Short Deck has become a bit of a rage in the poker world – with major events in southeast Asia attracting a plethora of big-name pros from around the world. The game may be new but harkens back to a time in history when fewer cards were actually used in a deck for poker.

In recent months, the game has gained some traction in cash games and on the tournament scene with more and more live tournaments and casinos incorporating the game to some degree.

In July, poker pro and World Series of Poker commentator Nick Schulman made some news after winning a Short Deck tournament for $272,084. Amazingly, it was the first tournament Schulman had ever played featuring the game.

Other players who have been regularly playing Short Deck (also known as Six Plus poker) include Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey, who began playing the game in 2015 in Macau. Both are regulars on the high-stakes poker scene in Asia.

Differences Between Texas Hold’em & Short Deck

So, what is Short Deck poker and how is different than traditional games like Texas Hold’em and other variants?

The first significant difference is the deck itself. All deuces, threes, fours, and fives are entirely removed from the pack. The game then follows the same format as traditional Texas Hold’em – two cards to each player with betting as usual on the flop, turn, and river.

It’s that smaller (or shorter) 36-card deck that makes so much of a difference. Those missing low cards change the math of the game, and even the ranking of some hands, with straights now ranked lower than three of a kind. Here’s a look at the rankings of hands in Short Deck poker:

Hand Rankings

Short Deck (Six Plus)

Texas Hold’em

Royal Flush

Royal Flush

Straight Flush

Straight Flush

Four of a kind

Four of a kind


Full House

Full House


Three of a kind



Three of a kind

Two Pair

Two Pair



High Card

High Card


Notice that a flush also now beats a full house. With so many higher cards now exclusively in the deck, players’ odds to make much stronger hands increase. Players like Ivey say this creates some more action and some say a bit more gamble than traditional Texas Hold’em.

Short Deck Strategy

Those familiar with traditional No Limit Hold’em will already have a general idea about how the gameplay works, but there are definite ideas to keep in mind beyond merely knowing the above-adjusted ranks of hands.

For starters, with fewer cards, it’s important to realise you will often hit your draws much more often than in Hold’em. When dealt a hand in Hold’em, a player can multiply his outs by four on the flop and then two on the river to determine his percentage to improve the hand. It’s not exact, but very close.

In Short Deck, that changes to six on the flop and then three on the river. If you have 10 outs on the flop, you have a 54.8 per cent chance to improve on the turn and river. If you miss on the turn, that decreases to about a 32.3 per cent chance.

Another significant difference is that hitting a flush is much more difficult. With only nine cards of each suit, hitting that draw isn’t easy. In Hold’em if you have a flush draw, there are nine cards left in the deck to, hopefully, complete that hand. In Short Deck, there are only five, and the chances of hitting that flush are 30 per cent by the river and 15 per cent after the turn has been dealt. In Hold’em, a player has a 36 per cent chance on the flop and then about an 18 per cent chance on the turn.

Straight draws, however, are a different story. A player will hit an open-end straight draw much more often in Short Deck because so many cards are removed from the deck. A player will also be much more likely to hit that straight. A player now has eight outs on the flop to make complete the straight with only 31 cards left in the deck as opposed to 47 in Hold’em. That accounts for almost a 46 per cent chance to hit one of those eight cards by the river.

Straight draws turn into much more powerful drawing options than flush draws and may be worth playing more aggressively.

>>>INSERT IMAGE: Image of flop with straight draw - Jd-10h-3s - crushing flop with a flush draw – Kh-7h-2c . <<<

Another thing to keep in mind is relative hand strength after the flop. A player with top pair and top kicker will be about 50/50 to a player with an open-end straight draw. Top pair hands are weakened by the strength of draws in Short Deck.

Premier Hands

Along that same vein, players are much more likely to see premium hands pre-flop because there are fewer cards in the deck. While in Hold’em, a player only receives pocket Aces once every 221 hands on average. But in Short Deck, that goes down to once every 100 hands.

Overall, players have an 8.6 per cent chance to be dealt a pocket pair in Short Deck versus 5.9 per cent in Texas Hold’em. These are more powerful as the chances to hit a set are much more likely in Short Deck – a 12.7 per cent chance to hit trips by the river.

Beyond pocket pairs, Short Deck players are much more likely to be dealt premier hands like A-K. Players will be dealt these hands about 33 per cent of the time.

However, after viewing the flop players must consider the likely strength of their opponents’ hands in a game where drawing hands can be very powerful.

