Like most of you out there, I’m a recreational poker player. That means I play the game for fun. Unfortunately, there are no casinos where I live in Israel, so that means I’m limited to home games. I’m a winning poker player overall (I have a bankroll, not a budget), but as much as I play to win, what matters to me more than anything when playing is that I’m having a good time. I’ve been at games in casinos before where I’ve won a lot of money but have sat there the entire session feeling annoyed at my opponents’ behavior. The money was nice, but if I had a do-over, I would’ve preferred going out to dinner and a movie. By contrast, I’ve also been at home games where I lost a bundle, but left the game feeling great because I had had so much fun bonding with my buddies around the table.
I’ve often lamented how it’s a shame that it’s so difficult to capture the fun, lighthearted home game atmosphere within a casino poker room. I had thought this situation was a total fait accompli until I heard of the existence of a $4/$8 Dealer’s Choice mixed game that runs in the summer during the World Series of Poker. The main proponent of this game is Poker Central’s Senior Editor Remko Rinkema. Over the past couple of summers, back when he was co-hosting the PokerNews Podcast with Donnie Peters, the pair talked endlessly about the fun times they had had playing the “dealer’s choice mix”. It seemed as if with the snap of their fingers (and the help of Twitter and a ready-and-willing podcast audience), they could instantly make a $4/$8 mixed game appear anywhere in town.
Constant mentions of the poker luminaries that joined them from time to time, a literal who’s who of our game including ambassadors like Jason Somerville and Mike Sexton, only fueled my desire to participate that much more. Whether they gathered at Bally’s, Caesars, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, or any of the other fine poker rooms around the Las Vegas Strip, one episode after the next my FOMO ratcheted up higher and higher. I HAD to make it out to Vegas to see what this was all about.
— Remko Rinkema (@RemkoRinkema) June 12, 2016
Oh man this looks awesome, when is the next game? 🙂
— Benny Glaser (@BennyG444) July 5, 2016
Might want to keep @Ali_Nejad looped in on status of all current plans for 4/8 mix
— Steve Schult (@lefty2432) June 15, 2017
When I finally made it to my first WSOP last year, I was left bitterly disappointed; not in the $4/$8 mixed game itself, but that it sadly didn’t run while I was in town. For whatever reason, the planets couldn’t align and I was left watching on the virtual rail yet again once I returned home.
Another year would have to pass until, just a couple weeks ago, I finally got to experience what it was like to play in a low-stakes Vegas mixed game. It was not only worth the wait, but it even exceeded my expectations!
Bless You, Norman Chad
If at any point you’ve tuned in to a WSOP Main Event broadcast anytime over the past 13+ years, you’re likely familiar with Norman Chad. Poker’s foremost funnyman, it’s known that Norman is not just a barrel of laughs in front of the cameras, but also in person. He’s also a genuine class act. A fellow mixed games aficionado and one of the participants in the $4/$8 Dealer’s Choice mix over the last couple of years, I was hopeful that he’d join in the fun again. I know I’m not alone in that; there are plenty of people who’d love the chance to join Norman at the tables.
Will @NormanChad be there tho
— Alejandro Duque (@AgentDuque) July 3, 2017
With just a three names on the list (me, Mike Patrick, and my buddy Amnon Eisner from the aforementioned “virtual rail” story I linked to), the hour growing late, and my hopes of getting a game together dwindling, Norman arrived on the scene at the MGM poker room to “save the day”.
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) June 14, 2017
— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) June 14, 2017
To say that we had a blast would be an understatement. We might’ve started four-handed, but the game started to fill up as soon as people realized there was a poker celebrity in the room (the public announcement to that effect by the poker room manager didn’t hurt). The needling started almost immediately, with the players targeting Norman, who was only too happy to return the friendly fire with haymakers of his own.
Much whamboozling ensued.
At some point, upon being raised (mind you, we’re talking about $4 extra here), Norman got up from his seat and – faux baseball manager-style – got right in the face of the raiser who had “dared to make such an offensive move in public”. After all, “didn’t he know who Norman Chad was?!”
