It was a poorly-kept secret for months, but on Tuesday PokerStars finally launched “6+,” a game also known in poker circles (and on the PokerStars blog) as 6+Hold’em. 6+ Hold’em follows several novelty cash games from 2018, though PokerStars has not said if it will temporary like its predecessors.

6+ Hold’em gets its name from the factor that makes it unique: all cards lower than Six have been removed from the deck. The games at PokerStars are six-handed (coincidentally) and everyone posts an ante. Additionally, rather than there being a big blind and small blind, the button posts a single blind. 6+ Hold’em is a game certainly built for action.

“6+ is an exciting poker variant that often produces big hands and a lot of action, so we’re excited to bring it to the tables”, said Chris Straghalis, Director of Poker Product at PokerStars, in a press release issued Tuesday. “While the format has proven popular with high stakes players, the range of stakes available on PokerStars and similarities to hold’em mean that it should appeal to those who may want to try a new game but don’t want something too different. We’re looking forward to seeing what people think.”

Fewer Cards Means New Hand Strengths

And Straghalis is correct – it’s not too different than regular Hold’em, aside from the lack of sixteen cards. It still plays the same. Because of the elimination of low cards, though, hand strengths have changed. Now the rankings of hands looks like this:

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

As you can see, a Flush is now stronger than a Full House and a Straight (Aces still play high or low) is weaker than a Three of a Kind. Flushes are now stronger because there are fewer cards of each suit, therefore making a Flush more difficult to hit. On the flip side, with Twos through Fives gone, the range of cards is more compact, this making Straights easier to make.

6+ Hold’em, while new to PokerStars, is not a new game to the poker world. It has been popular for several years in the high stakes cash games of Macau (those players love their action) and was talked up by Phil Ivey. About three years ago, the iPoker Network introduced 6+ Hold’em on its skins.

The idea behind 6+ Hold’em for the poker room is obviously to generate big pots through furious action. Strong hands are easier to make, causing players to stay in hands longer, and everyone has to post an ante, giving them incentive to at least see a flop. It is also a novelty game that is easy for novice players to understand, since it plays exactly like regular Texas Hold’em, except for some shuffling of hand rankings. While strategy definitely needs to change, an inexperienced player can still follow what is going on quite easily. I would not be surprised if 6+ ends up being a permanent fixture at PokerStars.

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