Pre-Flop Strategy in 6+ Hold’em
6+ Hold’em is a popular ‘short deck’ poker format that plays much like Texas Hold’em, but with a few exciting differences:
- All cards lower than a six are removed from the deck
- Everyone posts an ante and only the button posts a blind – known as the ‘button blind’
- A flush beats a full-house
Available in cash games, exclusively at PokerStars, 6+ Hold’em is your chance to play an action-packed variant loved by high-stakes players around the world.
At first, transitioning from traditional Holdem to 6+ Hold’em is a little like being dropped onto an alien planet and trying to survive, but don’t worry, we’re here to help! Today our topic is the major shake-up to traditional hand selection brought by the shorter deck. Let’s learn what has changed in this new poker environment.
Offsuit vs Suited Hands
In regular NLHE, there is a slight preference to suited combinations over their off-suit counterparts. We might prefer A5s to A5o as a 3-Bet bluff, not because the EV is massively higher, but because we need to make sure that we control our bluffing frequency and it is only common sense to achieve this by bluffing with hands that have slightly higher EV (expected value) when they get called. We can view 98s in Holdem as a slightly improved version of 98o. The reason it shows up more often in our opening ranges is not due to some massive change in EV, but a slight one that is sometimes enough to constitute the difference between a hand being slightly profitable and slightly unprofitable to play.
As I demonstrated in my first article about 6+ Hold’em, flushes are immensely powerful hands. They are as hard to hit as in regular Holdem, making them harder to hold than most other 6+ Hold’em hands, but they now beat a full-house in the hand rankings. This means that while you will make a flush less often than you will make a full-house, the implied odds for flushes are huge in 6+ Hold’em. Flushes are capable of winning enormous pots from very strong hands and are essentially nutted hands wherever they’re possible due to how hard it is to make quads or better (this is especially true of a nut flush). Pre-flop, there is a very obvious criterion for choosing flush-making hands – suited cards! Therefore, JTs is not just a little bit stronger than JTo, it is a massively better hand that will win many more huge pots over the long run. The difference between JTs and JTo is actually similar to the difference in regular Holdem between 44 and 54o. The latter hand has very poor implied odds, but the former is often playable due to its ability to win huge pots.
Pocket Pairs Are Devalued
In formats of short deck where trips beat straights, pocket pairs are very valuable, but in 6+ Hold’em the straight remains king. As a result, our pocket pairs suffer for two main reasons. Firstly, the sets they flop that do not improve to full-houses will be cracked by straights far more often as it is quite easy to string five cards together to make a straight. Secondly overpairs are far more susceptible to being beaten by two pair, trips, sets, and straights; all of which occur more often in this format of the game. Low pairs like 66-88 are especially shaky starting hand because set over set is a real concern in a game where pocket pairs flop sets 17% of the time.
A9o, K8o and Co. are Complete Trash
In regular Holdem, we are more than happy to steal on the button with a hand like A8o. As there are so many awful starting hands in the traditional format of the game, anything containing an Ace with just two players to act behind is a perfectly respectable hand. In 6+ Hold’em, there is no J4o, 83s, or 52o. This means that stealing something down the bottom of the hand grid like J8o or K7o is actually like opening 93o in regular Holdem.
Of course, suited hands like Q9s are much more playable in late position. In a game where it is easier to make straights and much more profitable to make flushes, we should favour steal hands that have the potential to do these things. Since one-pair is now a terrible post-flop holding, and Ace-High is almost never worthy of being called ‘showdown value’ we should avoid playing off-suit Ax in most situations. [AT-AK] are a lot more playable in late position, but even these hands are a lot worse than they are in regular Holdem.
We can summarize the dramatic hand selection shifts necessary to succeed in 6+ Hold’em in two key points: Upgrade suited hands and downgrade anything off-suit or one pair reliant. Top pair is much weaker than in holdem, especially where the kicker is not up to scratch. We shall expand on this in the next article on Six Plus, where the discussion moves to post-flop, See you there and good luck at the tables!