Short deck poker strategy – for texas hold’em players

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The differences in short deck poker strategy from normal texas hold’em are due to the differences in rules. Lets us look at these rule differences one by one in detail. Rules can vary between cardrooms, but the most common rule changes are:

  1. The 2,3,4 and 5 ranked cards are removed from the deck prior to the game. This means instead of there being 52 cards in the deck, 16 have been removed, leaving 36 cards.
  2. A6789 is a valid straight, and the lowest possible straight that can be made (equivalent to A2345 in normal texas hold’em). The reason for this is aces count as low or high for straights just like normal texas hold’em, and the next lowest card after the A is the 6 in short deck.
  3. Flushes beat full houses. The reason for this is they are harder to make than full houses in short deck – there are only 9 cards of each suit in the deck in short deck (compared to 13 in normal hold’em) – you will need 5 of these 9 cards between your pocket cards and the board to make your flush. By the same logic, three of a kind should beat straights too in short deck, but in order to keep the game as close to normal hold’em as possible, this rule is not used often (in order not to complicate the game for the casual player).
  4. In most cardrooms instead of there being a big blind and small blind, every single players posts an ante preflop with the button posting double the ante. You can think of each ante as an unit (as there are no blinds in this game) – and think of stacks in terms of units. Without blinds, the player to the left of the button acts first on all streets (including preflop).

How do these rule differences affect your short deck poker strategy?

The key things we at recommend you think about are:

  • As every single player has posted an ante preflop, and in order to continue (not fold) the minimum each player has to put in is the amount of the ante again (as the button has put in a double ante), in loose passive games you will often see massive multiway pots (sometimes the whole table goes to the flop). If equity denial is your key objective preflop, you will have to open big enough to get folds – if your open is too small other players (especially the button, who has guaranteed position throughout the hand and has already put in a double ante) will have a massive incentive to continue. It may will serve you best to develop a limping range (by limping we mean just calling the extra ante put in by the button) which should include strong hands you want to re-raise (to prevent you being exploited).
  • Postflop, if there hasn’t been a big raise preflop from someone, you will often be multiway, and the SPR may not be high. You will need to consider whether equity denial means you may want to get all the money in fast (which may include overbetting, or even going all in as early as the flop).
  • You will also need to consider the effect of the changed hand rankings. For example, if you have the nuts on the flop in the form of a flush in short deck you can often be more certain than in normal hold’em that this will still be nuts by the river – this is because full house don’t beat flushes. Also, if you have a flush made with 2 cards from your hands (and 3 on the board) that isn’t the nut flush, it is more difficult for your opponent to have a better flush than you as there are only 9 cards of each suit to begin with.