When you’ve played as many hands of No Limit Hold’em as poker pros Phil Ivey (pictured) and Tom Durrrr Dwan have, it’s only natural to want to mix it up a bit. For most pros, that usually means games like PLO, Razz, and Triple Draw, but even those variants can get boring after a while. Ivey and Dwan are now promoting a lesser-known game called Six Plus Hold’em, which has apparently become popular in the nosebleed games in Macau.
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The two poker legends spoke about the game with an Asian presenter in a YouTube video, likely filmed in Macau or in the new high-stakes hotspot of Manila, Philippines. “I love the game. It’s fun and there’s a lot of action,” said Ivey. “It creates big pots and there’s a lot of skill involved, but there’s also a lot of luck involved.”
For those not familiar with the game, it’s usually played similarly to standard NLHE, but with the twos, threes, fours, and fives removed from the deck. Aces can count as high or low and can make an A-6-7-8-9 straight, the lowest one possible. Since there are only 36 cards in the deck, hand ranks shift a bit. In this variant, three-of-a-kind trumps a straight and flushes beat a full house.
According to Dwan and Ivey, Six Plus’ popularity can be attributed to the action the game encourages. “In Six Plus, everybody needs to be gambling more and thinking more. [You] can’t just be lazy and wait for a good hand,” said Dwan. “It’s just fun. Everyone is in a lot of pots and there’s a lot of money in them.”
The two poker pros regularly travel to Macau to battle wealthy Asian gamblers in the biggest games on the globe. In May, the pair appeared at the reopening of the Poker King Club inside Venetian Macau, host to the area’s high-stakes action.
But with the Chinese government cracking down on nefarious junket operators and corrupt officials, the industry has seen a huge decline. For high-stakes poker players, that means migrating to wherever the action resumes, even if it means traveling the globe.
According to reports, the big game has picked up again at the Poker King Club inside Manila’s Solaire Resort and Casino, where Daniel Jungleman Cates, Ivey, and Dwan (pictured) have recently been spotted playing $2,500/$5,000/$10,000 stakes.
Poker King Club CEO Winfred Yu, a successful poker player with $1.3 million in tournament scores on his resume, called the action the “biggest in the world right now.”
It’s unclear whether the pros have introduced Six Plus into their repertoire there, but if so, the game could give them a huge advantage over unsophisticated players still learning the ropes. All one needs to do is look back into the history of online poker, when fish were abundant and few players possessed the knowledge needed to beat the games consistently. But with so many strategy resources available, amateur players soon caught up, making the games much tougher.
Now, enterprising pros have begun to focus on mixed games, variants which few amateurs can play solidly. With Six Plus, even Dwan is having a hard time perfecting his strategy and dealing with the high variance of the game. “I’m still trying to figure out the game myself, as I’m sure lots of other people are,” he said. “You make stronger hands than normal because there are fewer cards in the deck and also less equity.”
Where you may have enjoyed being a 5:1 favorite in standard Hold’em, in Six Plus your lead would be closer to 2:1, according to Dwan.