POKER LIFESTYLE

The Story of the Montreal Mixed Game

The 2024 WPT Montreal festival is currently ongoing at Playground. As always, plenty of stories are emerging from the felt, including WPT ambassador Brad Owen making the final table of the WPT Prime event. Live reporting is capturing all the action at the tournament tables, plus we will all be treated to first-rate final table broadcasts of the Championship event and Prime event in the coming days. But with such a surge in attendance for the World Poker Tour tournaments, there’s also tons of poker action happening at the venue’s cash game tables. I had the good fortune of being part of that action last night, as a group of us managed to get together what I’ll dub the Montreal Mixed Game.

Inspired by success at getting low-stakes dealers choice games together on previous poker trips, including the recent WPT Voyage, I brought my plaques with me again in the hopes that I’d be able to gather enough mixed game lovers — as well as perhaps some curious, brave players — to try some non-hold’em poker games.

First to respond to the call were a couple of my good friends and poker media colleagues, Matt Hansen and Tim Fiorvanti, who said that they’d be happy to hop in if the game got running. Also dedicated to trying to make the mixed game happen was my friend Pat Ang, who has attended a couple of Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festivals in the past. He lives here in Canada and said that he would happily make the approximately two-hour trip out from his home to Playground in the hopes we could get a mixed game.

Robbie and Pat Ang

Right about now, some readers might be saying to themselves, “geez, that seems like a LOT of effort just to try and get a game together!” Typical poker games materialize very quickly in rooms across the world, but overwhelmingly that just means people gather to play Texas hold’em, or perhaps pot limit Omaha. As mixed game poker is a sub niche, it usually takes a sustained, concerted effort to get one running. Most people don’t make that effort.

That’s unfortunate, but I have long been driven to work towards growing mixed games in general, and through our bespoke festivals in particular. In my experience, I’ve found that it has ALWAYS been worth making the effort, and the Montreal Mixed Game that materialized last night was no exception.

Packing the initial snowball together is always the hardest part, but if we manage to get a game running, it’ll last for a while and attract attention and onlookers. This proved true in every respect last night during the Montreal mixed game.

It took some cajoling to initially get the game listed on Poker Atlas, the excellent software used by Playground management to run their cash game room, but thankfully they were eager to accommodate.

Pat and I took a couple seats at a free table and busied ourselves at our laptops while we waited for other potential players to show up. Thankfully, he had online poker to play and I had work to do. 😊  It took a whopping 3.5 hours, but we remained committed to our goal of getting the game running.

Our patience was finally rewarded when Matt arrived after finishing his daily reporting duties. We were then joined by Brigitte, a regular at Playground who said she hadn’t played live mixed game poker in years and was excited to see it available. A dealer opened the table and we were finally on our way.

Unfamiliarity and Confusion Give Way to Experimentation and Appreciation

It was clear that while the staff at Playground were very happy to accommodate and spread our mixed game, such an event was an extremely rare occurrence, if not unprecedented. Cashiers in the cage looked at me funny when I said I wanted two racks of white $1 chips. When I tried to explain that it was for a $4/$8 fixed limit game, they looked at me even funnier and somewhat reluctantly gave me a rack with $80 in white chips and the rest as $5 red chips.

I can’t blame them. When mixed games don’t run in a poker room, explaining what they’re all about is practically a foreign concept. Furthermore, it’s a good thing that I brought my plaques with me as I’m reasonably certain that the venue didn’t have them, or at best would have had to look around for a while to locate them. Thankfully, Playground staff was again quite willing to utilize mine.

montreal mixed game

Amazing Dealers Enhanced the Montreal Mixed Game

While speaking to floor people and cashiers about getting a mixed game going is tricky, I expected a rockier road when it came to having to teach all the games to the dealers. Oh, how wrong I was!

