I recently became aware of a new poker variant I hadn’t heard of before, but has apparently been around for a couple of years: Short Deck Hold’em.

It’s played the same as regular Hold’em, except all the twos, threes, fours, and fives are removed from the deck (which is why it’s also called Six Plus Hold’em). Playing with only 36 cards changes the odds of getting some hands, so three of a kind beats a straight, and a flush beats a full house. I’ve only seen Short Deck being played in one casino, which spread it in the high-stakes room and a high roller tournament. I didn’t get a chance to play, but as I’m told it’s gaining popularity on some online poker sites, it’s only a matter of time before it spreads to lower limits in other casinos.

One of the reasons better players are taking on Short Deck Hold’em is probably that regular Hold’em isn’t as easy a game to beat as it was, say, ten years ago. The bad players have been weeded out of the field, and everyone else is pretty much at the same skill level now. But remember one of my poker caveats: never sit down in a game you don’t know if you’re invited by someone who does. You’re just asking for trouble.

The best example I can offer you is from about a dozen years ago. During the World Series Of Poker, I was playing in a $5-10 No Limit Hold’em cash game at the Rio when I looked up to see Greg Raymer, a former WSOP World Champion, walk in the room. Since I’d gotten to know him, and he’d done my radio show several times, I went over to say hello.

At that moment, he was asking the floor supervisor to start a list for a BOT game. That’s a combination of Badugi, Omaha, and Triple Draw. The floor guy put it up and I stood there chatting with Greg for about ten minutes. That’s when the floor guy said, “Greg, we’re ready to start that game,” because a half-dozen people had quickly signed up for it. I excused myself and went back to my game.

About 90 minutes later, I wanted to stretch my legs, so I walked around and passed by the table where Greg was sitting, where it looked like he had all the chips — maybe ten times as big a stack as anyone else. I leaned over and asked him how that was possible, to which he replied, “No one knows how to play Badugi.” That has changed in the intervening years, particular for higher-stakes players, but at the time, it was still as much of a novelty as Short Deck Hold’em is now.

That’s when I created the BOT Rule: if a professional poker player starts a table with a specific combination of games, you can be sure he or she is an expert at those games — and if you aren’t great at them, too, do not take a seat unless you want a very expensive lesson!