Mixed Game Festival VIII Day 3 Recap: Big in Japan!

By Mike Patrick
June 19, 2024

Flashback to Mixed Game Festival VII, from a couple months ago, where a young mystery man named Kamo joined us all the way from Tokyo, Japan specifically to play in our little celebration of all things mixed games.

Kamo Japan Mixed Game Festival

Kamo told us about the growing popularity of mixed games in the Japanese poker scene and promised to spread the word about the Mixed Game Festival when he returned home, to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Well, Kamo came through; big time!

On Day 2 it was Tomoki and Tomo who joined us from Okinawa and Tokyo, then on Tuesday, Kumi and Akira joined us from Kyoto along with Masa and Shiroki, from Tokyo.

Japan Mixed Game Festival

From left to right: Kumi, Akira, and Robbie

Japan Mixed Game Festival

From left to right: Masa, Shiroki, and Robbie

Japan is the 12th most populous country in the world, yet all of the above players basically told our founder and festival host Robbie Strazynski, “Kamo sent us.”

Now while technically, as a form of gambling, poker isn’t fully legal in Japan — as I discovered myself on a trip there last summer — the passion is certainly there, even for social play-money live games.

With established stars and WSOP bracelet winners like Naoya Kihara and Masashi Oya, plus YouTube sensation and GPI award winner Masato Yokosawa, along with up-and-comers such as 2023 WSOP 9-Game Mix champ Ryutaro Suzuki and many others making WSOP final tables this summer, poker and mixed games are undeniably big, err, HUGE in Japan.

Maybe we need to think about taking the MGF to JPN, eh? Player of the Day

Ok, full disclosure. Robbie picked his cousin to be Tuesday’s Player of the Day.

Hold on, hold on, hold on, before the cries of ‘WTF! B.S.! RIGGED!’ come from the peanut gallery, he’s got a pretty good story. And besides, isn’t playing with family one of the greatest ways to enjoy poker?

Donnie Wachtenheim

Donnie Wachtenheim has been playing poker for a quarter century but hasn’t played live in five years.

Donnie, who lives in the Los Angeles area, decided that MGF VIII would be the ideal ground to return to the live felt.

“I played poker up until the pandemic began and then I stopped. I didn’t go out of the house, like everyone else, and I started to play a little bit online, but mostly I was playing backgammon and other games online. Now I came back because the Mixed Game Festival was going on, my cousin was hosting it, and I said ‘You know what, it’s June, I’m going to come to Las Vegas and I’ll join it’.”

Donnie got his start in poker playing in home games where mix was the format of choice.

“I started playing poker about 25 years ago… because on Craigslist there was somebody hosting poker in their house and they were hosting mixed games. I had no idea what was going on. They kept telling me ‘two cards, four cards, flop, no flop’. I didn’t know what was going on. So, it took me a few months and then I finally got the hang of it.”

Having since learned a wide variety of mixed games is something Donnie cites as one of his best poker achievements.

He also credits poker for helping him get through some of the toughest times in his life.

“It’s a great distraction. When my dad was very sick and my mom was very sick and I was there with them the whole time but I had to get away, playing poker was a great distraction.”

While it’s great to see his return to the live felt here at Bellagio, Donnie tends to prefer the low-key and social environment of a home game. Fortunately, that’s exactly what the Mixed Game Festival provides!

“I’m having a great time. It’s a good group of people, everybody’s really nice, it’s very fun… you can talk to each other… there’s no pressure, we’re just here for fun… It’s a great way to go to Vegas and play alternative games.”


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Moneymaker Tour $400 Seat Giveaway

Joining our previous winners of a $400 seat into a side event at the Moneymaker Tour’s Las Vegas debut June 28-July 6 at MGM Grand is Thom Roholt.

Thom was randomly selected from the three tables of players and then correctly knew that Chris Moneymaker was an accountant before his legendary 2003 run to the WSOP Main Event title.

Thom, along with Rick Fuller and Lawrence Chen, will take part in one of the country’s fastest-growing and most exciting new poker tours as the Moneymaker Tour brings its exciting series to Las Vegas for the first time this summer.

The series will feature its second-ever $1,000,000 guaranteed $1,700 Main Event plus a plethora of great side events with nearly another $300,000 in guarantees.

Players at MGF VIII will have two more chances to win their way to the event via a random draw and by answering a (ed. note: really easy!) Chris Moneymaker-related trivia question.

Mixed Game Festival VIII: Into the Home Stretch

It’s been a busy and fun three days of mixed-game poker here at Bellagio, but now we’re turning the corner with just two more days to go in MGF VIII.

That doesn’t mean we’re slowing down on the excitement or great giveaways from RunGood Gear, D&B Publishing, BBO Poker Tables, PokerGO, and Faded Spade Playing Cards.

Players will have a ton of opportunities to win those prizes, and heck, the Bellagio poker room even threw in some prizes of their own Tuesday, so besides the most fun you can have at a Las Vegas poker table, there’s a whole bunch of swag to go around as well!

And that’s not even mentioning those Moneymaker Tour seats and 3-month Premium subscriptions to for our player of the day!

Can’t get enough Mixed Game Festival coverage and want to see some video clips, too? Relive the festival highlights on our media partner’s Instagram feed. They’ve been here all week capturing some of the amazing moments, great hands… and Norman Chad giving Robbie sh*t for the simplicity of the trivia questions.

Three days down, two to go, and we’re ready to finish up strong at Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival VIII!



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Mike Patrick poker author
Written By.

Mike Patrick

A veteran of both the Canadian sports media industry and poker scene, Mike has made the jump into poker media with Having worked his way from intern to television producer and from home game hero to semi-professional poker player, Mike brings knowledge and a competitive outlook from his experiences in the newsroom and at […]

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