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Driving Mixed Games

Driving Mixed Games

Attention No Limit Hold Em Players… You Need a Ride.

From the multiple academy award-winning movie Driving Miss Daisy (1989):

Daisy: “What are you doing?”

Hoke Colbourn: “I’m trying to drive you to the store!”

In the movie, Hoke has been hired by Daisy’s son to chauffeur her around. In this scene, Hoke is trailing Miss Daisy in the car he has been given to drive and she is stubbornly refusing to accept the lift. In the end she realised she needed the ride and climbed in to the car. Despite her initial reluctance, the decision to accept Hoke’s role proved to be a good one and the relationship they formed had a long term positive effect on each other.

Driving Miss Daisy.
Hoke trying to get Miss Daisy to accept his role as chauffeur

What does this have to do with poker? Well, I think a lot of players who currently play only No Limit Texas Hold‘Em are stubbornly refusing to accept that they need to move to mixed games. They are walking to a diminishing level of satisfaction in the two card game and here I am ready to pick them up and help them see their poker journey can become enjoyable (and profitable) again.

No Limit Texas Hold Em has been a great game to play. There is a simplicity to the game, it is easy to learn the rules and anyone with the money can sit down and play. Twenty years ago the poker boom started after Chris Moneymaker bought into a satellite tournament for less than $40, won an entry into the World Series of Poker, then ran his entry all the way to the world title. At the same time online poker had become a thing, which gave everyone the opportunity to find a game, which meant participation grew massively.  People all over the world were sitting down to look at two cards and trying to use them to make money.

In the years to come, players gradually began to find No Limit Texas Hold em more difficult to beat. There is a massive amount of information available to improve one’s game and the general player population has improved as a result. Initially it was books that were the main learning tool. Then came training videos, message boards, coaching sites, individual coaches, Game Theory Optimal charts… and now we have solvers.

When you play No Limit Texas Hold Em online now, who are you playing against? There are commercially available solvers that can give someone the “correct” move in any situation. Regardless of the two cards they have, the skills of the opponent, the position at the table, the stack depths, there is an answer to the questions – do I fold, call or raise, and if I raise, by how much?

If you are not using a solver, how can you possibly win in the long term?

The answer is – stop walking to store clutching two cards, and let me give you a ride to the mixed games world!

Games offered at Resorts Las Vegas, June 2022.
Selection of games offered in $8/$16 mix at Resorts World Las Vegas, June 2022

A couple of days ago I played in a mixed games cash game. We played twenty different variants of poker and had a wonderful time! The only game we played that there is even a remote chance anyone in the world has a solver for is five card Pot Limit Omaha. Apart from that game, the only variants we played that are available to play online as far as I know are Badugi, Badeucy and Sviten Special.

Why You Should Play Mixed Games – Recreational Players

You play poker for sociable fun, enjoy the competitive element and want to try to win some money.

The mixed games table is almost always the table in the casino that is having the most fun. There is very little judgement of someone for playing the hands that they do (J4 offsuit anyone?) and the games tend to attract people who are easy to get on with and who like to laugh with, not at, you. Everyone is encouraged to be creative in picking games to play, particularly at “Super Dealers Choice” tables, where the players will agree to play anything as long as the rules can be explained and understood.

Eli elezra enjoying mixed games.
Eli Elezra and everyone else enjoying mixed games at Cardplayer Lifestyle's Mixed Games Festival IV, Resorts World, Las Vegas, March 2023

Part of the fun is in realising the game types you have an edge in relative to your opponents. This is where the competitive element comes in, where you spot nuances in games that you can exploit – seat 1 always bets when you check, so you now check your strongest hands; seat 4 folds too often in Razz when she sees low cards on their opponent’s board; seat 7 always pays river bets in stud games if they can beat the cards you are showing regardless of what you might have underneath, and so on.

You always have a chance to win some money when playing mixed games. It doesn’t matter how experienced a player is, if you are playing Sviten 49 and hold 43 points (more about that game in a later article) you are almost always going to be freerolling against them.

Why You Should Play Mixed Games – Serious Poker Players

You play poker to make money.

Unless you are the person who can study solver outputs for 8 hours a day you will fall behind the curve in No Limit Texas Hold Em. It doesn’t matter about your skills – live reads; understanding of pot odds and implied odds; finely honed opening and 3betting ranges; you are going to be gradually less and less able to compete.

Professional Texas Hold ‘Em players who don’t use solvers are looking at a gradually reducing level of income. The opposite of paid employment where pay levels tend to increase annually to keep up with inflation. By the way, I am not arguing that you should get a solver – when you are found out you will be banned from the site and your income will disappear!

One option open to you is to find another field outside poker. But you fell in love with poker because you can gain an edge on the competition and learn to beat the field. This is still possible with mixed games.

