The battle in the online poker world for the wallets of players has been, for the most part, a one-sided battle. The behemoth PokerStars has ruled the roost since the days of “Black Friday” and there have been few challengers. One of the rooms that still caters to U. S. players, America’s Cardroom, has recently taken their shot at trying to crack the PokerStars armor by beating them to the punch in introducing “6+” No Limit Hold’em.

“6+” Hold’em = Short Deck Poker

The new game has shown up on the lobby screen in America’s Cardroom, giving it an advantage over the #1 online poker room in the industry. Basically “6+” Hold’em is the variant of poker that is sweeping the Asian gaming centers of Macau and Europe where a “short deck” is used to play Texas Hold’em. In this game, there are some changes that make it a bit more challenging for players.

In Short Deck Hold’em (or, as America’s Cardroom calls it, “6+” Hold’em), all deuces through fives have been removed from the deck, making it a 36-card deck instead of a 52-card deck. Additionally, a full table at Short Deck Hold’em, on America’s Cardroom, is a six-handed game, although there are also heads up and nine-handed options. Once the table is set, the cards are dealt out like Texas Hold’em – each player gets two hole cards and a three-card flop, a solo turn and a solo river are dealt with a round of betting after each action – but there are some changes to the hand rankings because of the shorter deck.

The Ace can be used as a five, with a “Wheel” now being a nine-high straight (9-8-7-6-A). But a straight isn’t as strong in the Short Deck game, with Three of a Kind beating it in the rankings. Additionally, a flush beats a full house (with the shorter deck, it is more difficult to make a flush). That makes the hand rankings as such:

Royal Flush
Straight Flush
Four of a Kind
Full House
Three of a Kind
Two Pair
One Pair
High Card

Popular with the Pros

There’s been plenty of buzz about the game and much of it has come in just the last year. Apparently, the game was popular in the Asian gaming Mecca of Macau, where Phil Ivey and Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan touted it to players. The game has quickly moved to Europe and, this summer, it became the buzz at the World Series of Poker. That buzz picked up even more when the variant made its debut at the 2018 Poker Masters, where one of the “High Roller” events on the schedule was a $10,000 buy in tournament that featured the game.

So why is it taking the poker world by storm? For those that are bored with the lack of action in “normal” Texas Hold’em, this variant allegedly makes it more exciting through the fewer cards offered and, in theory, making bigger hands. It has been compared to the action of Omaha Hold’em, with its Pot Limit format known for its action.

It could also be simply because players, for the most part, haven’t learned how to play the variant yet. With the short deck, the math of the game now changes. For example, if you’re looking to draw to a flush, instead of the 1 in 3 chance that you have with four suited cards in “normal” Texas Hold’em after the flop (nine outs), you now only have a 1 in 5 chance (five outs) of making the hand. Ivey himself has said that the game is “(suited to) a more gambling style player.”

PokerStars Up Next?

America’s Cardroom has gotten one up on the venerable leader in the poker industry by introducing this variant. Earlier this month, my friend and colleague Dan Katz talked about how PokerStars was gearing up to open their version of Short Deck Poker (also called “6+” Hold’em), but it hasn’t looked like they’ve pulled the trigger as of yet. According to Dan, it seems that they are waiting to get everything working flawlessly. (Dan also points out that America’s Cardroom isn’t the first to debut this game – that honor goes to the iPoker Network almost three years ago).

So, will America’s Cardroom get any advantage by being the first to the U. S. market with the product? That remains to be seen in whether it takes off with the only segment of the community that matters – the players.

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