The Short Deck Maestros and the Cadillac of Poker

No Limit Texas Hold’em may well be the Cadillac of Poker, but it’s not the only car in the casino parking lot, and today we’re going to look at one of the games most exciting alternatives – Short Deck Poker.

When it burst onto the scene a few years ago, the 36-card variant was seen as a gimmick, a wild and woolly variant from the cardrooms of Macau and the Far East.

Pretty soon, however, it had the poker community in its grips, with $million televised events and players such as Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey clashing in Short Deck heaven.

Ordinary, everyday poker players were clamouring to find a place that spread the game, hoping to emulate their heroes in a game that only has good hands.

Of course, sometimes it will take a bit of trial and error and good luck to find the best new casino in your area or online, one that offers your favourite  game and gives you everything you want from a cardroom.

Casinos soon cottoned on to the latest poker fad, of course, and pretty soon you could play Short Deck from Vegas to Macau and all points inbetween.

Naturally, the big names and the huge prizemoney were the headline makers as the new ‘Six plus Hold’em’ with its flushes beating full houses swept the globe, and one man in particular took to it like a duck to water.

Paul Phua was already a well-known and well-respected name in the game of poker, but as an amateur player he wouldn’t be in anyone’s top 10 (or even top 100) G.O.A.T. contenders list by any means.

Take the 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and 5’s out of the deck, however, and nobody in the world has made as much money as Phua, the extra action fitting perfectly with his approach to card-playing.

As the legendary Phil Ivey described it, “There’s a lot of gambling involved. The equities run pretty close, so it’s pretty easy to get your money in the middle and be 50/50 or somewhere near that. It suits a more gambling style of player.”

With plenty of money to ‘gamble’ with, 2019 saw Phua pocket more than $7million playing the biggest Short Deck tournaments the world had ever seen, his own Triton Super High Roller tour taking him to London, Montenegro and South Korea.

Remarkably, Phua wouldn’t pick up a single tournament victory on his whirlwind Short Deck rampage, falling to the likes of Jason Koon and Rui Cao heads-up, but racking up the final tables and cashes at an alarming rate.

To give an indication of how good his 36-card game is, the names trailing him in the top 5 all-time Short Deck money-winners list is a who’s-who of the game, Justin Bonomo, Jason Koon and Phil Ivey coming in 2nd, 3rd and 5th, with only Gabe Patgorski a relatively unexpected inclusion.

Of course, all these players are wealthy men indeed, but when you are a billionaire it makes it rather easier to pony up $100k buy-ins (or more if extra bullets are part of the plan) to play a high variance tournament game.

So, while it may well be a lucrative game for the very biggest, best or wealthiest poker players in the world, for us mere mortals Short Deck will likely remain that fun, souped-up 2019 poker model – and we’ll stick to the Cadillac for our regular games.


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