Short Deck Poker Overview: An Exciting Alternative to Texas Holdem

Short Deck Poker Overview: An Exciting Alternative to Texas Holdem

Are you feeling a bit tired of Texas Holdem? Don’t be ashamed, even veteran poker players feel that way from time to time. Despite Holdem being the most popular way to play, it’s not the only one. Many great poker variants exist, like Omaha Poker or Seven Card Stud.

Maybe you’ve tried Omaha and found the methodical, draw-focused gameplay not to your liking. If you’re craving a format with the same aggressive feeling of Holdem but with enough difference to make it feel distinct, Short Deck Poker is for you! This poker guide will give you an overview of the format, including its origins, rules, and strategy compared to Holdem.ย 

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What is Short Deck poker?

Short Deck is a poker variant that has rapidly gained traction recently. Originating in Asia, Short Deck was invented by Paul Phua and Richard Yong, both poker players and successful businessmen. 

They wanted a higher chance of strong pre-flop hands, so they trimmed the lower-ranked cards. This resulted in a 36-card deck, where every card below six was cut out. No more twos, threes, fours, or fives.

Players enjoyed Short Deck, which became prevalent throughout Asia and has recently been played in the US. Short Deck has become the premier format of the iconic Triton Poker Series, which is also why it’s sometimes referred to as Triton Holdem.ย 

Short deck versus Holdem: Hand rankings

There are two main differences between Short Deck and Holdem; the first is in the name. The trimmed, 36-card deck Short Deck uses has a significant impact on strategy, and it also comes with a few changed hand rankings because of this. 

First, flushes are usually ranked above full houses in Short Deck. With less low-ranked cards, it’s much easier to make a full house. Second, some Short Deck rooms rank three-of-a-kinds above straights. This one is a lot less common than flushes being above full houses, so you must check the rules of wherever you’re playing Short Deck.

It’s also important to note that aces can now work as both the high and low card of a straight. When used as a low card, they are valued as a five, so both A-6-7-8-9 and 10-J-Q-K-A are valid straights in Short Deck. 

Short deck versus Holdem: Antes instead of blinds

The other significant difference between Short Deck and Holdem is that the former uses antes while the latter uses blinds. These are two types of forced bets, and both systems exist to discourage constant folding and ensure there’s always money in the pot. 

Blinds are forced bets everyone has to pay; there’s a small blind and a big blind which is double the small one. The blinds rotate around the hand, so everyone pays equally, but only two people pay them every hand. 

Antes are forced bets given to every player at the table. Each player pays a single ante, except the button who pays two. This is because the button is the best position in poker, acting third to the last pre-flop and last post-flop. The extra ante compensates for the button’s massive positional advantage. 

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Why play Short Deck in the first place?

If you need a bit more convincing on Short Deck’s potential, here are its two primary selling points.

The first is the increased chance of making a good hand. Nobody likes getting a terrible hand in Holdem, especially if you’re up against loose players unlikely to fall for a bluff. Short Deck makes hands much more consistent and ensures there aren’t many unlucky scenarios like 2-7o versus AA, where one hand wins over 88% of the time. 

Short Deck’s antes also give you more incentive to join the pot. If you like action, this mode’s the best choice for you! Its action-packed pots with more consistent hands make it a truly unique experience that takes the best part of Holdem and makes it even better.

Short Deck tips: Limp more often

Now, since Short Deck is still an emerging form of poker, there aren’t many poker strategy guides for it. So, here are two key principles you can take into your Short Deck games.
The first is, shockingly, limp more often. Unlike Holdem where limping is frowned upon and a very niche action, Short Deck often has limping as the primary line of play pre-flop. Antes guarantee a lot more money in the pot, increasing your odds to call tremendously. Stack sizes are also a lot smaller in Short Deck, so limping ensures you don’t get put in a tough spot when 3-bet since you commit fewer chips.

Short Deck tips: Bluff less often

The second tip is bluffing less often. While bluffing is widespread in Holdem, it’s much less prevalent in Short Deck. Hands are a lot closer together in strength and pots are a lot bigger on average, so you’ll see a lot less folding. Small stack sizes make bluffing even riskier, so it’s often not worth it when those three factors are combined. 

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Find Short Deck games online!

If you feel sold on Short Deck, give it a try! It’s a fantastic format for Holdem veterans, and you can easily find good Short Deck poker games online. There are, however, few live Short Deck games outside of Asia, so you should keep that in mind if you’re expecting it at your local casino.ย 

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