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short deck vs no limit holdem

Short Deck vs No Limit Hold’em: 4 Must-Know Strategic Differences

Since it burst onto the scene a few years ago, Short Deck Hold’em has spread rapidly throughout the poker world.

Short Deck has been a staple on the high roller circuit for the past two years, in both cash games and tournaments. More recently, it gained popularity in the United States when the World Series of Poker included several Short Deck tournaments on its 2019 schedule.

Due to some drastic rule changes, the optimal strategy in Short Deck Hold’em is vastly different from No Limit Hold’em.

In this article, we’ll go over the 4 most important strategic adjustments you need to make when playing Short Deck as a No Limit Hold’em player. (Each of these were pulled from high stakes pro Kane Kalas’s Short Deck Mastery course.)

But first, let’s briefly go over some of the rule changes so that we’re all on the same page.

Notable Short Deck Rule Adjustments

  • Short Deck is played with only 36 cards as opposed to 52 because the twos, threes, fours, and fives are removed from the deck. 
  • Instead of the traditional small blind and big blind, Short Deck uses a unique ante format (explained in the next bullet).
  • Every player posts a small ante except for the button, who posts a big ante.
    For example, if the stakes were $1/$2, every player besides the button posts a $1 ante, while the button posts $2. The action starts left of the button in what is conventionally thought of as the small blind, and each player must call $1 (or raise) to stay in the hand. The button has the option to check if no one raises.
  • Because they are harder to make, flushes actually beat full houses in Short Deck.
  • This guide is for the more common format of Short Deck in which a straight beats three-of-a-kind. However, in some short deck games three-of-a-kind will trump straights. 

If you want a more in-depth explanation of the rules of Short Deck, read our guide to Short Deck Hold’em.

1. Play more hands preflop

The first adjustment to make when transitioning to Short Deck is to play more hands. The reason for this is simple: You are getting better pot odds preflop than in any other variant of poker.

Because of the ante structure, it’s basically like there is a small blind in every position around the table, expect for the button which acts like a big blind. If you are first to act at a 6-handed table, you are getting 7:1 to enter the pot with a call.

short deck vs no limit hold'em blind structure

For that reason, you have to play much looser preflop than in any other form of poker, and in some unconventional ways. For example, limping in No Limit Hold’em is rarely an optimal play, especially from early position, but that is considered a very standard play in Short Deck.

Playing looser preflop also makes sense because hand equities run closer together, which leads me to the next point.

2. Fast-play more often because hand equities run closer

Another big difference between Short Deck and No Limit Hold’em is that hand equities run closer. Equities are even closer in Short Deck than they are in Pot Limit Omaha, which is traditionally thought of as a game where equites run close. 

Because equities run close in Short Deck, there are three main adjustments that you should make:

  1. Fold less
  2. Overbet more
  3. Don’t slow-play

The reason for folding less is because, unlike in No Limit Hold’em, it’s really easy to have enough equity to continue in Short Deck. You want to realize your share of the pot, so folding in Short Deck is a less attractive option than it is in other games.

Because your opponents will often have a lot of equity against you in Short Deck, overbetting should be used more frequently. If you want to deny your opponent’s equity, overbetting is a play you need to incorporate into your Short Deck game.

While trapping in No Limit Hold’em is justifiable at some frequency, it becomes a much less effective move in Short Deck. Because your opponents have more equity, slow-playing gives them a chance to catch up for free. If you are ahead of your opponent’s range in Short Deck, you usually want to go for as many streets of value as you can.

3. Blockers have more value in Short Deck

Blockers have more value in Short Deck. The reason for this is because there are fewer cards — 36 to be exact. 

To use an example, let’s say you hold 99 and the flop comes T87. Having two of the four nines is more important than it is in No Limit Hold’em because on a percentage basis, you block a larger percentage of the cards in the deck that can make straights. 

This allows you to do things:

  • Bluff more to represent a straight.
  • Call down lighter in some spots because is is less likely that your opponent has a straight.

While 99 on this flop is still a valuable blocker in No Limit Hold’em, it is considerably more relevant in Short Deck.

4. Straight draws are more valuable

Finally, the fourth way Short Deck differs strategically from No Limit Hold’em is that straight draws are more valuable. Because there are fewer total cards, straight draws have a much higher chance of hitting in Short Deck.

For example, when you have an open-ended straight draw on the flop in No Limit Hold’em, you have 8 outs with 47 cards remaining (17% chance of hitting on the turn). In Short Deck, by comparison, you have 8 outs with 31 cards remaining (26% chance of hitting on the turn).

Because of this, connected hands go up in value because they make the most straights. Particularly, middle connected hands like T9 and JT gain the most value in Short Deck as they can make more straights. 

In No Limit Hold’em, a hand like KQ is usually superior to lower connected hands. However, in Short Deck, T9 and JT are generally more valuable than KQ and similar hands. This is because the lower connected hands have much more playability and will connect with a wider variety of flops.

Final Thoughts

Short Deck Hold’em has been getting a lot of attention recently as an exciting new game type growing in popularity.

Get ahead of your competition and crush Short Deck games when you get the new Short Deck Mastery Course.

Throughout the course, Kane Kalas teaches his cutting-edge strategy for this relatively unsolved game, which gives you lots of room for big win-rates. Learn more now!

Home > Short Deck vs No Limit Hold’em: 4 Must-Know Strategic Differences
Home > Short Deck vs No Limit Hold’em: 4 Must-Know Strategic Differences
About the Author

Patrick Harvey

Graduate student trying to make money in poker so that I don't end up having to drive Knish's truck.

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