It’s a new year, and with it comes the potential for new excitement and opportunities.
When it comes to poker, that’s no different. Along with studying and dedicating yourself more to your game of choice (for most, No Limit Hold ‘em), It’s also a great time to take up a new game… or 8, or 10.
Anyone who knows me knows I love the mixed games, and it thrilled me to see over 16,000 players kicking off the year in a small stakes 8-game tourney on PokerStars recently.
Mixed games are alive, well, and growing, and I would love to see them grow even more this year with new players.
As such, I wanted to put together a quick guide of beginners’ tips for the games in a standard 8- to 10-game mix.
This will consist of some very fundamental advice for the newest of players (and like any strategy advice in poker, there are always exceptions), but at the end of this guide I’ll also point you towards some excellent resources that will go far more in depth than I will.
First, a general rule for all games: know the basic rules of whatever you’re playing before you jump in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen beginners playing 2-7 draw games like they’re Five Card Draw or Ace to Five. Know the fundamentals and give yourself a fighting chance.
And since No Limit Hold ‘em is in an 8-game mix, I’ll just leave this here: Enough with the open limping!
I’m not going to get into it all, but where we’re at in 2021 when it comes to No Limit Hold ‘em theory, it’s universal (outside of the highest levels) that open limping is just not a good play.
Okay, mini-rant over. I’ve gone and calmed down a bit (read: dusted off some bankroll money, lol) by playing some live dealer casino 2021. Now, let’s get to the good stuff!
Pot Limit Omaha: No danglers!
One of the appeals for new players to the great game of Pot Limit Omaha (said with Joey Ingram emphasis) is the action provided by having four hole cards instead of two. Twice the cards = twice the fun, right?
Well, if you’re playing with 3 cards while everyone else is playing with 4, you’re instantly at a huge disadvantage.
Got a random low card along with those 3 sweet broadway cards? That dangling low card instantly kills a good chunk of your equity. Barring a crazy rare runout giving you trips or better with that random dangler, your starting hand is seriously hampered.
Plain and simple, you’re given 4 cards. Make sure they all work together in some fashion.
Limit Hold ‘em: Bet and raise small pairs, don’t limp and call
The structure of the game may be the same, but the differences between Limit and No Limit Hold ‘em are huge.
One of the major ways in which the games diverge in strategic approach is how to play hands that in No Limit you’d be happy seeing flops with, and cashing in on implied odds. Well in Limit, that’s just not a thing. You do not want to go multiway with small pairs, especially out of position. You want to play pots heads up as much as possible, and not give the big blind incentive to see the flop. As such, you need to be raising and 3-betting small pairs preflop.
Postflop, having position is huge because just like in No Limit Hold ‘em, way more often than not, you won’t flop a set. Pairs are great, but they can still be vulnerable to whatever your opponent had preflop, given that despite your 3-bet, they’ll still be getting tremendous odds on a call.
Be ready to keep up the aggression, but with great odds both preflop and on the flop, your opponent will rarely fold, so have an idea of how they play, and whether or not you’ll be able to get them off their hand with sustained aggression, (especially on the turn, where the bigger bet sizes begin) if the board doesn’t run out in your favour.
Many times that small pair may end up the winner at showdown vs. missed draws or overcards that missed.
Omaha 8 or Better: No middle card garbage
Split pot games cause new players a lot more problems than they should.
Although there are plenty of ways to have chips pushed to you with high and low possibilities, the goal is to scoop the entire pot. Along with generally playing WAAAAAAY too many hands, far too often new players start with hands that look enticing but give them no shot at scooping.
Hands like 679J or JT65 may look promising, with plenty of straight-y possibilities (and flush potential if suited), they have huge potential for disaster.
In small stakes games, you’re very likely to find yourself in multiway situations postflop. If you make a straight, and a 3-flush hits the board, someone likely has you beat with a flush. Even if you have a flush, its vulnerable to better flushes, and above all, if a low comes on board it’s VERY likely your weak low won’t be good.
Hands like these leave you praying to win half the pot at best with marginal made hands. These are situations you want to avoid. Start with hands that have good potential to win you both halves of the pot. Will it mean you have to fold a lot? Yup, but I’m sure you’d rather keep your chips than give ’em away to strangers, right?
Hands with aces in them are off to a great start. Add a low card like a 2 or a 3, sprinkle in some high hand potential with big pairs, suitedness to the ace, or another wheel card (2,3,4,5), and you’ve got a recipe for success more often than not in Omaha 8 or Better.
