Phil Ivey video interview: “Short-deck poker suits a gambling style of player”

What is “short-deck” poker? This is just one of the things Paul Phua discusses with Phil Ivey in the latest Paul Phua Poker School video, along with strategy tips for beginners

Do beginners have an easier time at poker these days? In the latest Paul Phua Poker School video, we welcome back the great Phil Ivey. Last time we talked about the thrills and challenges poker holds, even for a player as experienced as Phil. This time we focus on beginners to the game, as well as a fun variant on Texas Hold ’Em called “short-deck poker” or “Six Plus Hold ’Em”.

Poker can be a hard game to break into: experienced players may punish you if they sense weakness, and though it is easy to learn the basic rules, it can take a while to understand all the odds and strategies. But as Phil Ivey says in this video interview, “Because of all the information that’s available, with the different teaching schools and things that are available now, different ways of learning that are out there, and with Paul’s teaching site, I think everyone is catching up.”
When Phil Ivey started out in poker, winning his first WSOP bracelet when he was just 23, internet poker was in its infancy. There were a few strategy books, such as Doyle Brunson’s Super System, but not the virtual library of tips that is out there now.
“I didn’t have schools,” says Phil Ivey in the video interview. “I didn’t have teaching sites. I didn’t have different tools I could learn from.” His most important lessons, he says, came just from trial and error.

A big tip for beginners

So one big tip for beginners is to learn everything they can from sites like Paul Phua Poker! And always be aware that however much you think you know, there is always more to learn. As Phil Ivey points out in our video interview, “beginners have a certain selection of hands in their minds that they want to play, and they just stick with that”.
Instead, he encourages players to experiment: “Start learning which hands you can play, in which positions, which hands you can bluff with, which hands you should call with.”
And as I say in the video, your play should also vary according to the structure of the games – whether there are antes or straddles involved, for instance – as well as whether the other players are aggressive or tight.
If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is! Phil Ivey has devoted two decades to perfecting his game. I know Phil pretty well, as we have played together many, many times. And, as I also say in the video, I think one of the most impressive things about him is not just his grasp of strategy, but his strength of character. He just never seems to go on tilt, and that’s something I try to model myself on.

“Short-deck” or “Six-Plus Hold ’Em”

There are more useful tips in the video, so do watch it. But one thing I perhaps need to explain more is the “short deck game” that we talk about in the interview. We often like to play this game when we get together. It is very similar to Texas Hold ’Em, but with fewer cards.
Before you start you remove from the deck all the low cards, deuce through to 5, which is why the game is also known as “Six Plus Hold ’Em”. It’s a more exciting game than Texas Hold ’Em in many ways, because with the low cards taken out you are more often dealt high cards and big pairs. You also have to adapt to a different set of odds. Post-flop, you have a nearly 1 in 2 chance of completing an open-ended straight draw by the river, for instance, compared with nearly 1 in 3 in classic Texas Hold ’Em.
As Phil Ivey says in the video interview, “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.”
Phil thinks this makes the short-deck game perfect for the beginner. But if so, I have just one piece of advice. You still don’t want to be playing against Phil Ivey!
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