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Getting Started In Draw And Mixed Games

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Jan 29, 2020

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Similar to many players, I got my start back in poker back in 2003 as part of the Moneymaker effect. At that time, it was my impression that poker and five-card draw were one and the same, and I was initially confused by the weird looking game on TV where you were only dealt two cards.

As it turned out, Texas hold’em is a great game and I will always remember my first ever live session, playing $3-$6 limit at the Mirage where an 18-hour session went by as if it were 15 minutes. I nearly tore my hamstring once I finally decided to get out of the chair. I also have many fond memories playing on the old PartyPoker software and going to war with the dude wearing the silly hat in seat nine.

Those were great times, however, it was always the skill aspect and strategy discussions that drew me most towards poker. In one of the strategy forums I frequented, players were talking about a game called Omaha eight-or-better (O/8b) and it all sounded so different and complex as if they were speaking a different language. It all seemed so intimidating, thus I initially kept myself to the hold’em tables.

Around a year later, I happened upon Mike Cappelletti’s How to Win at Omaha High-Low Poker and loved reading about the strategy of a completely different game. Mike’s passion for the variation was evident and he had confidence that once you got exposed to the game, your poker outlook may forever be changed.

In my particular case he turned out to be correct. Ever since reading that book and getting started in O/8b, I gained a passion for learning and playing all of the different variants and sought out to play mixed games wherever they could be found.

Evolution Of Mixed Games

At that time, the most commonly spread mixed games were H.O.R.S.E rotations (Hold’em; Omaha Eight-or-better; Razz; Stud; Stud Eight-or-better) or in some cases where less stud variants were desired the mix may have been S.H.O.E or just H.O.E. Higher stakes mixes would often have a combination of limit and big bet games and also include no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and no-limit deuce to seven single draw lowball.

Limit triple draw games such as deuce to seven triple draw (27TD), ace to five triple draw (A5TD), and badugi soon arrived on the scene, and once they did B.O.T.E (Badugi; Omaha Eight-or-better; Deuce to Seven Triple Draw; Stud; Stud Eight-or-better) became a popular mix. For those of you unfamiliar with badugi, it is a triple draw lowball game where each player is dealt four cards and the object of the game is to obtain the lowest hand possible with cards of all different suits and ranks. Aces are considered low thus the best possible hand one can make is A-2-3-4 of all suits.

At this point in time there was a healthy balance in the games among the differing flop, stud, and draw variants. Players were often familiar with the H.O.R.S.E variants, so when new players took a shot at mix they only had a few unknown draw games with which to get acquainted. One-winner draw games such as 27TD and badugi were often quick sells as they are somewhat easy to learn, fun to play, and on the surface appear to simply reward those who catch the best. Gamblers tend to really enjoy these variants and you want gamblers in your games.

Mixed game specialists then started getting creative and the split pot games of badeucey and badacey were born. In these games the best badugi holding chops the pot with either the best deuce to seven or ace to five low. These are not bad games; however, these variants have their fair share of detractors and when played live will often run painfully slow. They can be especially tough to play in the wee hours of the morning when habitually slow players are now completely dozing off and the drunkards are less amusing once their hangovers start kicking in.

Mixed games began to often include both badeucey and badacey while faster more widely known one winner games such as hold’em, stud, and razz would often get left on the sideline. The resulting rotations became over saturated with draw and split pot games thus creating a barrier to entry for new players possibly stunting the overall growth of mixed games over the years.

Badeucey and badacey may have been the “gateway variants” because ever since then there has been a continuous onslaught of what many players would categorize as “carnival games.” The list is long and includes stalwarts such as archie, dramaha High, deuce to seven dramaha, super stud, razzdugi, and double-board Omaha.

Personally, I enjoy playing these games quite a bit and have written about many of them extensively; however, even I would admit the unstoppable tidal wave of new games may not be great for poker in the long run.

The problem with introducing so many new and bizarre games in such a short period of time is that it will become too difficult to keep on replacing the players that will eventually drop out of the pool. And when someone is making errors in games such as archie and dramaha they will lose their money much faster than they would in deuce to seven lowball. This is probably the main reason why they were invented in the first place as players are continually looking to increase their edge. It’s easy to understand why this is desirable but we must always balance present desires with future concerns.

In order for the games to thrive (or simply just survive) it will probably become necessary to dial back the craziness and revert back to the general principles that made mixed games so great to begin with. Mixed-games were originally intended to test your poker skills in a variety of different variants and to some degree protect yourself from specialists in any one particular game. Mixes predominantly composed of carnival games are a departure from that and while they may be great to your bottom line in the short term it may not have a great long-term outlook.

The crazy variants can continue to survive in niche environments such as home games, private online clubs and some casinos in Vegas especially around WSOP time. There is a large contingent of players that will always enjoy these variants, however, if your goal is to build and sustain mixed games in other settings it may be necessary to go back to the basics.

Getting Started In Draw And Mixed Games

To those of you who may be interested in branching out into mixed games don’t be intimidated by all of this. Many poker rooms spread regular H.O.E or O.E mixes especially those on the East Coast where most of the fringe games are not yet approved. Omaha and stud eight-or-better are very popular and if unfamiliar with them they should definitely be among the games where you initially focus.

deuce to seven triple draw lowball and badugi are also very important as they are the draw games most often included in mixed games and they are also the two variants comprising the split pot game of badeucey. Currently there is not a plethora of resources available on these draw variants and this is situation that needs to be rectified in order to increase interest.

Starting with the next article we will begin to focus on 27TD and badugi and hopefully take readers (who may not even know the rules) from complete beginners to feeling confident enough to sit down and compete in all but the toughest of games. Initially the plan is to rotate discussion among these two variants to help keep things from getting stale as well as give opportunity to compare and contrast them along the way.

Further down the line we will also work into the discussion ace to five triple draw as well as the split pot variants of badeucey and badacey. It is also highly likely that along way that there will be some stud and Omaha material as well.

For those of you who already have familiarity with some or all of these games the odds are still very good that you will find new concepts and ideas to help refine your game. But the real hope is that these articles will spur readers to throw their hat into the mixed game arena who previously may have never imagined themselves ever doing so. A rising tide lifts all boats and everyone benefits from a growing and thriving mixed game community.

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. His new mixed-games website Counting Outs is a great starting resource for a plethora of games ranging from the traditional to the exotic. He can be reached at haneyk612@gmail.com.