PokerStars Introduces 6+ Hold’em

The rumors about PokerStars’ upcoming novelty cash game started back in early fall and this week, the world’s largest online poker site has finally launched its new offering, a game called 6+ Hold’em. PokerStars did not specify in its announcement of the game if it would be temporary or a permanent addition to the lobby, but because it is called “the latest instalment [sic] in PokerStars’ series of new cash game variants,” we are guessing that it is temporary, as that would stay consistent with its past offerings.

6+ Hold’em is a game that plays just like regular Texas Hold’em – two hole cards, flop, turn, river, etc. – except that all cards below six are removed. There are no deuces, treys, fours, or fives in a 6+ Hold’em deck. Because of this, the hand rankings in the game are different that what we are used to seeing.

The top three hands are still royal flush, straight flush, and four-of-a-kind. They are easier to hit in 6+ Hold’em because there are fewer total cards in the deck, but they are still rarities. The differences come in with flushes and straights. A flush is now ranked higher than a full house and a straight is ranked lower than a three-of-a-kind. Check out the 6+ Hold’em hand rankings (emphasis added):

Royal Flush
Straight Flush
Four of a Kind
Full House
Three of a Kind
Two Pair
High Card

Logically, it makes sense that full houses will be easier to hit in 6+ Hold’em than in standard Hold’em (though not “easy” on an absolute scale). Since there are fewer cards in the deck, the probability of a card being dealt to give a player a third matching card or to pair the board goes up. PokerStars does some basic math for us on its blog:

In regular Holdem, there are four 9s in the deck, but there are also four of twelve other ranks of card. One in thirteen cards is a nine in regular Holdem. In 6+ Hold’em, there are only nine ranks of card and so one in nine cards is a 9. If you are dealt 99, any card in the deck goes from having a 2/50 = 4% chance of being a 9 to having a 2/34 = 6% chance. In 6+ Hold’em, it is 50% easier to find those set making cards. In fact, in 6+ Hold’em you will fail to flop a set (32/34 x 31/33 x 30/32) = 83% of the time. This means that we flop a set 17% of the time! After we have done the hard part, and hit one of our two cards to make a set, it is much easier for the board to then pair since sixteen of the cards that would prevent it from pairing in regular holdem (the deuces through fives) do not exist. Those cards really did spoil all the fun.

As for straights, similar logic can be used before getting into the math. Because there is a smaller spread of cards in the deck – there are nine possible card values instead of thirteen – the cards dealt will be closer together in value. If you are going for, say, a jack-high straight, there is now no chance to get deuces through fives to brick your draw; a higher percentage of cards in the deck will help you.

Again, let’s go to PokerStars for some word problems. Using the example of a K-J-T-8-6 board:

In 6+ Hold’em, there are no deuces through fives to dilute the number of straights in each player’s range. The result is that it is incredibly easy to hold a straight in 6+ Hold’em. Pre-flop you will be dealt [97, Q9, AQ] 48/630 times. In Regular Hold’em you will be dealt these hands 48/1326 times. While there are some versions of short deck Holdem where three of a kind beats a straight, this is not the case in 6+ Hold’em and so connected cards are very powerful. This format of the game encourages action by providing an incentive to play connected cards, which come along very frequently.

Keep in mind that the ace still plays high and low, so the new “wheel” is A-6-7-8-9.

Though 6+ Hold’em is new to PokerStars, it is not new to the poker world. It has been a popular game at the high stakes Macau cash game tables because of it is action-packed and the iPoker Network introduced it online about three years ago. Still, since PokerStars is the industry giant, a new light is being shined on the game.

6+ Hold’em games at Stars are six-handed with everyone posting an ante each hand (this will add to the action). The game also features a “button blind” in which only the player on the button posts a blind.


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