Mastering the Mix

Mastering the Mix

Monday, 6 January 2014

Maybe it’s time for you hold’em kids to mix it up a bit, says Ben “Fenix35” Dobson.

Poker has come a long way since the “early” pre-Moneymaker days. Back in the American Mid-West, 5-card draw and 5-card stud were the games to play. Eventually these slower games became outdated and limit hold’em became the driving force of poker in the nineties only to be overtaken by its even faster, more action-packed brother, no limit hold’em, which is still far and away the most popular variant of poker played online and in card rooms across the world. The wonder of no limit hold’em is encapsulated by the old adage “it takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master,” and perhaps this is what draws so many players to the game.

But what happens when you lose interest in the sometimes tedious pace of no-limit hold’em? With the increase in long multi-day tournaments being held across the world and the overall patience and discipline required to succeed in these events, there’s inevitably going to be an increasing number of action junkies out there craving something more; something with a bit more gamble and thrill. As a result pot limit omaha has really boomed over the past few years. It’s a relatively easy transition to make from no-limit hold’em due to the similarities in the game and it’s a firm favourite with gamblers who can see more flops and get stacks in at a higher frequency without necessarily burning a massive hole in their wallets. But even this game can become monotonous after a while and the swings can test the mentality of the most seasoned pros.

As a result, it’s unsurprising to see a small but steady rise in the popularity of mixed games, whether it’s online in the form of 8-game or HORSE tournaments, action-packed live ‘Dealer's Choice’ games, or even home-games amongst friends consisting of strange varieties of poker such as 6-card omadugi or no-limit super-razzdugi.

In fact, it’s a trend happening at every level of poker. As seen in the past, popular trends at all levels usually start at the nosebleeds and work their way down the ladder to the mid-stakes and below. At first, all the action was in no-limit hold’em, then came Isildur1, creating railing gold in the highest stakes pot-limit omaha games with his multi-million-dollar daily swings. These days it’s not uncommon to see the top nosebleed players battling it out in 2-7 triple draw or fixed limit omaha 8 or better – even more so in the nosebleed live arena, where all the games spread at the highest level in Las Vegas in Bobby’s room at the Bellagio or Ivey’s room at The Aria Casino, or even in the Vic in London, are no longer straight up no-limit hold’em or even pot-limit omaha, but usually a mixture of many games played in a rotation.

So what gives? Why are mixed games becoming increasingly popular and, more importantly, why should you care? Well, to start with, anyone who has dabbled in mixed games can confirm that they’re just a lot of fun to play. At the end of the day, from seasoned professionals to complete amateurs, isn’t that the reason we all started playing in the first place?

In mixed game rotations, the game usually changes either every level in a tournament, every orbit of the table or, in some live “dealers choice” settings, every single hand. This results in a lot more action and gives the opportunity for players to be more involved without always putting themselves in positions to lose lots of money. As a result of the game type constantly changing on a table, the games feel less robotic and repetitive.

The games are still in their infancy in terms of their popularity. Compared to the likes of no-limit hold’em or pot limit omaha, there is significantly less information about them readily available. Some people may see this as a bad thing, but I think it’s great. Nobody knows optimal strategies for many of the games and there’s a lot of room for manoeuvre and creativity. This is in contrast with no-limit hold’em where there is a vast array of training sites and software to assist player development, but which create a spoon-fed winning style.

So what I’d suggest for anyone looking to expand their poker repertoire, or who is simply bored of playing the same old games repeatedly, is to try the mixed games. Thankfully, with the joys of the internet you can now learn these games at the micro-stakes levels through both tournament play in the Pokerstars ‘MicroMillions’ series or through cash-games that run 24/7 at your convenience. It might seem a little intimidating at the outset, but once you grasp a basic understanding of the rules and can apply some thought to your decisions, you may find that you enjoy and prosper from the added variety and action.

Tags: Ben “Fenix35” Dobson, mixed games