While you may hit more big hands on the turn and river, opponents will also hit big hands. Players must still choose wisely before entering pots or calling bets. Be willing to fold bigger hands in Short Deck than in traditional Hold’em.



Texas Hold’em

Short Deck (Six Plus)

Cards in Deck



Missing Cards


2s, 3s, 4s, 5s

Chances of being dealt any pocket pair



Chance of being dealt pocket Aces

1 out of every 221 hands (0.45%)

1 out of every 100 hands (1%)

Lowest straight



Odds to hit flush draw after flop by the river



Odds to hit open-end straight draw after flop by the river



Top pair hand values

Top pair can be strong

Top pair can be weak because of so many draws

Future of the Game

888poker Ambassador Dominik Nitsche first played Short Deck in Las Vegas in the PokerMasters series. He liked the game and even played the $10,500 Short Deck tournament. While he didn’t have quite the finish Schulman had in his first event, Nitsche did finish sixth for $33,000 in a tournament that featured 55 entries.

He found the game to be a unique experience - different than a traditional No Limit Hold’em tournament. Having so many more high cards in the deck made for some interesting situations, Dominik says, with more players involved in a hand.

“The game flow is very unique with everyone being involved,” he says. “It leads to a fun and dynamic game with everyone involved in the pot. It's easy for people to justify seeing flops.”

While the game is still new and unknown to many, does it stand a chance to last and grow among those in the wider poker world?

“It's tough to say whether it will grow,” Nitsche says. “It's a quick, fun, and simpler version of the game. It's very engaging at first because you are in so many hands. It's hard to say how long it will be appealing. It certainly caters to a different kind of player.”

The game has popped up a bit more in the U.S. in recent months. A preliminary event in Jacksonville, Fla., as part of the World Poker Tour’s recent stop at the bestbet poker room there.

“It very well could be the future at least for some rec players who prefer a game where gambling too much doesn't get punished as hard as in regular no limit,” Nitsche adds.

Nitsche sees Short Deck as another game casinos, and online operators can offer players – with differing types of players attracted to new game rules or variants. He sees it as just another game some players might be drawn to like Pot Limit Omaha or Razz.

“Different games for different customers,” he says. “And, I can totally see Short Deck catering to the same players that played Push-Fold.”

888 Ambassador Parker TonkaaaaP Talbot’s Take

888poker Ambassador Parker “Tonka” Talbot has played some Short Deck occasionally – admittedly at low stakes. While his experience with the game is limited, he says it makes for some fun even in a home game.

“I've played a 5-cent and 10-cent home game with a couple of friends once, and can't say with confidence I played well,” he says. “It seems fun. It's interesting and definitely different while still keeping a lot of the core of the game.”

While the game has been in the news lately for those really interested in poker, Talbot has some doubts about it catching on more in the wider poker community.

“I think it's fun and the most interesting gimmick of a game that has come around in a long time,” he says. “But I think it might be capped in regards to skill level from what I've seen. But I could be totally wrong on this. I think it will be bigger than other new games, but still not take off like No Limit and PLO.”

And while he may be a bit sceptical of its staying power, Talbot is okay with playing more of the game himself. He adds: “I’m looking forward to playing it online and testing it out.

Quick Short Deck Poker Tips

Looking to add some Short Deck poker to your game?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Focus on the Flop – While it's easy to justify seeing flops, it doesn't always mean that's the correct play. As is the case in more traditional poker, it’s always smart to consider the best move. “Just because you have decent equity when all-in heads-up doesn’t mean you get to look at every flop,” Nitsche says you should be making wise decisions in traditional poker games as well as Short Deck. Like more conventional poker, playing too many hands can have a poor return on investment.
  • Be Ready for Straights – Straights are common and open-end straight draws may be worth firing bets into the pot. In Short Deck, an Ace can also be a 5, so A-6-7-8-9 plays as a straight. “Straights happen a lot, and straights are worth a lot more,” Tom Dwan told Paul Phua Poker.
  • Play Those Pocket Pairs – Players have about an 18 per cent of hitting a set with a pocket pair, so it is almost always advantageous to see a flop when at all possible.
  • Flush Those Flush Draws – Making a flush has become much more difficult in Short Deck. Beware of calling big money with those draws – it’s much harder to get there. “Flush draws usually aren’t that good,” Dwan said. “You don’t have that many outs, and even if you hit it, someone might make a full house on you.”


About the Author
Sean Chaffin is a poker writer who appears in numerous websites and publications. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast
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