Six Plus Hold'em Rules Up for Debate?

The popularity of Six Plus Hold'em continues to grow, especially since PokerStars recently added the poker variant to its cash game offerings.

By: Charles Rettmuller

One could certainly argue that PokerStars is a little bit late to the party considering that the iPoker Network has been spreading the game for years - since 2016. The iPoker launch followed the initial wave of interest in Short Deck Poker when a video featuring Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey touting the game began making the rounds in 2015.

The big boys informed us that Six Plus Hold'em was a big hit in the high stakes card rooms in Macau. Naturally, the interest of the poker community was piqued and the 36-card variant has been gaining momentum ever since.

Fast forward to 2019 and you'll find Six Plus Hold'em available at a number of other poker sites that include Americas Cardroom, Black Chip Poker, and now, PokerStars. Those poker rooms were perhaps propelled into action  when the Triton Super High Roller Series hosted a number of Short Deck tournaments last year.

Big Winners

The Triton SHR attracted plenty of coverage when Phil Ivey won a Six Plus Hold'em tournament in Montenegro for $604,992, and followed that up with a 3rd place finish ($1,666,480) in a bigger buy-in event that was won by Jason Koon, who took home $3,579,836 for his efforts and now leads the Short Deck Poker All Time Money List.

We can expect the game to make even more waves this year considering that the WSOP has added a $10,000 buy-in Six Plus Hold'em event to its 2019 schedule.

But those waves are currently somewhat choppy due to the fact that the poker apps PPPoker and PokerMaster have added Short Deck Poker to their offerings. There's nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that the hand rankings are not the same as what we've come to know as the norm for Six Plus Hold'em.

But ...... do we actually know what the hand ranking norm is for Short Deck Poker?

It's generally been the consensus that the standard No Limit Hold'em hand ranking has been modified in Six Plus Hold'em so that a flush beats a full house and that a set beats a straight. The mathematical reasoning behind the change seems sound as a flush is harder to make with only nine cards of the same suit in play, and straights are easier to make since there is less separation in card values with the deuces thru fives removed from the deck.

Straight Over Set?

PokerMaster and PPPoker have released their versions of Short Deck Poker with a straight ranked higher than a set. This can, of course, lead to  problems, as players who are familiar with hand rankings played or set elsewhere will have to make sure to know the specific rules at whatever poker room or app they are playing at.

There is also a version of Six Plus Hold'em floating around in which players receive a river card in the hole rather than on the board. I have yet to play this version of 6+ Hold'em, but it's my understanding that further requirements call for the precise use of two of your three hole cards and three of the four community cards while making the best 5-card hand.

The fact of the matter is that there may be any number of rules or hand rankings used when a new game appears on the scene. It perhaps all depends on what live poker room or what site (or app) is hosting the game.

Take a look at this video from Paul Phua Poker posted about one year ago where Tom Dwan talks about the different ways that he has played Short Deck Poker in high stakes live action:

It's certainly exciting when a new poker variant is introduced, followed by interest and a desire to play from poker players. However, as the game grows in popularity, there may perhaps be reasons for concern when universal rules or hand rankings aren't fully established.

I suppose that due to the fact that Six Plus Hold'em remains relatively new and since 16 less cards makes for different mathematical probabilities than No Limit Texas Hold'em with regard to hand strength, it may take time before a preferred and "standard" hand ranking perhaps sorts itself out. But the sooner that happens might be better.


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