Short Deck Poker is a game which revolves around straights. With 36% of all boards offering the possibility of at least one straight on the flop, and 72% of all boards offering that same possibility by the turn, straights are a consistent presence in Triton Holdem. By way of comparison, in the Full Deck games of No Limit Holdem, 4 Card PLO, and 5 Card PLO, only 19% of flops offer the possibility of a straight, and 48% of boards permit a straight by the turn.
In fact, 95% of boards permit a straight if the board has not paired by the turn in the Short Deck game! That number overwhelms the 61% frequency in the Full Deck cases. The only possible unpaired boards that don’t contain a straight by the turn are those headed by exactly KQ, KJ or QJ.
In contrast with PLO, where a player must use both hole cards in order to make a hand, the Short Deck Poker rules follow those in No Limit which permit a player to use any or none of his hole cards to make a hand. As a consequence, 3-connector boards such as T♠9♣7♥A♠ assume a large significance in play since the pivot 8-rank offers an open-ended straight draw in addition to whatever flush draw or pairing cards are already present in a player’s holding.
It is at this juncture that I can give some hope to my beleaguered PLO readers, since playing straight blockers aggressively is something that they are very familiar with! They will be pleased to learn that the pocket pairs which block the made straights on this flop are even more powerful than they are in PLO, since they offer the additional possibility of drawing against the non-straight made hands in our opponent’s range.
This makes the accurate play of blocker pairs on boards that contain made straights an essential part of a strong Short Deck Poker Strategy.
If you hold the 8♠8♣ blockers here facing a completely random hand, then you cut the possibility of him holding a straight in half compared with when you hold, say K♠K♣. The absolute frequency that he will hold a straight on this flop drops from 7.3% to 3.6%. In practice on such board textures one must carefully consider the number of combinations of the actual straights available to each player. Would your opponent be playing all 16 combos of 86, only the 4 suited combinations, or none of them? What about the J8 combinations? Remember…
The context in which the hand is played will have a profound influence on the relevance of the blockers in practical play.
Before we get stuck into an example I’m going to take a moment to define labels for the seat positions in a game of Short Deck Poker. You may have watched some Triton Holdem videos on YouTube and seen references to UTG/CO/HJ but I’m not going to use those familiar terms as seat labels because they are intrinsically misleading.
The essential difference between ante structure games and blind structure games is that in an ante structure game no raise first-in can ever lead to you playing post-flop in position. This means that any reference to a position other than the button is going to lead you to make miscalibrated associations with the value of that position post-flop.
Instead, I’m going to coin an entirely new (and unashamedly formal) set of labels which proceed logically from the structure of the game. We retain the ‘Button’ label, and then work back from seats #5 to seat #1, as shown in the diagram below:
I have chosen the labels #1-#5 because Short Deck Poker games are usually spread 6-handed. If you are playing at a 5-handed table you simply drop the #1 seat; this approach ensures consistency when we are comparing ranges, a ‘#4 overlimping range’ is now a meaningful class for a pre-flop range. In case you are wondering what happens in those rare situations where the game is spread more than 6-handed, we simply continue to subtract one number per seat: #0, #-1, #-2 etc.
I doubt that I will need to make many references to Seat #-3 in my articles but, if I do, you will know what it means. Now on with our example!
A player opens with a raise first-in from seat #5 with a linear 20% range which we can decompose into:
99+, AxTx+, AxJy+, KxTx+, KxQy, QxTx+, JxTx
We hold 9♠9♦ on the button and elect to call and see a flop:
Our hand’s equity against his entire range is close to 48%, and we do not expect him to hold any exceptionally strong hands here, with the obvious rare exception of top set. Our opponent continuation bets half-pot on the flop and we have a decision to make. Let’s take a look at the equity breakdown for our hand against our opponent’s entire range is shown below:
Aside from our gut-shot and set outs, we can expect both the J and the T to set up an open-ended straight draw for our hand on the turn. We already have pair blockers to the nuts, and the new straights that the J and T complete are also blocked by our hand.
In fact, the situation that arises here when you hold 9♠9♦ is an example of a Postflop Pattern that you would do well to learn to recognize: The 3-connector plus gutter. On such flops your pair serves as blockers to the current nuts, a natural gut-shot, and has the pote