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An Open Letter To The WSOP: Why Mixed Games Are Good For Poker Player Development

Mixed-Games Specialist Melissa Burr Advocates For More Variations In Online Events


Dear Powers That Be,

When the World Series of Poker Online schedule was released this year, I couldn’t help but notice that there was only one, single, mixed-game event. One solitary, lonely, Omaha eight-or-better event that was originally, incorrectly listed as it’s degenerate cousin with a gambling addiction, pot-limit Omaha.

The schedule didn’t even have a stud eight-or-better event, and I know you have the software capacity to run it. I live in New Jersey and have seen your “Stud” tab. There have even been rumors of the occasional stud cash game running on the site. To say I was disappointed about the lack of mixed games is an understatement.

I implore you to reconsider your sentiments towards mix games. Now, I understand that mix games may not have the allure and big prizes as no-limit hold’em. I even understand that the clientele may not be “desirable.” I know the mix game community has its fair share of complainers, but I promise you they mean well. Since you already muted the chat, you won’t have to hear them complain anyway.

The whole point of this open letter is to lay out why I think it is a mistake not to give poker players the opportunity to compete in other disciplines outside of big bet games.

But seriously, are you f#%ing kidding me? Only one mix game? Surely you can do better than this, and here’s why you should.

Learning More Games Opens Up More Opportunities

At the beginning of my career, my goal was to be able to play whatever the best game in the room was. That meant any game, whether it be $50-$100 no-limit hold’em or $400-$800 stud. At the time, I only knew how to play limit hold’em. That’s only 20 percent of H.O.R.S.E., let alone any game in the room. I knew I had a long way to go. but I was determined.

Fast forward five years. I learned eight more games and was on my way to being able to accomplish this goal. I was always playing in the best game on the right side of Borgata’s poker room, but that side of the room was dedicated to the limit games. I still was unable to play any game.

I started coming in on my days off to play $2-$5 no-limit hold’em. I needed experience to learn the game that would one day allow me to play with one of the biggest celebrities on the planet. Fast forward another few years and now it’s 2018. I was playing on the right side of the room when I heard that Kevin Hart was on his way to play no-limit hold’em. I quit my game of $80-$160 OE to secure a seat at $10-$25.

I had to wait. And wait some more. But sure enough, in walked Kevin Hart, along with four security guards. This was it, the moment I had been waiting for. I could without a doubt say that I was playing in the best game in the room.

The game escalated quickly. It started out with blinds of $10-$25, but it wasn’t long before half the table had blinds out and we were playing $10-$25-$50-$100.

I wish I could tell you I crushed this session or even that I booked a win, sadly I cannot. While being able to play the best game in the room is making the most positive expected value decisions for your bankroll, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll come out a winner

Mix Games Are Good For Development

Melissa Burr At $50,000 Poker Players Championship Final TableI could very easily make the argument that mix games prepare players for the future of poker. Every year a new game comes out that threatens the stronghold no-limit hold’em has on poker.

If there is even the slightest chance that players will like the new game, you learn it. I know it’s tough to remember because the internet wasn’t really around back then, but there was a time when limit hold’em was the most popular game in poker rooms. Before that, it was stud. You cannot stop poker evolution, you can only grow with it.

Right now, the game of choice is clearly no-limit hold’em. It’s been like that for nearly two decades. Thanks Moneymaker. Maybe try winning a limit tournament next time. However, there is no reason to believe no-limit hold’em will reign supreme forever. At some point, you either learn the new game or watch the game pass you by. You’ll still have solitaire though if nobody wants to play no-limit with you.

Each new game expands a player’s perspective on poker. Even after 15 years of playing professionally, I still find spots I’ve never seen. I truly believe that learning these games has allowed me to develop my overall poker strategy into a profitable creative one.

Learning on the fly and being prepared to take on new challenges is a life skill that not many poker games offer.

Mix Games Develop Reliable Poker Instincts

Mix game players are forced to evolve with the game. We are constantly challenged to not only learn new games but learn them faster than everyone else. Kids these days are spoiled by solvers and charts. In some of the newer, more complex games, equities are almost impossible to calculate. I can find a basic no-limit hold’em odds calculator with a simple google search. I dare you to find one for badeucy.

As games become more complex games as specialists evolve, players must trust their natural poker instincts. With no answer in the back of the book, poker becomes a battleground for heuristic math and poker intuition.

Playing one game becomes monotonous and players become complacent. No one wants to be that person who “used to be good but got passed over by the game.” If you play mixed games, fear not this fate.

Mix Games Develop Self Awareness

All players that excel in poker, will do so in at least one variant. The specialists, however, learn that one game and stick with it. They become the best player in the game and they grind out a solid win rate.

Few will ever know how it feels to be out-classed. They study all the different spots in one game and they make sure that their game is solid. They will be very hard to exploit in their game of choice.

Mixed games, on the other hand, can and will humble almost any player. No mix is created equally. If you get a seat at a table that is playing a mix of games, instead of just one, you will sometimes find yourself in a mix that is not your best but is still favorable.

Three other players will have more experience and more volume in 70 percent of the games. The two “fun” players bring the game to an acceptable level of profitability to play, but still, you will find yourself in gross spots versus the professionals. It is a feeling of humility that is arguably necessary for a player to truly reach their potential.

Mix Games Build Character

Live mix games players are forced to overcome obstacles other players will never face. There is no ladder to move up and hone your skills while building a bankroll. If you want to play bigger, you must either take shots at bigger games or build a bridge between stakes.

To build a bridge between stakes means you must bring players together and form a new limit. Building a bridge between stakes requires networking and hard work. It requires focus and determination. Mix games teach you at an early age that a good personality and some polite manners will get you into the games you want to be in.

There are no micro-stakes for mix games. To be perfectly honest there aren’t even mid-stakes for mix games. It takes a certain amount of fortitude, character, and just enough gamble to get to the top with that landscape. The players that are able to get to the top had to take huge risks along the way and certainly deserve to be there.

Promoting mix games online can provide another avenue to players who are interested in learning mix games. Online poker allows players to play more hands per hour, thus allowing them to gain experience faster than in a live environment. No-limit hold’em has already shown that this path of volume leads to the breeding of new legends every day.

WSOP, please. I fear for the future of poker players. Please consider shifting a minimum amount of focus to mix games. I promise it will be good for both your bottom line and the poker world.

Every renowned poker room has a big limit mixed game. If you are trying to become the premier online poker site that boasts WSOP bracelets and prestige, wouldn’t you want to follow the same business model?

Lastly and certainly not least, mix game players have a vicious reputation for being degenerates. No one peels cards harder than a 2-7 triple draw player holding 2-3-4-5 and peeling a three spotter (6-7-8) on the third draw. If you run more online events, we might go off in your casino. Think about it.


Melissa “Burrrrrberry” Burr

Melissa Burr is a seasoned high-stakes mix game professional. In her spare time she enjoys the occasional 30-minute craps roll, sports betting, and short reasonable walks on the beach. Find more adventures on her twitter @burrrrrberry.