If you are coming completely new to mixed games and wish to play them and immediately become profitable it is probably advisable to pick a small number of games to learn. You can devote some time to the nuances of games that are available online and if you study smartly you should be pretty quickly ahead of the field. Look for study resources available and spend some time developing an understanding of how to play profitably. Then test out your new skills at the table.

What Learning Resources are Available for Mixed Games Players?

A few options I am aware of:

  • Mastering Mixed Games, book by Dylan Linde. This excellent book covers strategies for eleven poker games: Limit Hold Em; Limit Omaha 8-or-Better; Pot Limit Omaha 8-or-Better (40BB Cap); Stud High; Razz; Stud 8-or-Better; Deuce to Seven Triple Draw; Badugi; Badeucey; Badacey; and Deuce to Seven No-Limit Single Draw (40 BB Cap). Mastering Mixed Games: Winning Strategies for Draw, Stud and Flop Games - Kindle edition by Linde, Dylan. Humor & Entertainment Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
  • Upswing Poker has a course “Mixed Games Mastery” featuring the instructor Jake Abdalla. Games included are: Omaha 8-or-Better; Stud High; Razz; Stud 8-or-Better; Razz; and Deuce to Seven Triple Draw. Mixed Games Mastery (upswingpoker.com)
  • Mixed Games Poker Beginner’s Bundle is a course designed by mixed games professional players Mason Pye and Tobias Leknes to teach the fundamentals of mixed games. There are lessons covering Razz; Stud High; Stud Hilo; Omaha Hilo; 2-7 Triple Draw; 2-7 Single Draw; and Badugi. Mixed Games Beginner's Bundle - BBZPoker
  • A Poker Player’s Guide to MIXED GAMES: Core Strategies for HORSE, Eight-Game, Ten-Game and Twelve-Game Mixes. This book, by Ken Lo, is available on Amazon and covers the following games: Limit Hold Em; Omaha Hi/Lo; Razz; Stud High; Stud 8-or-Better; Deuce to Seven Triple Draw; Pot Limit Omaha; Badugi; Badeucey; Razzdugi; Deuce to Seven Single Draw; and Crazy Pineapple Hi/Low. A Poker Player's Guide to MIXED GAMES: Core Strategies for HORSE, Eight-Game, Ten-Game and Twelve-Game Mixes: Lo, Ken: 9780992069902: Amazon.com: Books
  • Daniel Negreanu has a selection of videos on his YouTube channel where he talks about some of the more popular game variants. Poker Tips - YouTube
  • Poker: All the Games: A Comprehensive Introductory Guide to Mixed Poker Games. This book by Shawn Grigus sets out the rules and some basic strategy tips for the following games: 5-Card Draw; Omaha; Big O; Stud High; Omaha 8-or-Better; Stud 8; Super Stud 8; Razz; A – 5 Lowball; Deuce to Seven Triple Draw; No Limit Deuce to Seven Single Draw; Short Deck Hold Em; Badugi; Courchevel; Badeucey; Badacey; Razzdugi; Dramadugi; Dramaha; 2 – 7 Dramaha; Drawmaha a.k.a. Sviten Special; and Atlantic City Lowball. Poker: All the Games: A Comprehensive Introductory Guide to Mixed Poker Games: Grigus, Shawn: 9798417847035: Amazon.com: Books
  • The Poker: All the Games podcast, also by Shawn Grigus, devotes one episode to each of the games listed from his book. Further to that, From episode 23 onwards, Shawn is joined by me and we discuss another game, not included in his book, in each episode. Up to now we have added an episode for each of the following games: Archie; Studmaha; Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker; Best/Best aka Ultimate Hi-lo; Watermelon; and Pot Limit Superstud. (1) Archive - Poker: All the Games (substack.com)
  • Pot Limit Sviten Special: A European Version of Drawmaha is my own book! Currently available as an e-book but I am working on having a paperback edition to be published by Summer 2023. This book focuses on that one game and starts at the basic level with instructions on how to deal and play. It then takes the reader through all the starting hand types, odds on competing all the various types of draw both for the draw hand and the Omaha hand, guidance on how to play each street including what cards to draw, and a quiz section that gives readers the chance to work through some hands I have played and test themselves – whether to bet, check, fold, raise, how much to raise and even which cards to discard. Pot Limit Sviten Special: A European Version of Drawmaha - Kindle edition by Smith, Martin. Humor & Entertainment Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Driving Miss Daisy - You're my best friend.
Miss daisy now appreciates what Hoke does for her!

So… now you can walk away from the car crash that No Limit Texas Hold Em is becoming and jump into the passenger seat and join me on the ride to your mixed games poker future!

/Martin Smith

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