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by Conrad Brunner |  Published: Jun 01, 2006


A new face has recently joined the PokerStars support team. He is bright, charming, and clearly a great addition to the company. But he is a great disappointment to me. It's not that he's done anything wrong – he'll probably be running the place in a few weeks – but there was something he said over a pint at the local pub that I thought was a shame, in a sort of what's-wrong-with-the-youth-of-today kind of way: "I'm strictly a hold'em player," he said.

Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common attitude among "New Generation" poker players, brought up on hold'em on TV and hold'em online. At PokerStars, if people want more hold'em, we'll give them more hold'em. The European Poker Tour is, after all, a Texas hold'em-only poker tour, and no other game lends itself so well to TV. But I rather believe that, away from the cameras, poker players who stick to that one variety of the game are missing out on a whole world of glorious poker action. No-limit Texas hold'em may be the Cadillac of poker games, but there are plenty of other fine cars out there in the showroom.

At the dealer's choice game I've been attending for several years, we play a variety of games – Dark Wigglies, RYO Wigglies, deuce-to-seven triple draw, Super Shifting Sands, Pips & Flushes, Triple-Flop Irish, London Snowball, four-, five- and six-card Omaha eight-or-better, stud and draw Paduki, Ring of Fire, and so on – all of which are all complex and demanding games that require experience and skill to master (except for Ring of Fire which is a crapshoot devised by the devil).

Poker players whom I respect claim these to be silly games, but that attitude won't wash with those who do battle on Tuesday nights. We maintain that these are wholesome varieties of poker and not wild-card extravaganzas such as the absurd Baseball and its evil twin Night Baseball. Anaconda may be a game for drunken college kids, but Pips & Flushes can keep an eager poker player absorbed for hours on end. We not only enjoy playing these funnies, but we also kid ourselves that we shine at one particular form of the game. My friend Hugo "The Sweep" Martin calls Super Shifting Sands on a regular basis, despite folding to virtually any raise on card four. A die-hard devotee of irregular poker games who often stays up until 6 a.m. GMT to catch the H.O.R.S.E. tournaments on FullTilt, Hugo is leading his own anti-hold'em campaign, on the not unreasonable grounds that hold'em is "by far the hardest form of poker." He's been beaten up at the hold'em tables at the Vic so much that he scowls at me on the rare occasions I call hold'em when the button comes my way (sorry, but sometimes I can't be bothered dealing stud games at 3 a.m.).

Branching out into other games is not just mind expanding. It can be profitable for a player with a profound understanding of one particular poker discipline. As Jesse May wrote in the introduction of his book, Shut Up And Deal: "Look in the poker room and look who the good poker players are, and nine out of ten of 'em are hold'em players; that's what they like to play. Meanwhile, there ain't a f—-ing stud player in town, and all the lives ones, all the marks and the drunks and the guys who are dripping with dead money, when they come into town, they are playing stud."

By developing your education beyond hold'em, you are free to exploit softer patches. I know of one female pro who makes a healthy living pillaging the Omaha eight-or-better tables on PokerStars, as does the Fossilman (2004 World Series of Poker Champion Greg Raymer). These are wise heads who select their games with care and an eye for an easy profit.

Phil Hellmuth Jr. recently wrote an excellent account, published in this very magazine, of a game he played on a luxury private jet traveling from Monte Carlo to Vegas, stopping off in Maine, USA, for fuel and pizza. Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, Gus Hansen, and Phil Ivey were in action the whole way, "playing a mixed-game rotation, including Omaha eight-or-better, hold'em, deuce-to-seven triple draw, and Chinese poker." So, what is our future "strictly hold'em" champion going to say when he gets invited to join a little mile-high action with the big boys? "Sorry, just deal me in for the hold'em please"?

Come on, kids, it's time to grow up and learn the game in all its fascinating variations.

I was leafing through my 8-year-old daughter's homework and came across this mathematics exercise, which may sound familiar to readers of Card Player Europe:

"A Game for Two Players: You need a pack of playing cards. Use the ace to the 10 of both red suits. Ace counts as one. Shuffle the cards and share them out. Take turns to choose a card and place it faceup on the table. If you can make exactly 21 by adding your chosen card to some or all of the cards already on the table, you win all those cards. You have won a trick. The winner is the player with the most tricks."

It's good to know that the youths of today are being properly prepared to handle the slings and arrows of casino life, and I am intrigued to know what the British national curriculum will throw up next week. Card counting, perhaps?

Conrad Brunner is the European marketing manager for