Remember when you were a kid and all you wanted to eat was pizza (or burgers, or hot dogs, or candy, or whatever your favorite food was) and your parents said “NO!”?
Pizza’s great and all, as is No Limit Hold ‘em, but remember also how your parents encouraged you to try new foods?
Well, we’re here to be your “poker parent” and encourage you to try something new, like Brussels sprouts (sorry Limit Hold ‘em, that’s you).
Mixed games are the smorgasbord of poker, with a variety of recipes and tastes. Some are sweet, some are salty (or will make you a bit salty), but ultimately, they’re a whole new exciting world of flavors beyond the same old pizza, and it’s a ton of fun to discover them!
Please don’t be the kid who said they didn’t like something without even trying it. Be the kid who tried a spoonful of something and was pleasantly surprised by what they’d just tasted and discovered a new favorite food.
In this overview article, we’re going to give you a few spoonfuls of info and strategy about a wide variety of mixed games. Most importantly though, we’re going to give you a ton of reasons why you should give them a try (with far fewer food references).
The Recipe (why mixed games are great)
As longtime lovers of mixed games, we can think of a plethora of reasons why they’re great. At the end of the day, you just need to experience a proper one for yourself, like the ones that’ll be running at the upcoming Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival. In the meantime, we’ve thought of eight great reasons why you’ll enjoy mixed games.
Friendly, welcoming players
The main reason we’ve heard players mention as to why they’re hesitant to try mixed games is the fear of looking foolish to other players because they may not know the games as well. From our experience, this is almost universally an unjustified fear. Players in mixed games are among the most welcoming and encouraging players in poker. If you tell them that you’re new to mixed games, they’re far more likely to welcome you and help you learn the game than to take advantage of your inexperience. The more people playing mixed games, the better it is for everyone, so it naturally lends itself to a supremely welcoming atmosphere.
Notably, the friendliness holds true for both low and high stakes games, though we recommend you start our on the lower rungs of the ladder to better get acquainted with all the different poker variants.
It’s a great change of pace
They say variety is the spice of life, and we passionately believe that holds true with poker. If you’re getting fatigued by playing just No Limit Hold ‘em, mixing it up with something new is a great way to recharge the poker batteries. NLHE can still be your bread and butter, but learning a new game (or two, or eight, or 20…) can be just what the doctor ordered to prevent poker burnout.
You may discover a new favorite
If you’ve never played before and get a taste of a variety of new games, you may just discover one or two that you love and want to learn more about and play more often!
Many players who first explore beyond Hold ‘em tend to dabble in Omaha 8 or Better and the stud variants in a HORSE rotation (Hold ‘em, Omaha 8, Razz, Stud, and Stud 8 or Better). Perhaps at that point you’ll be ready to dip your toes into draw games for the first time, such as the very popular 2-7 Triple Draw or more niche Badugi variants. With so many games to choose from, we’re willing to wager that Hold’em won’t be your favorite for too much longer.
It’s tough to really go broke
With most of the games in a dealer’s choice mix being limit structure or capped in big bet games, it’s tough to really get wrecked in a game like you can in a rough session of No Limit Hold em or Pot Limit Omaha (which is played with a cap in a mixed cash game).
If you’re just breaking into mixed games, yes there will be a learning curve. However, if you do a bit of homework beforehand you’ll be more likely to be competitive. Even on days when you “pay for experience” in a session, the hit will be much less painful to your bankroll (provided you learn at stakes you’re comfortable with).
Moreover, on a hand-to-hand basis, without really big bets relative to the pot as an option, the sting of flicking in a tough call is significantly less pressure-filled, which lends itself to less overall stress among the players, in turn leading to a more positive atmosphere at the table.
This relaxed vibe also leads to another great feature of mixed games…
Again, with limit or capped betting, those big decisions that warrant a really deep think are just so few and far between in a mixed game setting. Sure, there will be spots where players have a tough decision to make and put in some thought, but there is virtually never an occasion (especially in the limit games), where a player takes significant time to flick in a call or muck their cards.
Chips fly, decisions get made, and play moves much more quickly in mixed games, which is another major reason why players tend to generally be much happier and easygoing at a mixed game table.
Mixed games will help your No Limit Hold ‘em game
Whether it’s No Limit Hold ‘em, Pot Limit Omaha, 2-7 Triple Draw, 7-Card Stud, or even Razzdugi, they all fall under the umbrella of ‘poker’. There are general theories that apply to all, and there are nuances in different games that can help you with your No Limit Hold ‘em game. For instance:
You’ll think about pot odds in a different way in a bunch of limit games.You’ll think more about blockers in PLO.You’ll closely contemplate bet sizing in No Limit 2-7 single draw.You’ll have a new perspective on how badly you can run when you start with A234 in Razz, then get dealt three face cards the rest of the way!