I was unbelievably impressed at how smooth the dealing went throughout the course of our 8-hour mixed game session. Every single dealer, bar none, was quickly able to understand how to deal all variants that we played. They listened closely and patiently as I explained the nuts and bolts of each flop, stud, and draw game, how fixed limit betting works, and how some two-winner games required split pots.

Pretty much within a hand or two of dealing each variant, they got it. It just clicked. They’re absolute first-class professionals, and Playground must be applauded for hiring excellent dealers and training them so well.

READ MORE: Playground’s Not-So-Secret Recipe for Success

Every single dealer approached our poker table not with hesitation but rather with anticipation of getting to learn and gain experience in dealing non-hold’em variants of poker. They all exhibited tremendous patience, and dare I say each one seemed sad to leave when their time was up and the next dealer sat down in the box. A few of them even said that they wish they could join us to play at the tables!

A Great Poker Night in a Great Poker Room

As the night wore on, the amount of questions players had slowly decreased and the amount of laughter and enjoyment exponentially increased. At various points in the evening, we were joined at the table by Tim, Sam, Steve, and Simon, the latter of whom couldn’t help repeatedly expressing his excitement that a mix “was actually running” in Montreal!

Poker sessions at Playground are typically plenty enjoyable on their own. The recently renovated complex boats a 42-table dedicated room on the third floor. Dozens of flat-screen TV adorn the room and there’s a very well-stocked bar with all manner of beverages to imbibe. The tables themselves are all clean, equipped with automatic shufflers and individual charging ports for cellphones. Plus, plenty of masseuses were on duty providing great massages, which for CAD$1.50/minute is a steal.

Playground poker room

Moreover, the tables were plenty spacious, with ample room for nine players to sit comfortably. Ours being a mixed game though, we instituted a max of seven players around the table and had elbow room galore. In addition, there was also plenty of room for food/beverage trollies near all of our chairs; an important feature, because food and drinks are completely free at Playground! Yup, you read that correctly: FREE!

A couple of murmurs could be heard on occasion about the 10% up to CAD$14 rake being “tough to beat”, but I’ll contend that with free food on offer 24/7 in such a delightful poker room, you certainly get excellent value for your raked bucks. I enjoyed a very tasty Impossible Burger and multiple other players helped themselves to a bite or two to eat during the Montreal mixed game.

To be sure, I was the only player among our group who ended up in the black at the end of the session, and not by much. Yeah, we can chalk that up to the rake and it being a $4/8 limit table; but dang if Playground didn’t step up to help show us all a wonderful time, catering to both our culinary and poker desires.

An Unforgettable Montreal Mixed Game Experience

The atmosphere around the table was plenty lively and friendly. Some players who had never previously met took smoking/vaping breaks together. Jokes were told, in both English and French. Laughs were had – especially when I suggested that a player “blame Canada” for having gotten sucked out on the twin rivers of a double board “best-best” hand. 🙂

I, myself, am pretty shocked that the game ran as long as it did. Eight hours is one heck of a mixed game session to happen at a place that essentially never sees the variants spread! And it took a lot of effort to get going. And I had to explain rules and procedures all night long. And many mistakes were made at showdowns:

  • “OH! I thought we were playing A-5 instead of 2-7!”
  • “OH! I didn’t realize they all needed to be different suits in Badugi!”

But I’ll be damned if every single player and dealer who took part in the Montreal mixed game didn’t have the times of their lives around the tables.

montreal mixed game

These are the kinds of poker stories that don’t usually get covered at major festivals. They happen at the cash game tables, where you won’t ever find poker reporters hovering. They happen away from the spotlight. They happen while the amazing World Poker Tour production teams sets up the stage for fantastic final table action to be beamed into your homes and onto your screens.

And sometimes you need to work just a little harder to make these kinds of games happen. Much like an “Impossible Burger” is actually a thing, so too, the impossibility of a Montreal mixed game can sometimes become a possibility if you put in the time and effort.

And when games like that happen, the experiences are nothing short of magical.

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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded Cardplayerlifestyle.com in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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