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Jun 15, 2018

What is Short Deck Hold'em Poker?

By RTR Dennis

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Everybody from Phil Ivey to Patrik Antonius is touting Short Deck hold'em these days. But what exactly is Short Deck poker? Keep reading as we cover the basics along with why many pros like this game.

Same General Rules – But a Different Deck

Short Deck hold'em (a.k.a. Six Plus hold'em) is very similar to Texas hold'em, where players try to make the best five-card hand using their two hole cards and the five community cards.

But a key difference is the Short hold'em deck. Six Plus hold'em sees all twos, threes, fours, and fives removed from the deck. This means that a Short Deck game only has 36 cards in the deck, rather than the traditional 52.

Aces can make high or low straights, just like in Texas hold'em. The highest possible straight is A-K-Q-J-10, while the lowest straight is 9-8-7-6-A.

Hand Rankings are Slightly Different

Another nuance of Short Deck hold'em is that the hand rankings are slightly different than Texas hold'em. For starters, a flush ranks higher than a full house. Another difference is that three of a kinds are higher than straights.

Keep in mind that some Short Deck hold'em games have normal poker rankings. This means that a full house would be higher than a flush, and a straight would be higher than a three of a kind. But most Short Deck games feature the unconventional hand rankings.

Why do Poker Players Like Short Deck Hold'em?

Phil Ivey recently discussed what he enjoys about Short Deck hold'em when speaking with PaulPhuaPoker. According to Ivey, he likes the "gambling" element to this game.

"I enjoy it. I like playing it, it's fun," said Ivey. "It's something different, it's new. And there's a lot of gambling involved."

He added, "The equities run pretty close, so it's pretty easy to get your money in the middle and be 50/50 or somewhere near that. It suits more a gambling style of player."

Poker pros often gravitate towards newer poker variations. As Ivey alluded to, it's fun to try something outside of the box. And Short Deck hold'em isn't nearly as old as traditional poker games like Texas hold'em and Omaha.

Novices may enjoy Short Deck Hold'em, because it gives them a better chance to compete with established pros. Ivey discussed how the hand equities run close together, meaning that beginners can take advantage of the larger luck aspect.

Nevertheless, Short Deck still has some skill involved. And this gives pro players who've become comfortable with the game a better chance to win than newcomers.

When was Short Deck Hold'em Invented?

It might seem like Short Deck hold'em is a new poker game. After all, it's been popping up in the news a lot lately. But the truth is that Short Deck has been around for five years.

The game originated in 2014 in Asia—most notably Hong Kong, Macau, and Manila. And it's slowly built a following among Asian high rollers, who like the heavy gambling element.

Ivey and Tom Dwan first publicized this game in 2015, when they released an online video showing how to play Texas hold'em.

Should We Expect to See More Short Deck Hold'em Games around the World?

Despite being around for half a decade, Short Deck hold'em has been slow to catch on with the global poker community. The reason for the sudden popularity is that Short Deck made its first televised debut at the 2018 Triton Poker Series.

Both a HK$250,000 and HK$1,000,000 tournament ran at the series. And Ivey won the $HK250K event, earning HK$4,749,200 (US$604,992) after beating a 61-player field. Dan "Jungleman" Cates also fared well, finishing runner-up to Ivey and collecting HK$3,199,000 (US$407,515).

Jason Koon won the HK$1 million event, topping a 103-player field to earn HK$28,102,000 (US$3,579,836). Xuan Tan finished second (US$2,308,384), while Ivey took third place ($1,666,480).

Given the big money that's already floating around Short Deck, it wouldn't be surprising to see this game featured in poker tournaments around the globe. Amateur players will really appreciate how the higher variance gives them a better chance of competing with the pros.