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Main Differences Between Short Deck and Texas Holdem
If you're familiar with full deck Texas Holdem and want to try short deck poker, before learning any short deck strategy, it's important to understand the 3 main differences between the two game formats and the effect this has.
The 3 main differences with short deck are:
1. Number of Cards
2. Hand Rankings
3. Blind Structure
Number of Cards in Short Deck Poker
In short deck poker, the standard 52-card deck is reduced to 36 cards by removing all 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s. The six becomes the lowest card in the deck, which is why this variant is also known as Six Plus Poker.
Hand Rankings in Short Deck Poker
The hand rankings in short deck differ from standard Texas Hold'em due to the shorter deck. The probability of hitting the different hand types changes and this affects the rankings.
The main difference is that a flush ranks higher than a full house.
Like with Texas Holdem, aces can play as high and low. But in short deck the 6 replaces the 2 for the low straight, which becomes A, 6, 7, 8, 9
Flushes occur less frequently in short deck poker due to the reduced number of cards of a specific suit. Straights are much more likely to hit due to the increased connectivity of the cards from the shorter deck. Three of a kind is also more likely to hit than in NLHE, although not to the same degree as the straight. However, despite straights becoming more common than trips and sets, not all rules rank 3 of a kind higher than straights.
The most common hand rankings for short deck games played online are:
1. Royal Flush 2. Straight Flush 3. Four of a Kind 4. Flush (ranks higher than a full house) 5. Full House 6. Straight (variations exist where three of a kind beats a straight) 7. Three of a Kind 8. Two Pair 9. One Pair 10. High Card
Blind Structure in Short Deck Poker
Short deck holdem is generally played with a button blind structure and antes, where every player posts an ante and the button posts an extra ante. The player to the left of the button is the first to act both preflop and postflop, and the button is the last to act.
This is different to the standard two blind structure in Texas Holdem with a small blind and a big blind, who act last preflop but first postflop.
The Importance of Preflop Strategy in Short Deck Poker
Once you are familiar with the differences between short deck and Texas Holdem, it's time to learn short deck preflop strategy.
Like with regular Texas Holdem, preflop strategy is a fundamental aspect of short deck poker. Good starting hand selection lays a solid foundation for a winning strategy.
Short deck preflop strategy is quite different to NLHE, so it is important to learn the basics, even if you are a competent Texas Holdem player.
The reduced deck size impacts starting hand values and preflop strategy, leading to a higher likelihood of drawing strong hands. Getting a pocket pair is roughly twice as likely as in 52 card holdem.
Certain hands that are considered strong in Texas Hold'em may not hold the same value in short deck poker. For example, higher connected hands increase in value, but small suited connectors are not as attractive as they may seem. Low to medium pairs go down in value if the straight beats three of a kind hand rankings are in place.
Due to the ante structure and preflop equities, going all in preflop at 50a or 100a stack depths is common, even as an open raise. Limping preflop is also much more common than in Texas Holdem, where it is usually not an optimal strategy.
Preflop equities run much closer in short deck poker, which leads to higher variance. Due to the higher variance and increased number of all in pots, it is important to prepare accordingly - expect big swings, keep your mental game solid and have the bankroll to support the stakes you are playing.
Key Preflop Strategy Differences Between Short Deck and Texas Holdem
In short deck hold'em, the closer equities and ante structure of the game means that players behind you are less likely to let you win the pot with a preflop raise without a fight.
These two factors make limping preflop more frequent and raise sizes larger in short deck than in no-limit hold'em. Pot-sized and larger raises are common. As is shoving for many times the pot.
Three-betting any other size than all in is not a significant part of the strategy unless stacks are really deep. This is because stacks are usually too short, pot size is already large due to antes, and equities are too close to 3bet and then fold.
In short deck poker, multi-way limped pots are the norm. This is often the optimal strategy, which is in sharp contrast to optimal NLHE strategy where limping preflop is rarely correct.
Best Starting Hands in Short Deck Poker
The top starting hands in short deck hold'em include pocket aces, pocket kings, AK suited, JT suited, and strong drawing hands like KQ, QJ, QT and T9 suited.
In short deck hold'em, big pairs and high cards are still good starting hands. However pairs, particularly those lower than kings, decrease in value in short deck compared to regular hold'em.
Connected hands like jack-ten increase in value due to the higher chances of making two pair, trips, and straights.
Pocket aces will still be a solid favourite in a heads up all-in situation, but does not have as much equity against a decent connecting hand as in 52-card hold'em. For example, AA vs JT suited in NLHE has nearly 80% equity compared with only 64% equity in short deck.
Free Short Deck Preflop Charts
Below are short deck preflop charts for 5 max 50a, which is commonly played on GG Poker. These GTO preflop charts are calculated rake free. For rake consideration, there are short deck ranges available for every stake and rake at GG Poker in the short deck poker subscriptions from RangeConverter.
Due to how commonplace limping and multiway pots are in short deck, there are a huge number of preflop charts possible. Every possible scenario is covered in each of the solutions available with the short deck subscription.
Here are 24 short deck preflop hand charts for common scenarios to give you a solid starting point for preflop strategy.
The Opening Ranges are Raise First In (RFI) charts which show hands to play when action folds to you. The vs Limp charts show how to play when someone limps into the pot before you. The vs All In charts show how to play when someone open raises all in before you.