Why I love 6+ Holdem

We couldn't think of anyone more suited to give their opinion on PokerStars' new variant, 6+, than Lex Veldhuis. He's spent hours watching and commentating on the some of the biggest short-deck games in the world featuring some of the best players on the planet, so we asked him to break down why he likes 6+ so much, and his thoughts on how you could approach the game yourself. Over to you, Lex.


Let me start by saying: I think 6+ is amazing and is a game that will survive and be popular for a very long time. I love both watching it and thinking about it, so I'll definitely be dabbling in 6+, for sure.

Disclaimer: I also want to say that I am by no means an expert, nor am I an authority on this game in any way. These are simply my initial takeaways from the game of 6+.


HOW 6+ WORKS

The game is really insane and a very nice change of pace. It's a bit like a Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) variant of No Limit Hold'em (NLHE), so you won't have to learn any new rules as the game set-up is the same. The only differences you need to know are:

• There are no deuces, threes, fours or fives in the deck
• An ace also acts as a five
• A flush beats a full house

Other than that, you still get two cards, there's still a flop/turn/river, and you can still play the board, just like in regular NLHE. However, it also has many similarities with PLO.


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In PLO, more combinations are possible because you have more cards in your hand. The other cool thing about PLO is that you see more cards from the deck so you can make more complex plays.

Likewise in 6+, combinations are more likely to happen as the deck is smaller. This is exactly why a flush should beat a full house: four of the suited cards have been taken away, yet full houses and straights become much easier to make because there are less cards--and therefore less blanks--to come. 


Example:

If you have QJ on an A-10-9 board, you're trying to hit a king or an eight to make a straight. But in normal NLHE bricks like a 2, 3, 4, or 5 could also come, and that's not the case in 6+. 



The same goes for when you have two pair and you're drawing to a full house, there are fewer blanks that can come. At the same time, people are aware that as there are fewer blanks in the deck, stronger hands becoming more possible, so you can also make some sick bluffs if you have really cool blockers.


Example:

Let's say you have pocket nines on a 10-8-7 flop. You can do really crazy stuff in 6+ because people will always be afraid of 6-9 or J-9.



Let's say you have pocket nines on a 10-8-7 flop. You can do really crazy stuff in 6+ because people will always be afraid of 6-9 or J-9. 

I would say that suited connectors and suited one-gappers (e.g. 8♠T♠, Q♣T♣) carry a lot more strength in 6+ than your typical ace-x hands.

Ace-six and ace-seven are tragically bad in 6+. I would even say that king-queen is better than ace-seven suited because it has more possibilities and is going to make stronger straights, pairs, and two pairs. These hands are just less vulnerable.


FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW

As you should do with any new poker game, you've got to step away a little bit from what you know to be true and reassess the situation.

So, when you get into a really dicey spot with ace-seven, maybe it's not that you got unlucky; maybe you should have avoided that spot entirely by not playing the hand or playing it in a different way. I think it's really important to step away and see how a hand plays in a new game, and what possibilities and traps there are for every hand.


Example:

Let's take a hand like jack-ten.

In 6+, ace-king vs jack-ten is close to a coin flip. Let's say the flop has an ace; you now have a reasonable chance of making a runner-runner straight. There's almost no random flop for jack-ten; you'd have to look at paired boards or boards that have both a six and a seven on them.

Other than that you'll likely flop a straight draw, and because there are fewer cards in the deck, gutshots are much easier to hit. Hands like jack-ten, jack-nine, queen-ten, queen-nine, they're right in the middle of the deck and they're incredibly powerful as they can make so many different straights.




PLAYING BIG DRAWS

When you flop big draws in 6+, you should always look at it from an equity perspective.

You know that feeling we all have in NLHE when we flop an open-ended straight flush draw? It's one of those hands where it feels unfair to not hit because you have so many outs. You now have to compare your chance of winning with those hands in NLHE to what it would now be in 6+.

Well, in 6+ an open-ender is the "new" open-ended straight flush draw. That's how powerful an open-ender is.

You're going to be around 45% against top pair when you have an open-ended straight draw, so that's an excellent hand to use as a bluff. If you get called by top-pair top-kicker or an overpair you're almost flipping, and that's an incredible spot to be in. You can almost always raise that hand and if they call it doesn't matter.

So then you have to think, what becomes the new semi-bluff? Well, the answer is your gutshots. Gutshots are like the open-enders and flush draws of NLHE. They're very powerful.

That being said, you have to remember that in 6+ you're going to have the same hand as your opponent more often, and you're going to be sharing outs more often. Knowing how powerful gutshots are, if you have a gutshot to the second nut straight, the same outs you want could give someone else the nut straight, and that's something you're going to see frequently. Having strong straight draws is definitely important.


