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Mixed-Game Strategies

by Matt Glantz |  Published: Jan 11, 2012


Matt GlantzPoker pro Matt Glantz has demonstrated high-stakes versatility by becoming the World Series’ most consistent performer in big money mixed-game tournaments. Since 2008, he has made four WSOP final tables in mixed-game events with buy-ins of $10,000 to $50,000. He has also earned a reputation as one of the top mixed-game cash game players.

Glantz is answering Card Player reader questions about mixed-game poker strategy. Readers can email Matt questions direct to and also should check out this website for more strategy and updates from the tournament trail.

Question: In stud eight-or-better, what do you consider the bottom end of the hands that are worth a raise pretty much regardless of the situation (what are the worst of the premium hands)?

MG: The dead cards (up cards) in all stud games are so important that I never really think about starting hands in the way you ask, “regardless of the situation.” But if we were to play stud eight-or-better where there were no up cards, I would consider low hands such as 2-5-6 unsuited, 3-4-7 unsuited, and A-5-6 unsuited as the “worst of the premium hands.” As for high hands, split kings would be the “worst of the premium hands,” with pocket queens being slightly better given no other information.

Question: What is the worst hand with which you have ever made a river call in Omaha eight-or-better? It seems that heads-up, when an aggressor bricks a nut-low draw is one of the times you most consistently see bluffs in that game. How light have you looked somebody up in that type of scenario?

MG: There have been many times when I have called the river with ace-high on a board that has tripped up. A board of KClub Suit 3Club Suit 4Heart Suit KDiamond Suit KSpade Suit would be an example of this scenario. If I have A-Q in my hand I would consider that a pretty decent holding, even though I would still be calling with ace-high. I have made this type of call with a hand as weak as A-T at times and have been shown bluffs.

In a more standard runout such as JClub Suit 2Heart Suit 3Spade Suit 9Heart Suit KSpade Suit, for me to make a hero call on the river when my opponent has been betting the entire way, I would have to think he was likely to hold an A-4-5-x type of hand. I’d have to think that my opponent was betting a big draw the entire way and is now willing to risk one more bet on the river as a bluff. I would define a hero call on this board as A-5-T-T or worse. It would be very unlikely your opponent would be betting worse than tens for value. It would be very unlikely for me to call the river in this spot with less than aces without some specific information on my opponent that led me to believe he was bluffing.

Question: What are the characteristics you see in most losing mixed-game players?

MG: Most losing mixed players overestimate their ability in one or two games in the mix. They tend to play a wider variety of hands than is normally profitable in that particular game. Becaue of their overconfidence in that game, they want to get involved in as many pots as they can before the game changes. When their choice game comes around in the mix only once an hour or even two hours, the player will force hands that they normally they wouldn’t play if the game wasn’t mixed. The best cure for this problem is to work hard on your weaker games so that you will alleviate any perceived need to play more hands in any one specific game.

Question: Can you talk about the need to “avoid playing for a chop” in some of the games?

MG: This common poker phrase, “avoid playing for a chop,” is generally used to describe playing high-only hands in high-low games against obvious made lows. So in stud eight-or-better when you have A-A-J-T-9 on fifth street and your are up against two hands that are obvious low hands, you might want to fold even though you have the best high hand at the moment. This is because if one of the two low hands is already made, then you are getting freerolled for half the pot. If both players make low hands, then you are in a really terrible spot where you can get squeezed out of the pot by sixth or seventh street. Even worse, you might end up getting freerolled by both opponents. You mostly want to avoid playing for only half the pot.

Question: A lot of times players check in the dark in the draw games. Can you talk generally about why this happens?

MG: In triple draw, when a player drawing three cards acts first and the player who acts last is drawing fewer than three, the player drawing the fewer cards is almost always going to be betting the next street. So, to make things faster, it has now become standard that the player in first position is checking without actually declaring a check. Once the player in last position makes his standard bet, the first player may now check-raise, check-call, or check-fold.

This only happens because the player in position is almost always going to bet. This is true for the first and second draws only, and does not usually pertain to river action. ♠