How To Play

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Short Deck Overview

Short Deck Hold'em (aka Bar Deck/6+) follows the rules of No Limit Hold'em, but improves the hands - and the action - by removing all the deuces, threes, fours, and fives from the deck. Playing 36 cards changes the order of poker hands, making the suit more important than a full house.
In Short Deck hold’em, a flush beats a full house.
The Ace continues to play the role of high and low card in subsequent sets (as does the high card), so the low set that closes it is the one that goes from Ace to Nine (A-6-7-7-8-9);
Once you are familiar with these basic differences from regular Hold'em poker, learning short deck poker will be easy. If you want to get to grips with Hold'em poker, read our complete beginner's guide: How to play Texas Hold'em poker.

Short Deck Hold’em Rules

Like regular Hold'em, Short Deck has four betting rounds, with each player making the best five-card hand from any combination of two betting cards and five community cards.

First Betting Round (Preflop):

Instead of the small and big blinds, each player bets a pre-bet and the button bets another larger (live) pre-bet. Moving clockwise from the button, each player has the option to call (top up the previous bet), raise (increase the bet) or fold (discard the cards and wait for the next round to start).

After all players have finished playing (if more than one player is active), community cards are dealt - three community cards face up.

Second Betting Round

Bets start with the first active player to the left of the button, and players take turns checking (check, pass the action), betting, raising the previous bet or passing. The remaining players move to the turn, which is the fourth community card. If all players check, the turn card is dealt for free.

Third Betting Round

The other players again take turns to act. If more than one player remains after the third round of betting, the river card is dealt.

Fourth Betting Round

After all five community cards have been dealt, the last round of betting takes place. If there is more than one player left at the end of the game, the cards dealt are revealed (showdown) and the player with the best hand wins the pot.

Hand Rankings

The hand rankings for Short Deck Hold’em (highest to lowest):


Royal Flush

A straight flush, ten to ace


Straight Flush

Five consecutive cards of the same suit


Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank



Five cards of the same suit

Full House.svg

Full House

Three cards of the same rank, plus a pair



Five cards of consecutive rank

Three of a Kind.svg

Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank


Two Pair

Two pairs of matching ranked cards

One Pair.svg

One Pair

Two cards of matching rank

High Card.svg

High Card

Five unpaired cards

Short Deck Hold’em Odds

Removing 16 low cards (2 to 5) changes the probability of different starting hands in a short deck. The total number of possible starting hands is halved (there are only 630 different starting hands with suits and 81 without suits). The four possible ranks that make up pocket pairs are no longer available, so there are now nine possible pairs, and each will be dealt specifically with an ace approximately 1% of the time. This is almost twice as often as playing Texas Hold'em with a full deck.

With fewer cards in the deck, it is easier to fill out the sequences and combinations with a suit are less common. With linked cards, straights are more common, and an open straight has a chance to hit eight of 31 (the remaining cards in the deck), not eight of 47. This makes the old "two and four" rule in estimating the probability of hitting a straight in this variant inaccurate; it is more accurate to multiply your output by three to get even on the turn, and six to get even on the turn and river. This means that there is a 48% chance (eight outs x 6) that you will make an open bet on the turn to make a straight on the river.

Although your chances of getting Aces in a Short Deck increase, the probability of winning them against a random hand generally decreases. Their probability of winning against any lower pair of random pairs also decreases; the lowest pair, six pairs, will win against preflop aces in a Short Deck game about a quarter of the time. Similarly, overcards against pairs converge, and hands like ace-king against tenjack become almost a coin flip.

Short Deck Hold’em Strategy for Beginners

In addition to the absolute basics (remember that a flush is better than a full house and the lowest sequence from Aces to Nines), you need to redirect the strength of the cards and draws when playing short-handed. Pairs with the highest cards are still strong, although pairs that are considered very strong in regular Hold'em (jacks and tens) lose their advantage. Weaker pairs can cause problems as they often hit overcards and also straight draws. Double pairs are more likely to turn into hands where your odds of hitting are about one in five (in regular Hold'em it's one in eight).

As with the transition to Omaha from Hold'em, it's wise to go with a "tight is right" strategy at the start, even though you'll get stronger hands on average. This is because it increases the chances of getting an expensive nut or nut draw. However, the mechanics of the game remain the same and a good understanding of the power of the middle and how to make the most of valuable hands will help. Playing a wider range on the button, protecting the big blind (most short stacks are played in short position) and avoiding passive play are tips that carry over well from regular Hold'em.

Middle connected hands, such as 9-T or T-J, are much stronger than in traditional play (these hands will turn over an open straight one out of five times). At the same time, turning over top pair (or holding a richer pair of connected pairs face down) is less powerful in Short Deck, and if you find yourself on the river with no edge, especially against many opponents, there is a good chance you will be beaten.

Finally, even though the flush draw has a higher value, there are fewer cards of each suit left in the deck than there are cards that can hit it. If you guess a flush draw, you will hit it on the river only 30% of the time, so playing high, connected and suited cards with the ability to guess more draws will be more profitable than playing low, connected and suited cards. The other players will be pushing themselves with variable hands and strong draws, and the overall strength of the cards on the flop will be higher than on a full house.

Where to Play Short Deck Texas Hold’em

Initially, short-deck poker dominated the tournament circuit, as the small number of hands led to bigger hands and fast, exciting play. It quickly spread to cash games and festivals around the world. In 2019, the WSOP for the first time included a $10,000 buy-in Short Deck Hold'em bracelet tournament, and now you'll see 6+ Hold'em online as often as you do in ring games and in tournament format.

WPT Global offers short deck Texas Hold'em tables at levels from small stakes upwards, so you can quickly and easily try out this exciting format and understand how the theory of compact card play applies in practice.