Razz: You need 5 cards to make a winning hand
Ok, this may seem obvious as a basic rule of most poker games, including Razz, but the point I want to make here is that on 3rd (and 4th) street in Razz, you have an incomplete hand. As such, piling in multiple bets on these streets is generally not a good play.
Equities run much closer than you might expect in the early streets of Razz. Sure, you may have A23 vs. your opponent’s door card 8, or even a defended bring in, but only 60% of your hand is made. Piling in bets based on the “strength” of your hand this early is dangerous. Here come the broadway cards and a paired 3 the rest of the way (seriously… why does that always seem to happen?!). Now how does that A23 look?
If you catch good on 4th and your opponent(s) catch bad, then you can start applying pressure, but unless you have a notable advantage in the hand, piling in bets on early streets is a pitfall that beginners should avoid.
7 Card Stud: Do not double bet on 4th street
The Tournament Director’s Association (TDA) actually removed this archaic rule (when an open pair is shown on 4th street, that player has the option to make a double bet; e.g., In a 5-10 game, you can bet 10 instead of 5) recently for TDA-approved tournament play, but you may still find this option available in cash games and online.
Don’t do it!
In a game with no exposed cards, a big bet could still represent a bluff, but in stud, where your cards are right there for everyone to see, why in the world would you want to scare away your opponents with a big bet holding an open pair?! The minimum you’re representing is two pair, and only a comparable hand or huge draw can reasonably continue. As always, there could be rare exceptions, but in general it’s a terrible play.
Stud 8 or better: 9s, 10s, and high cards kill your starting hand
Okay, straight up: If you have a 9 or a 10 as your door card, unless you’re rolled up (3-of-a-kind on 3rd street), maybe have buried aces, or maybe, MAYBE have a 3-card straight flush, FOLD!
Again, there can be exceptions based on who your opponents are and your position in the hand, but in general 9s and 10s are the very worst cards you can have in your hand in Stud 8. Picture cards usually pose the same problem if they’re unpaired to start the hand.
Essentially if you have two babies and a high card banana to start, your hand is trash. Forget about thinking about “well I have two low cards, I could maybe make a low.” Great, but unless you also pair that high card, or run out a low straight or flush, you’re very unlikely to win both sides of the pot.
Just like in Omaha 8, scooping the pot is your goal. And like in many small stakes games, there are likely to be more multiway pots with opponents making these mistakes. As such, you need to be the player starting strong and giving yourself the best chance to win the entire pot with stronger starting hands.
Bonus tip: Razz hands pose equal danger. Not all 3-low-card starting hands are created equal. Hands like 863 and 752 that are unconnected and unsuited may win you the low, but are very unlikely to win you the high as well.
Always be playing to scoop the pot in split pot games.
2-7 Triple Draw: Don’t leave home without a deuce
This is an easy one. The game is deuce to seven triple draw. Not three to eight, not four to nine. Deuce to Seven.
Therefore, if your starting hand does not have a deuce in it, you begin at a huge disadvantage. Simply because without a deuce, the best hand you can make is 86543, the ninth-best hand possible. Furthermore, if you don’t have a deuce, and your opponents are competent, they are likely to have one, limiting your ability to catch one.
As always, there are some rare exceptions. If you are dealt a pat 8 without a deuce for example, you do not want to break this hand, as it is quite strong, and you should be playing it aggressively before the first draw. However, if you are drawing, you should have that deuce in your hand.
Imagine if you have 7543x. Sure you have a draw to #1, the best hand you can make, but you can only draw that deuce. If you draw an 8, you have a good hand (87543), but it’s only the 13th best hand possible and can easily be outdrawn, especially against multiple opponents.
If you have 7432x, you’re in much better shape because you can draw one of four 5s or one of four 6s to make #1 (75432), or #2 (76432), or an 8 to at least make the 10th best hand (87432).
Of any game, it can safely be argued that a deuce in 2-7 Triple Draw is the most powerful card relative to the game. Even more so than an ace in Omaha 8 or Stud 8.
No Limit 2-7 Single Draw: A pat jack is a favourite against any 1 card draw
While the goal of making as low a hand as possible is the same as in the limit triple draw version, the methods and criteria for a quality hand is significantly different in the no limit single draw version.
