Are you a No Limit Texas Hold’Em (NLHE) player who has ever experienced a downswing and felt unmotivated to play? Do you get tired of lost flip after lost flip deep in an MTT, or on the cash game table? Do you love the game of poker – all of it? Do you hunt value when you play the game? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should try mixed games.
There is no better time to expand into other poker variants than right now, with plenty of big poker series on offer both live and online. As a veteran poker player who has played many mixed games, I believe there are compelling reasons to give them a try. I list my top five below.
1. Variety is the Spice of Life
No Limit Texas Hold’Em is often referred to as “The Cadillac of Poker.” But if you had your choice of any vehicle, any time, would you always drive a Caddy? If you could, wouldn’t you want to hop into a reliable Range Rover for some off-roading (Stud), make intense and calculated moves in a rally car (2-7 Triple Draw), or dial things up a notch on a ludicrous motorcycle (Big O with Double Board Bomb Pots)?
As Mason Pye, leader of the Mixed Games Movement – and my good friend – puts it, “I always say that learning Mixed Games or any new variant in general will help you become a well-rounded poker player. You can walk into any casino or card room and sit down and play any variant they offer. They say that variety is the spice of life, and mixed games are the spice of poker.” Pye’s point about becoming well-rounded leads me to my second reason you should try mixed games…
2. You’ll Improve Your Overall Poker IQ
Speaking from my own personal experience, learning mixed games will have far-reaching effects on your poker acumen. Mixed games offer a variety of games to choose from, each with its own unique strategy and nuances. By diversifying your game selection, you’ll keep your brain agile, breaking up the monotony of playing the same game every time.
I talk about these new puzzles to solve as keeping a “stone in your shoe,” something that continues to poke at you until you’ve got it figured out. What’s more, you’ll get to experience intense poker spots that you would never otherwise see. Consider for example this 2-7 Triple Draw hand which is, statistically speaking, the worst bad beat ever televised:
Learning a new variant will also help you think about Hold’em from a different perspective. For example, you can learn to notice blockers from PLO and PLO8 – which are equally important in NLHE, or start seeing those triple-barrel bluff opportunities early in a hand from practice “snowing” in 2-7 Triple Draw.
To use a workout analogy, for me playing mixed games instead of NLHE has often been like doing a different arm or chest exercise to get past a point where I was stuck on bench press. I felt as if I had pushed past a barrier and unlocked a new bit of my brain.
3. You’re Missing Out on +EV Spots
It is often said that “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Well in a landscape of solvers, poker training sites, and tournament schedules almost exclusively dedicated to No Limit Hold ‘Em, it’s the mixed games player who wears the crown. Not only are you expanding your poker knowledge, but you’re also gaining an edge on the competition.
In this two-card dominated world, when a live series like WSOP or a big online tournament offering like PokerStars SCOOP puts up large buy-in mixed games MTTs, or when the cash game turns to Dealer’s Choice, these fields are rife with players playing these games for the first time – to fill an extra table slot online, to chase a leaderboard, or because they just binked a big NLHE score live and want to splash around. You will absolutely dominate if you have spent time learning mixed games.
This does come with a caveat, however. While games may often be soft, beware of your fellow mixed games enthusiasts. Once you start to learn and love these games, you’ll spot those with whom you share that kinship quickly. They’ll be in every MTT, at your $5/10 HORSE table every night. You’ll see them make a move or use a term that no NLHE player would ever make or use.
But that is where the fun begins: if you think leveling wars in NLHE can get out of control, just wait until you begin to find some of the amazing spots that present themselves in some of the more unorthodox games when two crushers go toe-to-toe. So, not only are you missing out on profitable +EV spots, but also on the thrill of intensely competitive poker in fresh and exciting situations.
4. They’re Easier Than You Might Think
Mixed games may seem daunting at first, but while – like all poker – they have a high skill ceiling, the skill floor is lower than you might think. If you’re already an experienced Hold’Em player, you’ll find that many of the skills you’ve developed are transferable to other games, especially (but not exclusively) flop games. The rules of most mixed games are not as complicated as they may seem, and after a few hands, you’ll quickly get the hang of things.
And not to mention the players are friendly! Tobias Leknes, SCOOP and WCOOP Champion and mixed games specialist, says “[Mixed games are] way more social when played live. They also let you reexperience the thrill of getting into poker and exploring it in a slightly less competitive way than NLHE and PLO.” This camaraderie, along with the soft game opportunities mentioned above, make it much easier to get above that skill floor than many players would assume.
While resources can be scarce for beginners, Cardplayer Lifestyle’s Mixed Games Poker Guide is a great place to start out. Plus, there is a new option to learn. Mason Pye and Tobias Leknes have launched the Mixed Games Beginner’s Bundle on BBZ, a fantastic value for a solid mixed games foundation.
The bundle covers 7 different variants, including Razz, Omaha Hi/Lo, Badugi and more.
As a new player to Mixed Games, it can be difficult to know where to begin. pic.twitter.com/RGfCe2a2sB
— Mason Pye (@pyefacepoker) April 13, 2023
5. They’re FUN!
Finally, mixed games are quite simply a lot of fun to play. I wouldn’t be writing this article otherwise. Mixed games provide a refreshing break from Hold’Em and allow you to explore different strategies and approaches to the game. You’ll meet new players and develop new relationships in the poker community. Playing mixed games adds excitement and variety to your poker life, and can even reignite your passion for the game.
So, where should you go to play mixed games? Well, naturally, there’s Cardplayer Lifestyle’s fun-filled Mixed Game Festivals hosted by this site’s founder Robbie Strazynski.
Those aside, your best bet is of course to head to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The WSOP has a full slate of mixed games events, including HORSE, 2-7 Triple Draw, and Razz.
If you can’t make it to the WSOP, there are still plenty of options for playing mixed games online. Many online poker sites offer mixed games in their rotation, particularly PokerStars, where SCOOP offers High, Medium and Low variants in many mixed games poker offerings, and Micro Millions comes along with even more affordable entry points.
While NLHE may be the most popular form of poker, it’s important not to overlook the variety and strategy of mixed games. If you’re a serious poker player, learning how to play mixed games can give you a competitive edge and a new challenge to keep your game fresh. And for recreationals, trying out a mixed game can be a fun and exciting way to mix up your poker routine. So, why not give it a shot and see if you have what it takes to become a complete poker player and master the mix?