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The Differences Between NL Hold'em and Short Deck

4,493 Views on 15/12/21

Short Deck NL Hold’em has taken the high stakes poker world by storm over the last two years

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Short Deck NL Hold’em has taken the high stakes poker world by storm over the last two years. The new exciting variant has been a breath of fresh air amongst the high stakes crowd building up some of the best streamed cash game action we’ve ever seen.

They seem to appreciate the fact that nobody has yet built anything close to a GTO strategy and once again those with talent can play by feel without having to worry about playing against a computer.

Maybe you are feeling a little stale with your game of choice and might be on the lookout for a new variant to restore your motivation. You could do a lot worse than Short Deck NL Hold’em.

Rule Differences

The most obvious difference is that the deck only consists of 36 cards instead of the traditional 52. The deuces, treys, fours and fives are all removed.

While there is a big blind posted every hand all of the other players post an ante in lieu of a small blind position. The action also begins from the seat to the left of the big blind.

Hand rankings are different with flushes now beating a full house. The situation with straights and three of a kind is something you need to keep an eye on.

There are two sets of rules between online and the Triton festivals. Trips are less likely - almost half as much - than a straight. Many online platforms adhere to this ranking but the Triton rules and those of PokerStars still rank a straight above trips. Make sure to check the rules for where you play.

An ace can also make up the bottom end of a straight such as A 6 7 8 9.

Strategy Differences

The biggest difference, and it’s a good one, is that you can play many more hands.

With all the antes in the pot it’s like having several small blinds extra in a normal NL game. This means in a six-handed game you will be getting 7-1 odds to limp in. Playing too passively will lead to you leaking a ton of profit.

Limping while considered a novice play in regular NL games is actually a totally standard play in Short Deck.

So, you can play a ton more hands which leads to a much more exciting playing experience but during the hands the equities run super close together. This means that you are rarely crushed and can continue in a lot of spots where you must fold in normal NL.

You must adjust to this change because you will be overfolding massively if you try and play a cautious regular style.

Continue with a weak range when facing aggression and if you think slowplaying is generally not best in standard NL it’s a crime in Short Deck. With such close equities you are risking an awful lot just to be tricky.

Straight draws are particularly valuable in Short Deck NL. Not only do most games rank them higher than trips but they are much more likely to come in.

Your draw still has eight outs to complete but instead of chasing through 47 cards on the flop you now have only 31. This is a huge difference - from 17% to 26%.

Because of this shift you should be much more willing to play suited connectors in spots where you would usually fold. The risk is much more worth it.

With trips being a less likely and less valuable hand you must also be careful not to overvalue small pocket pairs. In normal NL the chance of hitting a set can often be enough of a reward to play but in Short Deck you just won’t hit frequently enough.

Top pair also requires some adjustments. You might think that on most boards it is a safe hand but it is much more vulnerable in this format. Think about controlling the size of the pot a lot more and don’t overplay the hand when facing a lot of aggression.

The final point is to be aware of the increased value of holding blockers. When you hold some of the cards that complete a monster hand you are blocking a higher proportion of the deck. This is a crucial point. You can call down much wider knowing your opponent will have the hand much less often.

Short Deck is a great game to play with your friends. Tons of action and the close equities nature of the format mean that you will never be far behind. Instead of thinking street by street how likely it is that you have the best hand, you will be considering how likely it is you are best by the river.

It is the ultimate action game.


Mark Patrickson

Mark Patrickson is a professional cash game player grinding stakes up to 100nl 6 Max NL Hold'em13 years experience of poker, across MTT SnG and cash, FL PL NL.Currently living in South East Asia and trying to make it back to mid-stakes befo ... Read More


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