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Mixed-Game Strategies

by Matt Glantz |  Published: Jul 11, 2012

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Poker 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 matt.glantz@cardplayer.com and also should check out this website www.mattglantzpoker.com for more strategy and updates from the tournament trail.

Chad Wray from Memphis, Tennessee writes:

Of all of the variations of poker, including the draw games, which one in particular do you think the best player has the biggest edge? I guess it could be asked… Which game do you see the biggest occurrence of variance?

When playing a standard mix of all the games, the best player has the biggest edge and also the most variance in deuce-to-seven triple draw.  Strictly from a variance standpoint, the game plays bigger than other games in the mix.  There are more hands that are mutliway to the river and thus more big bets on the later streets are consistently coming into play.  From a strategy aspect, the edge a great player has over an amateur or even just a decent player is tremendous.  The differences in starting hand selections from an amateur to the best player is so vast that no matter how great the amateur runs it will be hard to overcome playing the wrong starting hands.  The differences in post-draw strategy between a decent player who knows what hands to start with, and the best player who can make constant adjustments through the play of the hand is overwhelming.  There is so much information to gather through the play of the hand in deuce-to-seven that the best player has a much more significant advantage that is unlike other forms of poker.

Chad won a PokerStars Facebook contest last year by answering the question:  What are the five keys to playing winning poker?  He asked me what I thought of his list.

1. Win like you lose – with class

I don’t know that is necessarily a key to winning at poker but certainly something to aspire to and will give you a better chance of lesser caliber players wanting to play at the table with you.

2. Try to think one level above your opponents

You always have to know what your opponents are thinking.  This is the only way you can optimize your strategy from hand to hand and maximize your profit.  Over the long run the player that figures out what his opponents are doing the best will be the most profitable.

3. Bankroll management

This is a common problem for even the best of players.  Almost all players overestimate their edge and underestimate the variance.  To survive in poker without proper bankroll management is almost impossible.  You will have downswings!

4. Analyze your hands and learn about your leaks

From an in game strategy perspective this is vital to getting better over time.  You need to realize your mistakes and use that knowledge to not make the same mistakes twice.  No matter how new you are to the game, if you continue to improve by not making the same mistake twice, you will be successful and become a winning poker player.

5. Surround yourself with people who like to play and share knowledge.

Nothing speeds up your learning process more than having smart friends in poker that you can bounce off ideas with, discuss hand histories, and strategize for the future.
General mixed game question – In big bet games, it seems like bluffing is actually necessary to balance your range and also can be profitable in itself. In limit games, it seems to be dramatically less of an important factor in winning.  Could somebody be a good mixed game player without ever bluffing (discounting semi-bluffs)?
To be a winning mixed game player at mid-stakes or higher, bluffing has to be a part of your game.  There is no way around it.  If you never bluff it will be too easy for your opponents to never pay you off and you will miss a ton of value.

Conversely, if you bluff too frequently, it will be too easy for your opponents to pick you off profitably.  

I think in your question you are bringing about a very valid point.  The ability to bluff in big bet games is a much larger factor in your success than in limit games. You should be bluffing a much higher percentage of hands in big bet versus limit.

In limit games you can only make the predetermined bet size and thus it is not hard for your opponent to call you down in a profitable manner.  In big bet poker you can vary your bet size to manipulate your opponent into reacting in a way that suits your purpose. ♠