Short Deck Poker: A Detailed Comparison With Texas Holdem

Poker is one of the most popular casino games in the world. It’s been around for nearly two centuries yet still has widespread appeal. The online poker player base is over 100 million and a physical staple in every casino. Part of the reason for this popularity is its skill requirements. The basic rules and mechanics are simple in Texas Holdem, the most common type of poker. That means beginners can get into the game easily, but it doesn’t mean it is mastered quickly. Texas Holdem has an enormous depth of skill, keeping it fun and rewarding to learn throughout your poker journey.

While most of poker’s popularity does come from Texas Holdem, there are plenty of other ways to play poker. Since each poker variant has different rules and mechanics, everyone can find a form of poker that appeals to them. This poker guide will focus on Short Deck, a poker variant similar to Texas Holdem but with one major difference. It will explain this difference impacts the overall strategy along with its pros and cons compared to regular Texas Holdem.

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What is a Short Deck?

Short Deck is a variation of Texas Holdem. Most game mechanics are the same, with betting actions like checking or folding, the four betting rounds, five community cards, and two hole cards all shared between the two games. The principal change of Short Deck Poker is in its namesake. The game is played with a smaller, 36-card deck instead of the classic 52-card deck used in Texas Holdem and Omaha. All the twos, threes, fours, and fives are removed, which is why it’s also called “6-plus.”

Short Deck vs. Texas Holdem: Betting structure

The two games use different forced bet structures despite being very similar. Texas Holdem uses blinds, two players who have to put money into the pot before seeing their cards. These blinds rotate around the table, but only two players can be a blind at any given time. Short Deck, on the other hand, uses antes. These antes are forced bets that everyone at the table has to pay, and the button has to pay two of them.

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Short Deck vs. Texas Holdem: Hand rankings

Short deck also comes with different hand rankings to suit the 36-card deck. Aces can be used as a low card in straights, acting as a five (A 6 7 8 9). Flushes are also usually ranked above full houses simply because you are more likely to complete a full house than a flush with only 36 cards. Finally, there is an old rule in some Short Deck games that ranks three-of-a-kinds above straights.

Pre-flop hand selection in Short Deck is also different from regular Texas Holdem. Texas Holdem generally has a large gap between the strongest hands like AA and the weakest hands like 2-7o. However, with the four weakest cards all removed, every hand is much closer in strength. Like JJ, premium hands in Texas Holdem are now just decent, and only four hands are considered premium in Short Deck: AA, KK, AK, and AQ (arguably). There is less emphasis on pocket pairs and more on straights/flushes since straights are more common and flushes are more potent. While you could get away with playing weak pocket pairs in regular Holdem, stay away from them in Short Deck, especially if you’re aiming for a set (three-of-a-kind) on the flop.

Short Deck vs. Texas Holdem: Limping

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Short Deck for No Limit Holdem veterans is that limping is a recommended strategy. That “cardinal sin” pre-flop in No Limit Holdem is often the best choice in Short Deck, especially from an early position. That is the result of multiple Short Deck mechanics. The antes mean pots are bigger pre-flop without the need for raises, meaning you often have good odds to call. Limping from an early position means you don’t need to raise with both bluffs and good hands to disguise your hand strength. You don’t want to raise too much because of the average stack size in Short Deck. Raises are worth around six to ten antes, and the game is played with stacks of around 50 – 100 antes. If you get 3-bet, you have to commit because of what you already put in the pot, putting you in a lose-lose situation.

Short Deck vs. Texas Holdem: Bet sizing and bluffs

While in Texas Holdem, you occasionally see bluffs with air (terrible hands without any potential); those are seldom seen in Short Deck because of the stack sizes. Players generally avoid risky and aggressive plays pre-flop because hands are closer to each other in strength and the large bet sizes are too committal. Post-flop is where betting becomes commonplace. The standard post-flop bet size in Short Deck is more than the pot, also known as an overbet. While this is rarely seen in Texas Holdem, it is customary in Short Deck because of the relative hand strengths. With a strong but vulnerable hand, you want to bet as much as possible to stop your opponent from drawing. You can justify overbetting as a semi-bluff even with a drawing hand because of your increased odds.

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Where to play both types

We hope this article taught you all about Texas Holdem and Short Deck. If you prefer classic Holdem’s stack sizes and extra cards, you can play Texas Holdem online. If you want an even faster version of Holdem and have the bankroll for it, check out Short Deck. You can find both these game types on GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. They offer Holdem games of all stakes, Short Deck games, and even Omaha poker if that’s what you prefer. They even have a built-in poker tracker and a heads-up display that help you improve your game.