Seeing poker in a different way, with some familiarities, will refresh your mind when you sit back down in your regular game. On the flip side, playing games that require completely new strategic considerations accomplish the same goal. Getting out of your comfort zone a bit and trying to figure out the best way to scoop an Archie pot will make what you already know about No Limit Hold ‘em seem simpler and more comfortable.
Bottom line, test driving a few new vehicles will increase your confidence with the “Cadillac of poker”.
You can spice up your home game
Introducing mixed games into your home game presents huge benefits.
If you want to try mixed games in the most comfortable environment possible, what better setting than with your group of friends at stakes you set? You can learn the games together or, once you personally become familiar with mixed games, you can spread the good word and introduce your friends to your new favorite poker variants.
Admittedly, it may be a bit of a challenge. My friends in my own home game were a bit tough to crack, as they wanted the familiarity of hanging out and playing NLHE sit and go’s. So, what I did along with that was suggest that for an hour I’d introduce two or three games to them, dealing and teaching, but not actually playing, so they wouldn’t be afraid of losing to me since I knew how to play them.
Within a couple of evenings, dealer’s choice cash games became a prominent part of my home game, as each player could pick their favorite game to put in the mix (which is a regular practice in casino-dealt mixed games as well).
It’s just plain fun
There are many reasons to give mixed games a try, but above all they’re just straight up fun.
The combination of the elements listed above form the recipe for a great time at a poker table. The most fun times I’ve had playing poker can all be pointed toward sessions of mixed games, whether it’s playing with old friends or making new friends.
A legendary night of $4/8 mix at the old Monte Carlo, and a night at the Westgate full of mixed games, massage bomb pots, and other shenanigans in Las Vegas still stand head and shoulders above all others when it comes to the best times I’ve had at a poker table.
And I lost both nights.
So, are you ready? Or at least curious yet? Let’s get you set and take a peek at what you’re in for.
What’s On the Menu (the many different games)
Flop games (Pot Limit Omaha, Omaha 8 or Better, PLO 8, Limit Omaha, Double Board Omaha, Big O, Short Deck, Courchevel, Drawmaha, S.H.O.P.)
These are the games that are dealt similarly to Hold ‘em. Players receive hole cards, there are blinds and/or antes, and a flop of community cards is dealt. These are games that will be most immediately familiar to Hold ‘em players, but there are many distinct differences.
Stud games (7-Card Stud, Razz, 7-Card Stud 8 or Better, Stud high/low No Qualifier, Super Stud 8 or Better, Razzdugi)
Each player in these games receives their own individual hand of (in most cases) seven cards. There is no flop of community cards. Players will play their own boards vs. their opponents, which will have a combination of hole and exposed cards.
Draw games (2-7 Triple Draw, A-5 Triple Draw, No Limit 2-7 Single Draw, 5-Card Draw, Badugi, Badacey, Baduecey, Archie)
Once again, there are no flops or community cards with these games. Rather, the main feature of these games is that on betting rounds, players have the option to discard from their hand and draw fresh cards in their attempt to make the best (or worst) hand.
The Cookbooks (study resources)
So where to start? You can either dive right in and find a live or online game (more on those in a bit), but if you want to get your feet wet with some study before you take the plunge, here are some outstanding resources to learn from.
Mastering Mixed Games – Dylan Linde
If we 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 (Badeucey, Badacey). For under $40, The amount of information provided is invaluable.
A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games – Ken Lo
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 a beefy book at almost 700 pages, but don’t let the size scare you. It’s well worth the read, and a great value also at under $40.
Super System 2 – Doyle Brunson + multiple authors
This book has 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 very well. Their sections (Negreanu on 2-7 Triple Draw, Harman on Limit Hold ‘em, and Brunson on Stud 8 or better) we can still highly recommend.
Finding a material copy of SS2 can be a bit difficult, but the Kindle version is available on Amazon for under $10.
Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players – David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth, Ray Zee
High-Low Split Poker for Advanced Players – Ray Zee
These books fall solidly into the ‘classic’ category, as they were written in the 90s when Stud was as prominent if not more so than Hold ‘em.
As “for advanced players” is right in the title, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend these books as the first you read on Stud, Stud 8 and Omaha 8, but if you want to dig deeper and more thoroughly into these games, they’re definitely worth a look, and can by found through Amazon for under $40 each.
Online Training / Videos
Daniel Negreanu’s YouTube Mixed game series
Available at a cost of ZERO to your bankroll is Daniel Negreanu’s YouTube channel!
Specifically, Negreanu put together a series of short videos ideal for beginners to mixed games outlining rules and basic strategies for Limit Hold ‘em, Pot Limit Omaha, Omaha 8 or Better, Stud, Razz, Stud 8 or Better and 2-7 Triple Draw.
They’re a great starting point that will provide players with some solid fundamentals for the key games in an 8-game mix.
Run It Up WCOOP review with Jason Somerville and Daniel Negreanu
Kid Poker is part of another great free resource we highly recommend. In 2016, JCarver and DNegs sat down for a 4-hour video breakdown of Daniel’s WCOOP HORSE win.
It’s awesome to hear Negreanu go through his thought processes on the final table together with Somerville, and there are really no other places to get such a high level breakdown of mixed game hands in a hand history review format. It’s an entertaining and highly educational resource for those with even a fundamental knowledge of mixed games.
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 is PokerStars Team Pro and founder of the ‘Mixed Game Movement’ Mason Pye (pyefacepoker). Pye recently won his first SCOOP title in 7-Card Stud and can regularly be found crushing the low- to mid-stakes mixed games on PokerStars.
ACR Stormer Scott Kenyon (Pokerbrahs) can also be found crushing the online mixed game streets, especially during the big series like WCOOP and SCOOP. A long-time mixed gamer, his live credentials include an EPT London 8-game title in 2011 for over $50,000.
Upswing Poker’s Mixed Game Mastery course
This option is at the pricier end of the spectrum, at $999, but it’s incredibly comprehensive and features 102 videos from highly successful mixed game player Jake Abdalla. The course focuses primarily on Stud, Stud 8, Razz, Omaha 8, and 2-7 Triple Draw.
That’s not the full gamut of mixed games, of course, but with 102 videos covering just those games, you’ll be provided more than enough information to be able to crush those poker variants and thus be able to treat the high price tag as an investment rather than an expense.
Dig In! (where to play)
So, you’re finally ready to play some poker variants with more than two cards in your hand. Congrats, and welcome to the wonderful world affectionately known as “banana games”!
Here’s a look at where to jump into the mixed game streets.
Mixed games are more popular in some areas than others, so check the Bravo Poker or Poker Atlas mobile apps, or call your local casino or poker room to see what’s available in your region.
One area that will always have regular mixed games of various stakes running is Las Vegas, especially during the World Series of Poker. Games do run year-round, but during the WSOP the offerings expand vastly!
This year, the WSOP has added a $250 H.O.R.S.E. tournament into their Daily Deepstacks weekly rotation to go along with the various mixed game bracelet events they stage.
The Orleans is a great spot for low-stakes cash and tournament mixed games year round, but during the WSOP they can be counted on for a great low-stakes tournament series with decent sized fields and prize pools for a small buy-in.
The Golden Nugget’s Grand Series is a fantastic spot for mixed game players as well, with a schedule generally echoing that of the WSOP, but for buy-ins roughly a tenth of the size.
Finally, during the WSOP the mixed game cash game streets tend to run wild at all stakes. You know those aforementioned legendary nights? Get ready to experience them firsthand at the Inaugural Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival, running from October 4-7 at the Westgate, and hosted by this site’s founder Robbie Strazynski. You won’t be sorry!
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a location with legal online poker, you have an outstanding resource to hone your mixed game chops.
PokerStars runs a full array of regularly scheduled daily mixed game tournaments with buy-ins as low as $1, and cash games with stakes as low as 1 cent / 2 cent, along with a full offering of play money games.
Other sites like GG Poker, partypoker and 888poker have more limited offerings including PLO, PLO8, Short Deck, Stud and Stud 8. PLO and Short Deck games will be largely available, but the others are tougher to find, with your best options being PLO8 tournaments on partypoker.
Rec Poker PokerStars Home Games
The crew at RecPoker are a great bunch of people, dedicated to growing poker for recreational players. 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.
Final note: Be nice to the dealers!
You should always make the extra effort to be nice to the dealers when playing in mixed games. Dealer knowledge of mixed games can be limited depending on the venue. Please consider that a lot of dealers are unfamiliar with many games. Be patient and considerate with them and provide as much help as they need. You’ll see that with a little help, dealers will pick up the new games quite quickly. Lastly, of course, be sure to tip well and tip often!