BLUFFING

I think the best thing about raising middle pairs as bluffs is that you block two pair, so you can put top pairs in dicey situations on future streets. Knowing someone is not likely to have two pair, you can apply a lot of pressure.

In terms of three-bet bluffing, I think this is one of the most interesting aspects of 6+. This hasn't really been figured out yet.

You'll see people three-bet bluff sometimes, but I think ultimately hands such as A-10 suited and A-J suited will become quite reasonable to do it with.

If somebody knows that they're going to have 30% equity against some of your strongest hands (like pocket aces, and especially against ace-king), it's really hard to get people to fold. So, to try and protect their strong hands some players have been going all-in a lot before the flop. Then it becomes a little bit weird if all of a sudden you start three-betting. It doesn't really make sense anymore because everyone thinks: "Don't you just go all-in with your strong hands anyway? What do you have now then?"

Three-bet bluffing is something people are really trying to figure out, and I don't think there's a clear dynamic yet. There may be some people who have a clear handle on the strategy there, and it might work if you're extremely deep-stacked, but it's something I'm very excited about exploring myself. 

In terms of three-bet shoving, it's just a matter of calculation. Sometimes it gets out of hand a little bit. Someone might open to five antes and another player might call, then someone will shove all-in for 70 or 80 antes with ace-king. You can't really fault this play, and to be fair some people will still call with jack-ten for the gamble of it.


PLO ADVANTAGE

If you have experience playing PLO I think that's a huge advantage in 6+. This is because lots of hands can look very pretty on the flop.

It's going to be really interesting to see how the game plays out moving forward, and I think stack-depth will have a lot to do with that. Maybe in the future this game will be played pot-limit pre-flop, who knows? That might even make the game crazier. Even though you can only bet what's in the pot in PLO, the game has far more variance than NLHE despite bets being limited. 


Example:

Let's say you have AQ on Q-9-7. That looks pretty good because you're looking at it from a NLHE perspective. But now look at it from a 6+ perspective: any king, jack, ten, nine, eight or six are all scare cards. So around 80% of the deck will be scare cards on the turn and river. You have to plan how you're going to play a hand over multiple streets.


6+ is really insane. I've seen some variance in my life, and I've heard stories from people who have played far higher than I ever have, but this game takes things to a new level.


LEX'S 6+ TIPS

1. Bankroll management

You're going to be very disappointed if you sit down to play and it's just "bing bang boom" and you're three buy-ins down. This might turn you off from a game you'd otherwise find very exciting and fun to play.

I recommend starting off playing lower than you usually would in this game because the variance is so much bigger. Don't just think: "Oh, it's just NLHE with a twist. I normally play a $400 buy-in so I'll play a $400 buy-in in 6+". This game has four or five times as much variance as NLHE, so I'd recommend dropping down the stakes and trying it out there just to be safe. 

You can learn a lot and do a lot with information in poker; making money comes later and should not be your first objective. Your first objective is to learn your way around a new game.

2. Study

I think from a learning perspective watching PLO material could definitely help you understand 6+ better. 

You could also start watching live cash game footage of amazing 6+ players like Tan Xuan and Wai Kin Yong. When I've watched them, I can just see they're fearless and they really notice traps in the strategy of a game like 6+.

Xuan is very good pre-flop. He knows exactly when to stay out of trouble with a hand such as ace-king suited, or when to turn it into a bluff, and he's just insanely good at game dynamics. Yong is also one the best I've seen.

What's really exciting for poker fans is that Tom Dwan is also very impressive at this game. We all know that Tom has an insane poker mind, but the way he approaches 6+ and dominates from a strategy point of view has been really awesome to see as a poker fan. He's just incredible to watch, and I recommend you check Dwan out as well if you want to watch some advanced 6+ strategy.

Tom Dwan

3. Forget what you know

As I said earlier, forget what you know about NLHE. In 6+ you don't always have to check to the raiser, you don't always have to have to check to the pre-flop aggressor. That regular NLHE stuff will handcuff you in a game like this. 

4. Know your equity

In this game, where equity runs really close, even if you have a strong hand your opponent will still have a really good chance of catching up.

That, in turn, means you could run into a lot of problems on later streets, and that usually means you made a mistake earlier in the hand.

If you run into a really tough spot on a river, it's often not the river play you need to break down, but what you did earlier in the hand that put you in this tough spot. You might have been drawn into a hand that you shouldn't have. 



You can play both real money and play money games of 6+ right now on PokerStars. Click here to open an account and get started.


Lex Veldhuis
@PokerStars in News