How to play Short-deck poker – rules, tips and odds

Short-deck poker (a.k.a. Six-plus Hold’em or Triton Poker) is a variant of Texas Hold’em design by Chinese poker players. The rules are similar to Texas Hold’em, but the game differ in a fundamental way: there are 36 cards instead of 52 involved (making 630 starting hands possible instead of 1326).

Plenty of people in the poker community got familiar with this game when it occured in the Triton Super High Roller Series 2018, a cash game guested by big names such as Tom Dwan, Randy Lew, Andrew Robl, Jason Koon and Paul Phua. The fame raise again when the game debuted as an event in WSOP 2019.

Six Plus hold'em being explained

Rules

Compared to the rules of Texas Hold’em, where are a few novelties. The deck consists of 36 cards instead of 52. Since this change the probabilities for some hands, the hand ranking is different:

  1. Royal straight flush
  2. Straight flush
  3. Four of a kind
  4. Flush
  5. Full house
  6. Three of a kind
  7. Straight
  8. Two pairs
  9. Pair
  10. High cards

What you should focus on is that a flush beat a full house and a three of a kind beat a straight.

The reasons are logical: in a 36-card deck game flushes are less common and straights are more common. Normally, a flush can be constructed from 13 different cards in every suit, in Short-deck poker that is reduced to nine cards per suit. And it is the other way around with straights: since the span have been reduced from 2-A to 6-K, the cards will more often connect (also notice that ace are counted as a five, making a A-9 straight possible).

The new conditions concerning straights and flushes are interested since the straight flush combines these hands.

Tips

So how to adjust to this game compared to Texas Hold’em? First of all, the hands are in average stronger and the difference between a weak and a strong hand are reduced. The consequence is 1) you should play more hands; 2) yoy should not be too confident with hands you usually consider very strong.

Since more players getting less weak hands, there is often more players involved in a hand. Both these factors makes it harder to bluff successfully.

Starting hand strengths also shifts in some cases. Connectors such as QJ, JT and T9 gets very strong. If you are familiar with Omaha, you may recognize this.

You should be ready to invest more with straight draw and less with flush draws compared to Hold'em. Notice, however, that it is plausible to regard the imply odds higher on flushes since they are less common and that they beat a full house.

You should also be somewhat more prepared to meet quads. Not that they are especially common, but they will happen more often than you are use to if Texas Hold’em is your normal game.

Odds

There are new probabilities to study if you going to adopt from Texas Hold’em to Six-Plus Hold’em. Here are the most fundamental situations with the odds involved.

Table 1. Starting hand & flop probabilities
Situation Percent
Probability of be dealt a pocket pair 9,6%
Probability of flopping a set 18%
Decimals has not always been written out.


The probabilities to be dealt pocket pairs and to flop sets goes up.

Table 2. Draw probabilities
Situation Percent
Probability of hitting a flush draw on the turn or river 30%
Probability of hitting an open-ended straight on the turn or river 46%
Decimals has not been written out.


The most conspicuous drawing odds are the huge 46% to hit a open-ended straight on the last streets. The percentage to hit a flush are 5% lower than in Texas Hold'em.

Hand vs hand

As a compliment to the odds for given situations, it’s also important to learn the winning percentage between hands, since there are often different numbers involved compared to classic Hold’em.

Table 3. Hand vs. hand winning probabilities in percent
Situation Player 1 Player 2
A-A vs. 8-6s   70% 28%
A-A vs. 8-8s   76% 24%
A-Ko vs. J-To 53% 47%
A-Qo vs. Q-Js 57% 38%
A-Ts vs. 7-7 57% 42%
A-8s vs. T-9s 48% 50%
T-9o vs. 7-6s   63% 33%
Q-Js vs. T-T   54% 45%
The percents for possible splits has not been written out.


One of the things to notice is the relative big edge with two suited over cards against a middle pair, but also how good T-9 perform against A-8.

In general, there are minor differences compared to Texas Hold'em. For example, a pair has approximately 5% less winning chance against a lower pair.

There can I play Short-deck poker?

Party Poker and 888 have not included Short-deck poker yet in the game selection, but you can play it on PokerStars. It is also available at iPoker network, and therefore you can play this game in sites such as Betfair and Paddy Power.