Over the next many hours, a multitude of different poker variants were played, both games for which MGM had plaques as well as others for which we had to explain the rules to the dealers. I unfortunately couldn’t do much winning but, as the saying goes, the game was “worth the price of admission”.
— Mike Patrick (@MikePatrick98) June 14, 2017
The game continued for another few hours after Norman left us for the night/morning and the spirited laughs refused to die down. The level of enjoyment I experienced was rivaled only by some of the top home games I’ve played in.
…and then later on in my trip we got another $4/$8 mixed game going 🙂 .
The Best Poker Game I’ve EVER Played In, By Far
I definitely tend to hype things up, especially where all things poker-related are concerned, but the above subtitle is truthfully and honestly on point. Cardplayer Lifestyle contributor Will Shillibier put out the call:
Mixed Game players…ASSEMBLE! pic.twitter.com/eSr8peUjL5
— Will Shillibier (@Shillibier) June 20, 2017
…and assemble we did. A motley crew of poker media members was joined by some fellow mixed game enthusiasts at Caesars Palace. Packed to the gills with $1/$2 and $2/$5 No-Limit Hold’em games, there was one solitary empty table right in the center of the room that just seemed predestined for our group.
One of the defining characteristics of the $4/$8 Dealer’s Choice mixed game is the mountains of $1 chips at the table; it’s far more fun and “intimidating” (and exciting) to face off against poker opponents with pyramid upon pyramid of low-denomination chips in front of you.
The elevation of those stacks that night was only superseded by the table’s decibel level. While surrounded not only by hundreds of other poker players, but also a packed sports book, our table was undoubtedly the life of Caesars Palace that night/morning. At least once per orbit, I spied people coming over from other tables (and even from outside the poker room) to see what all the commotion was about at our table.
The more drinks that were consumed (not by me, of course; after all, someone had to document the proceedings for posterity), the rowdier the action got. A Frenchman joined our table when a seat opened up and all of a sudden our favorite game to call was “deaux”-seven triple draw. At multiple instances, as the night wore on, players who had themselves decided on what game we’d be playing asked “what game are we playing?”
While I know how to have my share of fun, I don’t usually act out in public. That night was an exception. At somewhere between 3-4am, I found myself rising from my seat at the end of a hand (that I wasn’t even involved in, but which was superbly entertaining to watch) and exclaiming at the top of my lungs, to nobody in particular: “I LOVE THIS GAME!”
The best, most fun, Vegas mix I’ve ever played. Thanks for the incredible memories! https://t.co/B98aZU7SkU
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) June 15, 2017
So Why Did I Write This Up? What’s the Point?
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t think this post represents my best writing work. I mean I tried, but words just can’t fully capture the events that transpired during the $4/$8 Vegas mixed game sessions. As with many things in life, you just had to be there to experience them yourself.
That, then, is why I decided to give it a shot in this write-up. Poker doesn’t always have to be about the money; at least not primarily. For a long while now, many people in poker, be they players, media, or industry workers, have been advocating an agenda of “making the game fun again”. That’s a mantra that you can repeat until you turn blue, but you can’t “force” upon people. You can’t force poker to be fun. All you can do is encourage people to approach the game with a smile.
I unfortunately lost in the second mixed game, too, but I sure drove home that morning feeling like the biggest winner in Vegas. Having the time of your life with a fantastic group of people who share your love for poker in the gambling Mecca of the world is the type of experience that money simply cannot buy. It’s the ultimate “nut-nut” of poker joy.
— Remko Rinkema (@RemkoRinkema) July 3, 2017
— Neil Johnson (@NeilJPoker) July 4, 2017
Come join, it’s all in good fun and everyone knows each other. Lots of people learn in this game.
— Remko Rinkema (@RemkoRinkema) July 3, 2017
The purpose of the game is to lose with a smile. Affordable and easy going. I’ll pass on higher stakes. https://t.co/8C6B9AAwSb
— Remko Rinkema (@RemkoRinkema) July 3, 2017