Six Plus Hold’em Could Be Heading to PokerStars

Six Plus Hold’em Could Be Heading to PokerStars

There are strong indications that the world’s largest online card room, PokerStars, intends to begin offering the poker variant Six Plus Hold’em in the near future. Graphics featuring large “6+ Holdem” text in the middle of a poker table have been spotted in recent updates to PokerStars clients starting Aug. 30.

What Is Six Plus Hold’em?

Six Plus Hold’em, also called Short Deck Hold’em, plays like regular Texas Hold’em except that all card ranks lower than sixes (2s, 3s, 4s, 5s) are removed from the deck. This affects the probabilities of making final hands of certain strengths, leading to a revision of the normal hand rankings. The new ordering of what beats what is as follows (from highest to lowest):

– Royal flush
– Straight flush
– Four of a kind
– Flush
– Full house
– Three of a kind
– Straight
– Two pair
– One pair
– High card

The most notable differences from normal hand rankings is that a flush becomes more powerful than a full house, and that three of a kind beats a straight. There are more cards of a single value, proportionately, within the 36-card deck of Six Plus than in a regular 52-card deck, which is what makes full houses relatively more common and thus less valuable. At the same time, straights become much easier to make as you only need to collect 5 consecutive ranks out of a possible 9 rather than the 13 found in normal poker.

Much as in regular Texas Hold’em, aces can play low when making a straight. Therefore, A – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 is the lowest possible straight in Six Plus Hold’em.

Gameplay Implications

Because there are fewer distinct card ranks in Six Plus Hold’em, average hand strengths tend to be higher than in Texas Hold’em. Moreover, the strongest starting hands are less heavily favored than in traditional two-card poker. For instance, the mighty AA has around 82 percent equity versus a random opponent hand in Texas Hold’em, but it only has a bit more than 77 percent in this newer version of the game.

Both of these factors create bigger pots and more showdowns than in regular hold’em. Another element that makes this an action game is its newness and therefore the lack of readily available strategy articles and training materials. A brief description of the game and some strategic considerations, however, can be found on this pokernews web page, and as the peice concludes:

“Six-plus hold’em introduces several exciting twists to traditional Texas hold’em, creating an action-filled alternative that many players are finding especially enjoyable to play. Furthermore, the changes from regular hold’em aren’t terribly complicated, making it easy to new players to learn and play right away.”

Six Plus Hold’em History

Six Plus Hold’em first became popular in high-stakes private mixed games in Macau. Its spread was undoubtedly assisted by a video promoting the game featuring Phil Ivey and Tom “durrrr” Dwan, which was released in the middle of 2015. By October 2015, Six Plus Hold’em tables then began to appear online at Russia-focused Pokerdom, with its next debut on the iPoker Network in February 2016.

More recently, many members of the public have been exposed to the game by watching the 2018 Triton Super High Roller series, which featured broadcasts of Short Deck poker tournaments held at its Montenegro and South Korea stops. In fact, Phil Ivey, who had been largely absent from the tournament scene since 2014, thrilled fans by taking part in the two series, and taking down the first-ever live Six Plus Hold’em tournament, the HKD$250k (US$31,850) Short Deck Ante Only event for HKD$4,749,200 (US$604,977).

The first U.S.-friendly internet operator to embrace the game was the Winning Poker Network, which added a few Six Plus Hold’em cash games to its lobby near the beginning of September 2018 for beta testing. All being well, a full rollout is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 10. In the meantime, PokerStars hasn’t yet announced the addition of Six Plus Hold’em to its lineup of games. However, given that assets related to it have been incorporated into the PokerStars software, it’s probably only a matter of time before this poker variant goes live at the internet poker site.

What Is PokerStars Trying to Achieve?

As the online poker destination with the most traffic, PokerStars boasts tons of obscure games, like Courchevel and Badugi, which many of its smaller competitors simply don’t have the required player liquidity to support. Now that Six Plus Hold’em is gaining adherents around the world, perhaps the company feels that it’s time to bring the format to its player base.

Beyond this surface explanation, there might be less flattering reasons for ‘Stars to experiment with Short Deck poker. For a couple of years now, the company has been trying to grow its poker revenues through the inclusion of gimmicky poker derivatives. In October 2017, the room launched Power Up, a hybrid of normal Texas Hold’em and collectible card games that allowed competitors to earn various limited-use special powers, like viewing the card on top of the deck and replacing a hole card. In August 2018, PokerStars introduced Unfold Hold’em, which lets players who have already folded pay a fee to rejoin a hand.

Unfortunately for the Isle of Man-registered corporation, none of its newly invented types of poker have gained much traction in the marketplace. Only this week, Unfold Hold’em became the third innovative cash game product to be withdrawn by the online giant this year, joining the likes of previous offerings such as Split Hold’em and Showtime Hold’em. Commenting upon the operator’s strategic considerations, Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations, stated:

“PokerStars is invested in creating and testing products and new variants of poker to suit a variety of player tastes. While not every new development will be a home run, we will keep trialling, listening to player feedback and analysing engagement with our goal of continuing to offer fresh promotions, formats and updates that enhance our players’ experience and bring more people to the game.”

Six Plus Hold’em, on the other hand, is a known quantity with a preexisting population of fans albeit a small one. By sticking to a game that has already been seen in live and online card rooms around the world, PokerStars is reducing the time and resources needed for development, while simultaneously improving the chances of the new format proving a winner with its users.