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Short Deck Poker Rules - How to Play Short Deck Hold'em

20 December 2018, By:
Do you like tons of betting action and big hands showing down against big hands virtually every hand?

You're probably going to like Short Deck poker - also known as Short Deck Hold'em or Six Plus (6+) Hold'em.

As you might guess from its name, Short Deck poker plays with all of the cards below six removed from the deck.

With a 36-card deck and all the low cards removed you can likely visualize what that means for both the average hand made and the betting action on most streets - at least for players coming from standard Hold'em who tend to overvalue their hands.

Short Deck poker can be a bit wild, is what we're saying, and it's quickly becoming a favorite game of high-stakes pros and amateurs alike.

Short Deck Poker Rules - How to Play

First things first -- the basic rules of Short Deck poker are very much the same as they are for standard Texas Hold'em. That means there are blinds put in before the hand starts, action rotates around the table the same way, betting rules and practices are the same ... so playing Short Deck Hold'em is no different in that regard.

For a refresher on the rules and game play of regular Texas Hold'em, check our Texas Hold'em rules page here:

Where things do get different in Short Deck poker, however, is in the ranking of poker hands from highest to lowest and which cards are actually in the deck. Short Deck poker also frequently incorporates antes into the game to increase the pot sizes and make the action even more frenetic.

short deck poker rules

Remove All Cards 2-5

The first step to playing Short Deck poker is to take all of the cards below six out of the deck. That means you remove all four 2s, all four 3s, all four 4s and all four 5s.

If you're good at math (and if you play poker we certainly hope you are), that means you're left with a deck of just 36 cards (as opposed to the usual 52). What are the consequences of that for both the rules and strategy of Short Deck poker?

  • 1) Aces can still used as both high and low so the lowest straight becomes A-6-7-8-9 - the Ace essentially standing in for the removed 5.
  • 2) Your probability of getting certain hands pre-flop, like pocket aces, go way up (1 in 100 in Short Deck vs. 1 in 221 in standard Hold'em)
  • 3) You will be dealt a lot more "premium" hands like AK, AQ, pocket pairs, etc.
  • 3) It becomes mathematically harder to hit a Flush so its value goes up
  • 4) It's easier to make a straight than hit a set

So ... the poker hand rankings change when you're playing Short Deck poker. Gasp! But don't sweat too hard - they don't change that much. Here they are compared to standard Texas Hold'em poker hand rankings:

Short Deck Hold’em Hand Ranking*

Short Deck Hold’em

Standard Texas Hold’em

Royal Flush

Royal Flush

Straight Flush

Straight Flush




Full House

Full House


3 of a Kind



3 of a Kind

Two Pair

Two Pair

One pair

One pair

High card

High card

*Note: Some poker sites still rank a straight higher than a set or trips in their Short Deck poker games - be sure to check the official Short Deck poker house rules before you play!

The most obvious takeaway here is:

  • A Flush is now ranked higher than a Full House
  • A Set or Trips are now ranked higher than a Straight

If you think of it from a mathematics perspective, this makes obvious sense. With four cards of every suit removed, there are now only 5 outs to your four-flush as opposed to 9. So mathematically you will hit a flush much less often.

Your odds of hitting a straight draw also go up as there are obviously less gaps or "missing" cards to fill in your straight. Some more Short Deck odds to contemplate:

  • Straight draws now hit the flop 48% of the time, not 31%
  • Odds of flopping a set are now  18%, not 12%

How to Play Short Deck Poker - Top 5 Strategy Tips

Ad you might expect, when you alter the deck so drastically and change the value of certain poker hands, this flips traditional Texas Hold'em strategy on its ear somewhat.

rules of short deck poker

The basics of good, solid fundamental poker play still apply of course - focus on making good decisions, pay attention to players and patterns at the table, make every play for a good reason, etc... - but the specific of Short Deck poker obviously change because of the new math.

With more premium hands dealt pre-flop - and this means to every player - the value of a premium hand pre-flop obviously goes down. You'll make more big hands if you carry on in the hand, but so will your opponents so it evens out somewhat.

The biggest strategic difference is the change in ranking between the Flush and Full House and the Set and Straights. In fact if you go by the math you're at 45% to hit a straight draw by the river so you have to make sure you don't overestimate it strength.

By the same token you need to reduce your enthusiasm for Flush draws as you drop to a 30% chance (instead of 36% in standard Hold'em) of hitting it by the river. Here are 5 key strategy differences to pay attention to when learning the rules of Short Deck poker:

1) Pocket Pairs Have a Higher Value in Short Deck Poker

Your chances of hitting a set in Short Deck poker are higher than they are in standard Hold'em so all your pocket pairs go up in value. That said ...

2) Single Pairs Win Less Often

Because overall hands hit in Short Deck poker are usually higher, a single pair - including top pair, top kicker - will not win at showdown very often

3) Premium Hole Cards are Worth Less

As mentioned, even if your overall hands made are higher value, so will your opponents' be higher. That means your premium hands - like Broadway cards, which you'll be dealt almost 1/3 of the time - are worth less. You'll need to make stronger post-flop hands on average to win pots.

4) Rule of 4 and 2 Becomes Rule of 3 and 6

The Rule of 2 and 4 in standard Texas Hold'em means you can find your "equity" (odds of hitting a winning hand) on the flop and turn by multiplying the outs you have by 2 or 4, respectively. In Short Deck Holdem this changes to 3 and 6.

So on the flop if you multiply your out by 3 you'll find your rough odds of hitting your hand on the turn. If you multiply by 6 you'll find you chances of hitting your out by the turn or river card.

5) You Have to See Flops!

Players who fold too much will not last very long in Short Deck Hold'em. You have to get in and mix it up and let your hole cards improve on the flop!

One of the nice things about Short Deck poker is that it really tightens the equities of all hands in the game so the "losing" or weaker hand wins more often. This means your big hands will be caught more often but it also means weaker players will stray in the game longer.

Over the long term, that means you'll still be able to earn a nice profit over players who don't quite play optimal strategy.

How to Play Short Deck Poker Online

While Short Deck poker is a newfound phenomenon in North America and Europe, Short Deck poker (also known as Six Plus Holdem or 6+ Holdem) has been a popular staple of high-stakes poker games in Asia for much longer.

play Short Deck poker online

Its history isn't exactly written in stone but the general belief is a high-rolling gambler in Macau wanted to hit more big hands so, as these things tend to go when the players with money want to change the game, 6+ Holdem or "Short Deck" poker was born.

Big-name high rollers like Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan and Dan "Jungleman" Cates have sat in on many of the big Short Deck games in Asia, in fact, alongside the godfathers of Asian poker like Paul Phua, Richard Yong and Winfred Yu. The Triton High Roller series also introduced Short Deck poker to the European High Roller crowd with an event in Montenegro in 2018.

As for playing online, Short Deck poker has been introduced as a variant on the iPoker Network, meaning you can play it on any iPoker Network skin As luck would have it PokerJunkie has an exclusive sign-up bonus deal with William Hill Poker, which is on the iPoker Network and offers 6+ Holdem.

To get your sign-up bonus and create an account at William Hill Poker, visit our review page here:

With its recent surge in popularity we wouldn't be surprised to see Short Deck poker added to both 888poker and PokerStars in the near future. Check our review here for updates:

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