Malaysian poker High Roller Michael Soyza gives his opinion on Short Deck format

The rising star from Malaysia has recently been collecting huge winnings from short deck events.

Michael Soyza after winning EPT Barcelona High Roller for €302,500

Recently short-deck poker has quickly grown in popularity. It initially appeared mainly in Asian cash games a few years back, but since then it has become so popular that the first World Series of Poker bracelet was handed out last year.

Short-deck is very similar to the traditional „full-deck“ no-limit hold ’em with a few exceptions. The main change is that the deck now has 36 cards instead of 52 – cards from 2 through 5 of each suit are removed. Read our full guide to playing online poker from Malaysia here.

Some additional rule changes are needed since removing these cards change the probability of some hands. In short-deck a flush is stronger than a full house and also an ace can be used to complete a nine-high straight.

With the lion’s share of Michael Soyza’s $8.4 million winnings coming from traditional no-limit hold’em tournaments, the 31-year old has been competing more and more in short deck tournaments the past few years.

This year alone he has already made $861,780 playing short deck tournaments. In March he finished 2nd to Phil Ivey in a $50K buy-in short deck competition and 4th in a $100K short deck tournament at partypoker MILLIONS Super High Roller Sochi series, cashing $561,780 and $300,000 respectively.

Recently we had an interview with Soyza about short deck games where he gave advice to newer short-deck players, and more.

 „Short deck has really exploded in popularity recently, especially at the High Roller tables. It hasn’t been widely adopted at lower buy-in tournaments yet, but what is your opinion on the new popular format and what are your recommendations for new players?“

Michael Soyza: At the beginning after discovering short deck, I realized that finding any would prove to be a difficult task. Information regarding short deck proved to be very scarce. All the top players have their own couches and secret information, which they don’t want to share. So starting short deck was very difficult, but thankfully I had some friends who had some useful tips and strategies to share with me. I just recently established a good relationship with a friend who helped me find a coach who was willing to help me… I’m not naming any names, but he has tremendously changed my game, and my thinking also… He has successfully coached me to break into the High Roller tables. I’m greatly in thankful for that. My opinion is that in short-deck experience is all that matters. The more hands you play the better you get and you get more used to chances of winning and whatnot.

If you decide to go all-in to start playing only short-deck, I would recommend to start learning all the equity calculations and different odds of hands to really get a good grasp of the new game format. Although only four suits are removed, the odds change alot.

I just recently started to really understand short-deck. You can’t just hope that your initial hand is good enough, the river can change the whole power dynamic. You have to build a good stack or else you’re gonna get shorted pretty fast, and you’ll probably just flip. Variance hasn’t been on my side in the past tournaments, but this time I was fortunate enough to build a good stack. I was able to play short-deck with a deep-stack in the late game. It was the most fun I ever had playing short-deck. I was able to play just like I wanted to and in the end pocket alot of money“

PSA: „What tips would you give to players, who mainly just play with their friends as a hobby and want to try short-deck at their next game?“

M.S. „I would recommend not to worry too much about making mistakes in short deck, because you’re almost always very close to the other player, and one card can easily change the game.“

PSA: „Is it harder to guess the opponents’ hands on the preflop due to the fact that hand equities run very tightly together? When playing traditional no-limit and three-betting you can usually construct a pretty trustworthy image of your oppenents’ range. (Some instances where a preflop equities run closer: A-K offsuit is a true coinflip against J-10 suited preflop in short deck, and is only a 54% favorite against 9-8 suited).

M.S „Of course it is. The equities for short-deck are so different compared to a regular Hold ’em game. For instance straights are much more common and you have to be ready for that. You have to completely change your thinking and understand new probabilities. The way you construct your ranges will be much more diverse. Where as in no-limit hold’em, high card value is the most important, in short-deck that’s really not a thing. You just want to have connectedness and equity. It’s alot more equity-based than frequency-based, it resembles pot-limit Omaha in that regard. So yeah, how you construct ranges for your opponents definitely changes.“

PSA: In no-limit, the player often makes decisions based on their current hand. Is it fair to assume that in short deck the player should be thinking about having a perfect hand by the fifth street?

M.S. „Precisely! It is exactly like that.“

Here is a table of the largest winnings at short deck tournaments so far:

EventEntriesTop Prize (USD)Champion
2018 Triton Super High Roller Montenegro $1,000,000 HKD (~$128,000 USD) Short Deck103$3,653,260Jason Koon
2019 Triton Poker Super High Roller Series London £100,000 ($125,900 USD) Short Deck108$3,257,400Justin Bonomo
2019 Triton Super High Roller Montenegro $1,000,000 HKD (~$127,500 USD) Short Deck98$3,419,000Rui Cao
2019 Triton Super High Roller Jeju $1,000,000 HKD (~$127,400 USD) Short Deck81$2,899,000Jason Koon
2018 Triton Super High Roller Jeju $1,000,000 HKD (~$127,400 USD) Short Deck60$2,925,000Kenneth Kee

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