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PokerStars 8-Game gaining ground
It's been a little over a year since PokerStars began offering 8-Game online and the popularity of the diverse variant of poker appears to be growing every day.
Played six-handed, 8-Game features eight different poker variants, including 2-7 Triple Draw, Limit Hold'em, Omaha 8, Razz, Seven Card Stud, Stud 8, No-Limit Hold'em and Pot Limit Omaha.
PokerStars began running cash games on the site in September 2008 and now claims 5,000 different players are sitting down at 8-Game tables each week, including as many as 200 at stakes of $40/$80 and up.
More than 150,000 8-Game hands are dealt on the site every week and the numbers just keep getting bigger.
Team PokerStars Pro Joe Hachem took down the £2,000 European 8-Game Championships at EPT London this week and he believes a lot of players have moved to 8-Game from H.O.R.S.E. because of the addition of No-Limit Hold'em and Pot-Limit Omaha to the mixed limit-game format.
"I think people have switched to 8-Game from H.O.R.S.E because they don't want to just play Limit games anymore," he explained.
"The average punter who watches poker on TV is still going to be more attracted to No-Limit Hold'em. 8-Game is not really all-in poker. Although it might be in the big bet games, it's not in the Limit games. I think people want that action, but I also think the variety of 8-Game has definitely got people interested and it will keep them there."
He says there's an edge to be found for experienced players and that's where the attraction comes from.
"I think it's cool because everybody feels that nobody is good at all the games," he says. "That's probably true. Although it's also that a lot of the players that think they're good at all the games might not be as good as they think.
"You find a lot of players who are not as good at the Limit games as they are at No-Limit Hold'em or Pot-Limit Omaha and that creates an interesting element where some games you are a favorite and some maybe not."
Success at 8-Game, according to Williams, comes from identifying exactly where your opponents strengths and weaknesses lie, not street to street, but game to game.
"You definitely start to realize who is weak in which games and look to play more pots with people in those games," he said.
"At the same time, you try to stay away from people who are really strong in some other games. Like if you see somebody who is making some mistakes at deuce, then you really want to try to punish that person when you are playing deuce."
In an attempt to tune up for the WSOP's prestigious $50k H.O.R.S.E. event this summer, Hachem said he started playing H.O.R.S.E. online regularly.
Unable to play the event because of prior commitments, he moved over to 8-Game soon after and is now the first European 8-Game champion.
While he does play cash, with the game changing every six hands, Hachem says he prefers 8-Game tournaments where the changes are done by the level.
He believes he can employ the same kind of tournament strategy that works in every other poker variant and understanding that could attract even more players to the format.
"Poker is poker, it doesn't matter what game it is," he said. "I'm by no means an expert in all these Limit games, but I think you can gain an advantage just understanding proper tournament strategy."
Just 60 players entered the 8-Game event at EPT London, but 245 played in the WCOOP event Williams won and he's hoping the popularity of the format continues to grow.
"Hopefully it does," he said. "But it's pretty tough, everybody playing it now is already a really good player, so it's hard to get started."
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