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How To Play Short Deck Poker

Home » How To Play Short Deck Poker

How To Play Short Deck Poker

Black and gold playing cards.

Short deck poker, also known as short deck hold’em or six plus hold’em, is the latest variation to captivate the poker community — it’s fast and exciting. It’s also, as the name suggests, shorter than other poker variants. Poker isn’t alone in this — recent years have seen other sports adopt shorter formats in a bid to create a thrilling alternative, with Arena Football and Big3 being two notable cases.

With short deck poker having entered the scene in 2014, it didn’t take long before gamblers gravitated to this new and tantalizing variation. In 2018, Triton Poker hosted the first televised short deck poker tournament, with the winner going home with $617,000. This was just the beginning.

In 2019, the World Series of Poker added it to its schedule, suggesting an exciting future. Outside of land-based casinos, it has proven a popular way to play online poker. So, what is short deck poker? Here are the rules and some strategies for this poker variant.

How Is It Different to Other Poker Variations?

The most notable difference in this variation is the number of cards in a deck. The game removes cards — 2, 3, 4 and 5 — from the deck, leaving dealers with a 36-card deck in which 6 is the lowest number.

Along with the drastic change in deck cards, this game sees considerable adjustments to the rules and strength of hands.

What Are the Rules?

Playing cards and poker chips on a wooden table.

So, what is short deck poker? It’s essentially a variation of Texas Hold’em poker that uses the fundamentals of the traditional game while incorporating its own twist. For example, like the traditional format, each player must be dealt two cards. The aim is to create the best five-card combination from the seven available. Each game then includes four rounds of betting: preflop, flop, turn and river.

The twist lies in the hand rankings and strategy. The number of cards in a deck is crucial to the probability of a hand occurring; the higher the chance, the lower the ranking.

Due to the reduced deck, it’s statistically harder to make a flush than a full house, so a flush is the stronger hand. The table below showcases the rankings in short deck hold’em vs. Texas Hold’em, from highest to lowest.

Short Deck Hold’em (36 cards) Texas Hold’em (52 cards)
Royal flush Royal flush
Straight flush Straight flush
Four of a kind Four of a kind
Flush Full house
Full house Flush
Three of a kind Straight
Straight Three of a kind
Two pair Two pair
One pair One pair
High card High card

As you can see, a straight vs. three-of-a-kind is another difference in the rankings. However, it’s important to note that not every online and brick-and-mortar casino adopts this exact ranking. Make sure you know how to play short deck poker before attempting a game and acquaint yourself with the house rules to increase your chances of success.


Playing cards and casino chips on a poker table.

As you can imagine, a short deck poker strategy requires a different thought process than a 52-card game. Removing 16 cards from the deck means you’ve got to look at hands differently. Moreover, the removal of the four lowest cards means there is a higher probability of receiving higher-value cards.

Two Pair and a Kicker

The reduced number of cards increases the chances of a two pair, suggesting a one pair with a strong kicker no longer amasses to the same strength. A kicker is when a player has a pair and a high card (the kicker.) For example, if you hold an ace and a queen, with the flop being a 5, queen and jack, then you have a queen pair and an ace kicker. It’s important to note that players around you have a good probability of having a two pair — if you’re holding a low two pair, it would be smart to fold, as your chances for success are low.


Furthermore, the number of cards available affects the chances of being dealt certain hands. For example, you’re twice as likely to get pocket aces in short deck hold’em than Texas Hold’em. Also, straights and full houses happen more regularly. This means it’s important to understand the probability of other hands counteracting yours.

Postflop Cards

Another difference is the importance of postflop cards. The cards placed down by the dealer hold more importance, as the chances of strong hands are slimmer with regular Texas Hold’em. Six plus hold’em consists of high-valued cards, suggesting that your opponents will be dealt a strong hand. A great strategy is semi-bluffing. This is when a player has a weak-to-medium hand that has the potential to become strong, such as a full house or straight. Bluffing isn’t as effective due to the regularity of opponents receiving strong cards.

Pros Who Play Short Deck Poker

You may think of short deck poker as a less serious fun poker variant but there are many professional players who have earned a solid living and excelled at it.

1. Phil Ivey

Considered one of the greatest poker players of all time, Ivey has also excelled in short deck poker. His skill and experience make him a formidable opponent in this variant.

2. Tom Dwan

Known for his aggressive playing style, Dwan has embraced short deck poker and showcased his talent in various high-stakes tournaments. His ability to adapt to different poker variants has earned him respect in the poker community.

3. Wei Seng ‘Paul’ Phua

Phua is not only a successful businessman but also a skilled poker player. He has demonstrated his prowess in short deck poker and has achieved notable results in prestigious tournaments.

4. Jason Koon

Koon is a professional poker player known for his expertise in short deck poker. He has recorded impressive wins and consistently performs well in high-stakes events.

5. Andrew Robl

Robl is an experienced poker player who has successfully transitioned to short deck poker. His knowledge and adaptability have made him a respected competitor in this variant.

6. Timofey Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov, also known as ‘Trueteller,’ is a Russian professional poker player who has excelled in short deck poker. His analytical skills and strategic approach have yielded impressive results.

7. Isaac Haxton

Haxton, a well-known name in the poker world, has embraced short deck poker and showcased his versatility in this variant. His understanding of the game and ability to make calculated decisions have contributed to his success.

8. Wai Kin Yong

Yong, a Malaysian poker player, has made a name for himself in short deck poker. His deep understanding of the game and skillful play have earned him significant winnings in this variant.

9. Stephen Chidwick

Chidwick is a highly accomplished poker player who has achieved success in various poker variants, including short deck poker. His strategic mindset and adaptability make him a formidable opponent.

10. Mikita Badziakouski

Badziakouski, a professional poker player from Belarus, has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in short deck poker. His consistent performances and impressive results have solidified his reputation.

Test Your Skills on BetMGM

Short deck poker is an incredibly quick and enthralling way to play online poker. The lack of weak cards means you’re bound to hold a strong hand — considerably more than in a 52-card game. The intensity is fun and often includes high-stake rounds. Register today to find out more and unlock an endless range of live dealer casino games, online slots and so much more.

BetMGM is home to a multitude of poker resources like blogs on the 10-to-one rule in poker tournaments and what running it twice means. It also hosts an array of poker games and online poker tournaments in various formats and buy-in amounts that can be played anytime, anywhere on mobile, tablet and computer.

Find out about the rules and strategies of short deck poker, the latest fast and exciting variation to take the poker community by storm.