Texas Hold’em, but with a few tweaks that create new strategies and dynamics. Here is a comprehensive guide to playing Short Deck Poker.

The Rules of 6+ Hold’em

6+ Hold’em is played with a stripped down 36-card deck, containing all cards from 2 through 5 removed. The rules follow standard No Limit Texas Hold’em, except:

  • Only 36 cards are used (5s, 4s, 3s, 2s removed)
  • Blinds and bets remain the same as regular Hold’em
  • Game flows through pre-flop, flop, turn, and river as usual

The strategy adjustments required make the game fascinating for even seasoned Hold’em pros. Part of the challenge and appeal of 6+ Hold’em is learning how to adapt your play style to succeed.

Hand Rankings in Short Deck Poker

With the stripped down deck, hand rankings change significantly. The strongest starting hands remains Aces, followed by Kings, Queens, Jacks, and Ten-Nines suited. Pairs of nines through twos follow in rank, while unsuited connectors like J8 and Q9 lose value with the absence of straight potential.

Three of a kind becomes much more powerful, now beating straights. Flushes also gain strength against full houses. Players must rewire their thinking to adjust hand valuations. Understanding these new hand rankings is key to making optimal decisions.

The table below shows the hand rankings in order, comparing Short Deck with regular Texas Hold’em. Take note of the hands in bold as that is where the differences are.

Short Deck Hold’emRegular Texas Hold’em
Royal FlushRoyal Flush
Straight Flush Straight Flush
4 of a Kind 4 of a Kind
FlushFull House
Full House Flush
3 of a Kind Straight
Straight3 of a Kind
Two PairTwo Pair
One Pair One Pair
High CardHigh Card

Why Play Short Deck Poker?

Part of 6+ Hold’em’s appeal is its fast action and big pots. With fewer cards in play, the odds of premium hands increase. More players stay in pots, building huge pots pre-flop. With just one deck in use, all players also see similar distributions of cards. This levels the playing field between pros and amateurs.

The stripped down deck also means players have less information to consider post-flop. Bluffing and semi-bluffing become easier with fewer card combinations in play. Short Deck rewards aggressive play, keeping the game exciting.

Finally, variance decreases with fewer players getting cracked by suck-outs on the river. Superior hands stand up more often, rewarding good poker skills. For recreational players and pros alike, 6+ Hold’em combines skill with just the right amount of gambling luck.

Short Deck Poker Basic Strategy

As you might imagine, the removal of low cards and use of the 36-card deck makes it more likely to make higher value hands, a change that tends to introduce more action. You should adjust your thinking about relative hand values from what they are used to in regular hold’em.

The smaller deck makes it easier to make two-pair hands, which means a hand like top pair-top kicker is no longer as strong in six-plus hold’em as it is in regular hold’em. Straights and full houses are also easier to make in six-plus hold’em than in the regular version of the game (a reason for the alternate hand rankings).

The odds of hitting certain draws change, too, in short-deck poker. Just to highlight one example, filling an open-ended straight draw becomes more likely in poker short-deck. While you’re still looking for the same eight outs there are fewer total cards in the deck, thus increasing the percentage you’ll make your straight.

The smaller deck also affects the likelihood of being dealt certain hands. You’re more than twice as likely to get pocket aces in short-deck poker than you are in regular hold’em!

The Origin of Short Deck Poker

Short Deck Poker originated in Asia as a way to add more excitement to standard Texas Hold’em games. With seasoned pros able to easily crush average players, poker needed a new variant to generate more action and balance the playing field. The shortened 36-card deck and new hand rankings accomplished this by increasing the probability of bigger hands. Short Deck’s creation made games more unpredictable and gave amateurs a better chance against experts.

The variant quickly spread from Asia to poker rooms around the world. Its fast pacing, bigger pots, and new strategies reinvigorated interest in poker. Both recreational players and pros found the game a new challenge. Short Deck gave poker fresh life at a time when it risked becoming stale. Much like Omaha and Five Card Draw before it, this new creation opened up new possibilities for the game of poker.

Next time you play poker, give Short Deck a try. Just be ready to forget everything you know about hand rankings and embrace a whole new style of play!

Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: