Daniel Negreanu took down the H.O.R.S.E. Championship during the 2016 PokerStars WCOOP and since that time, there has been an increased interest in Mixed Game poker by casual fans.
For those somewhat new to poker, Mixed Games is just as it sounds, a mix of various poker games and variants. H.O.R.S.E. is the most widely known variant consisting of Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, Seven Card Stud, and Stud 8 or Better. However, there are some games that give players a choice of dozens of variants.
Prior to 2006, you usually only heard about Mixed Games when talking about the high stakes cash games among top pros. However, online poker and the World Series of Poker helped to revive the concept.
If you are a poker player that is looking to expand into Mixed Games, here are five things every Mixed Game newbie needs to know.
You Need to Learn Stud and its Variants
If you want to become a great mixed games player, then start by learning how to play Seven Card Stud, Stud 8 or Better and Razz. Depending on the game, Stud games can make up as much as 60% of a standard mixed game tournament.
Three out of the five games of H.O.R.S.E. are Stud games and each variant is part of 8-Game, 10-Game and Dealer’s Choice. Speaking of Dealer’s Choice, you may also want to experiment with Stud Hi-Lo normal where there is no 8 or better qualifier.
Personally, I believe that if you have the patience to play Stud, you can play any form of poker. If you want a good starting point in your journey to become a mixed games player, Stud games is where you begin.
Mixed Games Are Slower
Spinning off my point about Stud games, those wanting to play Mixed Games should realize the over pace of play is going to be slower than that of Texas Hold’em. As such, if you find the pace of Hold’em to be too slow, you need to avoid Mixed Games.
That’s one reason I recommend learning how to play Stud first. Stud is perhaps one of the slowest variants of poker because not only is there an additional betting round but because of other factors such as river squeezing and more.
Pots Instead of Stacks
When you play NL Hold’em, you goal is to try to take the other player’s stack. While it would seem that the same would hold true for Mixed Games, instead your goal is to win pots rather than stacks.
Unless you are playing in a game with PL or NL games such as 8-Game, most of your games are going to be limit poker. This means that you will seldom be playing for all of another player’s stack
As such, you will need to change your thinking and focus on winning pots or losing less when you have the worst of it.
Mixed Games and limit poker is where the concept of “saving bets” is important. Since betting is often limited, you cannot recover losses as quickly. If you lose 30 big blinds in a NL Hold’em game, no big deal as at any time you could win a big hand worth double what you lost or more.
If you lose 30 big bets in limit poker, you are going to need to run very hot to recoup those losses in a single game. The average winning player wins between 2 and 4 big bets an hour and many are more on the 2 side.
Learn One Variant at a Time
When you decide to take the plunge in Mixed Games, it is wise to try and learn one variant at a time rather than trying to overload yourself with knowledge. The reason behind this is that every game you learn will have its own separate strategy. Learn them separately to keep from confusing yourself at the table.
One way to help speed the learning process is to learn specific game variants together rather than jumping around. Earlier I mentioned learning Stud and its variants first. When you decide to take up Draw games, you will want to focus on Five Card Draw, Triple 2-7 Lowball, NL 2-7 Lowball, Badugi, A-5 Lowball and even other draw variants like Badacey, Badeuci and Duck Flush Poker.
This is the easiest way to pick up games because you can build on what you learned in the original game and apply the rules and strategies for the other variants.
Don’t Be a Specialist
If you plan to become a regular Mixed Games player, you want to keep from becoming a “specialist” in any one game. Too often you will run across players in certain games, especially Mixed Game tournaments, which are experts at one game but only have a rudimentary understanding of other games.
You need to spend ample time playing and developing your skills in every game you plan on playing in order to give yourself the best chance at winning. Granted, there are going to be games that you prefer or may even have an edge over other players, but you should at least be competent in every game spread in the mix.
That way, if you are at a table where your opponents mostly try and coast through Razz or Triple Draw, you can take advantage and build your stack.