What the Heck is Six-Plus Hold’em?

A video has appeared on YouTube featuring Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan promoting a new poker variant apparently being spread at the Macau casinos they frequent, called “Six Plus Hold’em.”

The video is shot in a pseudo-interview format and is interesting mostly for how hilariously awkward both guys are. Neither is a particularly charismatic person to begin with, but there’s also a lot lacking at the directorial end of things – the biggest problem seems to be that neither of them knows what they’re supposed to say.

Indeed, it’s impressive how little they actually do say about the game. For one thing, it’s never explained how the game differs from conventional Hold’em (although that’s possible to deduce – see below). Everything they do say, they end up contradicting a few seconds later: it’s higher-skill than Hold’em, but also higher luck. It’s a very fast game in which you can rarely fold, but you have to take it slow. Dwan provides the only concrete piece of information in the video when he states that you’re going for straights more than for flushes.

Okay, but what is it?

Although neither of the two players, nor the interviewer ever explains the game, you can deduce fairly easily from the name and a few clues in the video that it is simply Hold’em played with a deck of 36 cards, in which the Deuces through Fives have been removed. The lowest card in the deck would then be a Six, hence the name.

This is corroborated by the fact that both players mention there being fewer cards in the deck. Additionally, Dwan mentions that you have only nine cards to make a flush, and the interviewer points out that Aces can play as Fives, as opposed to playing as “Ones” when used for the wheel in conventional poker.

Is that it?

If that’s all there it to it, it’s essentially a slightly less ridiculous version of Royal Hold’em (a game offered on a few sites, played only with Tens through Aces). There was some speculation on the 2+2 forums that there may be other rules as well, however.

A couple of people suggested that it is a copycat of Hold’em 36 (WARNING: Site has auto-play audio), which has the following additional rules:

  • Instead of a community card being dealt on the river, each player receives one additional hole card.
  • Players must use exactly two hole cards and three community cards to form their hands, as in Omaha.
  • Flushes beat full houses (but still lose to quads), due to being harder to make.
  • Straights lose to trips (but beat two pair), due to being easier to make.

No one in the video makes any reference to such rules, however. In fact, Dwan’s statement that straights are important somewhat contradicts that final rule. Trips are relatively easy to make in a short-decked game, so straights would seem to be pretty marginal hands under the Hold’em 36 rules. So, although the Hold’em 36 rules would probably make for a more interesting game, my guess is that the “Six Plus” being spread in Macau really is just Hold’em played with a short deck.

Update: An article about the game at PokerVIP was brought to my attention on Twitter, indicating that the Hold’em 36 hand rankings are indeed used – pair, two pair, straight, trips, full house, flush, quads, straight flush – but that the river is still dealt the normal way.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


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