Short Deck Poker Rules: How to Play with 36 Cards

If you’re looking to try a new and exciting poker game, then you should give short deck poker a try. Short deck poker rules require 36 cards instead of the standard 52, and it’s played with six players. Each player is dealt six cards, and the goal is to make the best five-card hand using any combination of your six cards.

What is short deck poker?

Also known as six-plus Hold’em, short deck poker is a game variation of Texas Hold’em. Short deck poker rules are similar to the rules of standard poker but with a significant difference.

Short-deck poker only has a 36-card deck instead of the full 52-card poker deck.

Short-deck poker was first introduced in Macau’s high-stakes cash game.

Short deck poker rules

The first step in playing short deck poker is to build the 36-card deck. To do this, get a standard card deck and remove all the twos, threes, fours, and fives. These are equivalent to 16 cards. 

The sixes up to the kings and aces remain.

Just like Texas Hold’em, the aces count as high or low when making straights.

A-6-7-8-9 is the lowest ranking straight in a game of short deck poker.

To start the game of short deck poker, each player gets two hole cards. To make the best possible hand, combine them with five community cards.

short deck poker rules

Four steps of betting are available in a game of short-deck poker:

  • Pre-flop
  • Flop
  • Turn
  • River

Hand rankings in short deck poker

Short deck poker rules are the same as regular Texas Hold’em rules. You can bet fixed-limit or no-limit.

However, short deck poker has a different hand ranking system.

Three-of-a-kind beats a straight (instead of vice-versa).

Flush beats a full house (instead of vice-versa).

Why does short deck poker have different hand rankings?

These changes were made because removing the 16 cards from the standard deck alters the probabilities of making certain hands.

For example, a flush is harder to make in short-deck poker because there are only nine suited cards.

Deal on fifth street

Another variation that is often used in six-plus Hold’em is the way the river gets dealt.

The game can be played in the same manner as for regular Hold’em, with the community cards dealt the same way: flop (three cards), turn (one card), and river (one card), with betting rounds after each street.

Players are often dealt a third hole card instead of the river completing the five-card board.

The process of building hands is similar to Omaha poker, where players must use two out of their four hole cards and three of their board cards to build a five-card hand.

Basic strategy for short-deck poker

As you can see, the removal of low-value cards and the use of the 36-card deck make it more likely to make hands of higher value, which tends to bring more action.

Relative hand values should be viewed differently from regular Hold’em.

It is easier to make a two-pair hand with a smaller deck, which means that a hand like top-pair, top-kicker is not as strong as in regular Hold’em.

It is also easier to create straights and full houses in six-plus Hold’em than regular poker, which is why the alternate hand rankings are available.

In short-deck poker, the odds of hitting certain draws can also change.

One example: In short-deck poker, it is possible to fill an open-ended straight draw.

You’ll still be looking for the eight outs, but there are fewer cards in the deck. This will increase the probability that you’ll make your straight.

The probability of being dealt certain hands also changes with a smaller deck. You are more likely to get pocket aces in short-deck poker than in regular Hold’em.

Players being dealt a third hole instead of a fifth community card affects hand value. This makes it more likely that players will improve their hands. Consider this factor when calculating odds or choosing your final-round bet strategy.


Short deck poker is a fun and exciting variation of the classic game that everyone can enjoy. The rules add many unpredictable twists to Texas Hold’em. This creates an action-packed alternative that many players find particularly enjoyable.

Studying the changes in six-plus Hold’em doesn’t require too much effort, making it easy for new players to start playing and learning. If you’re looking for a new way to play poker, then be sure to give this version a try!