With only one draw, and no limit betting, hand strengths differ greatly versus in triple draw. With only one crack at improving your hand, your initial hand strength is hugely significant.
There is a lot more to the game than one might think, and the more you study and play, you’ll quickly discover this. But when it comes to that initial hand strength, any pat Jack, (even JT986) is a favorite over any drawing hand (even 7432x).
Think of it like a coin flip preflop in Hold ‘em. A pair is a slight favorite against two overcards. This is also the case with pat Jacks in 2-7 Single Draw. Therefore, if you are dealt a made hand Jack low or better, and you think your opponent will be drawing, you should be patting it (not drawing) and playing it aggressively before the draw.
Badugi: Build up! (start with lower cards)
Badugi plays identically to triple draw in structure and drawing rounds, but building your hand from your lowest cards up is even more important because the best 3-card hand will be the winner if no one has made a badugi.
Equities run far wider than in triple draw. Unsuited A23 and A34 may look very close, but the A23 is actually a near 4-to-1 favorite because the A34 must improve, while the A23 does not need to, yet still could.
The smoother (lower) you start, the better chance of winning you’ll have even if you don’t improve. If you have a 359 for example, the best hand you can make is a 9 badugi. If you don’t improve, any 3-card hand lower than a 9 beats you. Even if you do improve to a 9 badugi, there’s no guarantee it’ll be the best hand by the final draw if your opponent is drawing smoother than you.
Bottom line, start and go low! Not only is ace-deuce is a great start in Omaha 8, but also in Badugi!
Mixed game resources
If I could only recommend one resource for both beginners to mixed games, and existing players looking to improve, it is Dylan Linde’s outstanding book. Linde provides both basic and advanced strategies for all games, including some of the more obscure ones you may only find in a live setting (Badeucy, Badacey). For under $40, The amount of information provided is invaluable.
This 2014 book may have flown under the radar, but it’s still available and an outstanding resource for both beginners and experienced players alike. It is incredibly thorough, going through the basics of each game before diving into deeper strategy. It’s actually the biggest book I have in my poker library at almost 700 pages, but not a page is wasted. Don’t let the size scare you. It’s well worth the read, and a great value also at under $40.
This was the first book I read that really had multiple great chapters on mixed games. The original Super System does as well, but the information is now quite dated, while SS2 was written by more contemporary players (in 2005), such as Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman and Todd Brunson, and still holds up quite well. Their sections (Negreanu, 2-7 Triple Draw; Harman, Limit Hold ‘em; Brunson, Stud 8 or better) I can still highly recommend.
Finding a physical copy of SS2 can be a bit difficult, but the Kindle version is available for under $10.
This is on the pricier end of the spectrum at just under $1000/yr, but with coaches like Chris George, George Danzer and online mixed game wizard Iteopepe88, along with the huge amount of training RIO provides on No Limit Hold ‘em and PLO, a RIO membership will truly get you elite level training for all games.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is THE BEST free piece of content available on HORSE. In 2016, JCarver and DNegs sat down for a 4-hour video breakdown of Daniel’s WCOOP HORSE win. It’s awesome to hear Daniel go through his thoughts on the final table, and honestly, aside from the aforementioned Run It Once Elite content, its really the only place you can find a mixed game hand history review with an elite poker player. Oh, and have I mentioned that it’s FREE?!?!?
Twitch has become a hugely popular source of poker entertainment, and learning. While the biggest streamers are generally No Limit Hold ‘em players, there are some streamers on the platform whose main focus is playing and growing mixed games. At the top of the list are PokerStars’ streamers Mason Pye (pyefacepoker), and Georgina James (GJReggie), along with Scott Kenyon (Pokerbrahs), who has crushed me both online and live, and is incredibly good at winning flips for table massages (but that’s another story).
Rec Poker PokerStars Home Games
The crew at Rec Poker are a great bunch of people, dedicated to growing poker for recreational players. Along with nightly No Limit Hold ‘em tournaments, a monthly series, and an international series, they run a monthly mixed game tournament series with a leaderboard and player of the year award. To prepare for the monthly mixed game, each Saturday they’ll run a warmup game of whichever the game of the month is.
It’s a great way to play and learn with a group of friendly folks, and as it’s a free home game, can be played from anywhere in the world, even the United States!
So be sure to check them out and jump on into the mixed games. You’ll find me there defending my Player of the Year title.
Good luck, and have fun in the ‘banana game’ streets!