Learn The Basics of Short Deck Hold’em

Short Deck Hold'em is a game increasing in popularity because of its fast-pace and frantic nature. Learn the basics right here.

The current year is almost over which means many people are creating poker goals for 2022. Learning a new game is high up on poker players’ priorities. Short Deck Hold’em, or 6+ Hold’em, is a great place to start.

No-Limit Texas Hold’em is the most popular online poker cash game and tournament. Some players are wary of learning a completely new variant, such as Pot-Limit Omaha or Seven-Card Stud because they differ wildly from Hold’em. However, Short Deck is strikingly similar to Hold’em in many ways, making it perfect for NLHE grinders.

Short Deck gets its name from the fact you play with a stripped deck. The traditional 52-card deck has deuces through fives removed, leaving you with 36-cards. This removal of cards results in hand rankings changing. Aces are both high and low, so the lowest possible straight is Ax-6x-7x-8x-9x.

Short Deck Hand Rankings

Poker hand rankings are based on math. It is mathematically easier to make three-of-a-kind than it is a straight. Therefore, a straight is stronger than three-of-a-kind. The reduced number of cards in Short Deck alters traditional hand rankings.

The weakest and strongest holdings remain the came, but the middle of the pack is different. Two Shot Deck rule variations exist: straights beat trips, and trips beat straight. Check out the table below for the full Short Deck hand rankings.

Regular Hold’em Short Deck (Straights beat Trips) Short Deck (Trips beat Straights
1.) A Royal Flush Royal Flush Royal Flush
2.) A Straight Flush Straight Flush Straight Flush
3.) Quads or Four of a Kind Four of a Kind Four of a Kind
4.) Full House Flush Flush
5.) Flush Full House Full House
6.) Straight Straight Three of a Kind
7.) Three of a Kind Three of a Kind Straight
8.) Two Pairs Two Pair Two Pair
9.) A single pair One Pair One Pair
10.) High-Card High Card High Card

There Are No Blinds

Short Deck is played using antes instead of a small and big blind. Everyone at the table pays the ante, but the button pays a double ante. This ante-only structure drives the action the game is famous for.

The action moves in a clockwise direction from the left of the button. Every other rule remains the same, which is why so many regular Hold’em players jump on board.

Are you wondering why the ante-only format creates more action and larger pots? Think of it logically. A regular six-handed No-Limit Holdem cash game with $0.50/$1 blinds has $1.50 in the pot preflop. The $0.50 small blind and $1 big blind make up this sum. However, a similar priced Short Deck cash game has $7 in the pot before the flop. Five $1 antes and a $2 double ante results in $7.

Furthermore, the extra money means more players stay in the hand until the flop. They have their eyes on the rapidly growing pot, plus the extra money means they are often priced in to see the first three community cards.

Thinking On Your Feet

Short Deck proficiency requires players to think on their feet. Most pots are contested multi-way, which presents its own problems. More players mean more hand combinations that can beat your hand.

In addition, the stripped deck is sometimes difficult to get your head around. For example, 7d-6d is a perfectly playable hand in regular Hold’em games. Players often use these suited connectors in multi-way pots to try and make a flush or set to crack big pairs. This is a viable strategy in Short Deck, too. But, and here is the but, 7d-6d is the regular Hold’em version of 3d-2d. Would you play trey-deuce suited ever?

Lastly, the odds and probabilities you learned for Hold’em are no longer viable. For example, you receive pocket pairs once in every 11.66 hands compared to once in 17 hands in regular Hold’em.

Regular Hold’em Short Deck Hold’em
Cards Used 52 36
Distinct starting hands 1,326 630
Distinct non-equivalent starting hands 169 81
Probability of being dealt pocket aces 0.45% (1 in 221) 0.95% (1 in 105)
Any pocket pair 5.9% (1 in 17) 8.6% (1 in 11.66)
Any suited hand 23.5% (1 in 4.25) 22.9% (1 in 4.4)
Dealt connectors 15.7% (1 in 6.4) 22.9% (1 in 4.4)
Ace-king 1.2% (1 in 83) 2.5% (1 in 39)
Dealt two Broadway cards 14.3% (1 in 17) 30.2% (1 in 3.3)

Brad Johnson

You name the game, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Brad has either played it or placed a wager on it! Brad calls himself a natural gambler, and someone who gains as much enjoyment from writing about the crazy game of poker as he does playing it.


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