Poker fans tired of driving around the old Cadillac that is no limit hold’em will descend on Resorts World Las Vegas next week to take some new games for spin at the Mixed Game Festival VI, a five-day celebration of razzdugi, Big O, Drawmaha, and many others.
Organized by former CardsChat podcast host and publisher of Cardplayer Lifestyle Robbie Strazynski, it’s the sixth Mixed Game Festival since 2021. This year’s five-day series carries a bit more weight for Strazynski, who makes his home in Israel and organized the series with the noise of war in the background.
“Not to get too serious, but on a more personal note, Mixed Game Festival VI has a special added significance to me. With war unfortunately having broken out in Israel, where I live, life here has been very intense, to say the least. Having this event to plan, promote and look forward to has really helped lift my spirits in these tough times.
So, it’s going to be surreal to suddenly be away from home and my family, with the war still ongoing. That said, I have so many friends in and coming to Las Vegas who I’ll get to hug and enjoy playing some great mixed game poker with; that’s going to be a big boost and will help me recharge my batteries. I’m really grateful for that.”
And we’re grateful you took time out to share with us, Robbie.
What made you take the horns and organize your own series?
I’ve always loved playing mixed games and some of my most enjoyable sessions had been low-stakes cash games with friends during the WSOP. Though those games were always great, they only ever happened sporadically at best — it’s just tough to get a critical mass of people together as mixed games are still somewhat niche and not nearly as widespread as hold’em and PLO.
So, the original spark of my idea was to wonder “Hey, what if we organized it in advance?! Then, everyone who loves playing would be able to plan ahead and they’d all come.” That snowballed into “what kind of game/event would I love to attend if someone else put it together?” And I basically went ahead and put it together myself.
Thankfully some great sponsors liked that I was going to try something new, and they got behind it. Having merch and prizes to give away is a big draw to help open up the Mixed Game Festival to new audiences who haven’t tried non-hold’em variants before.
Mixed-game “festivals” are becoming more and more popular. Why do you think so?
I think this is due in part to three separate, but equally important factors:
- Live poker is growing on the whole, and a rising tide lifts all boats, mixed game poker being one of them.
- Hold’em is becoming increasingly solved, with mixed games less so. Plus, mixed games play primarily fixed limit. Many players prefer not to have to risk their entire stack of chips all the time, and similarly don’t want to face a table full of players who are likely enrolled with poker training sites and actively studying (even at the $1/2 level).
- Mixed games are known for typically being far more sociable affairs than hold’em and PLO games. For many players, having an enjoyable social experience is a primary motive for playing poker in the first place, and perhaps hold’em just isn’t giving them that anymore.
I believe that, increasingly, organizers are realizing these aforementioned factors and see the opportunity to fill a niche for players looking for “something else” beyond the typical hold’em-filled events.
Naturally, mixed game fields are still far smaller than hold’em fields, but “if you build it, they will come,” eventually.
What do you think are some of the barriers for games other than NL from becoming more popular?
A poker room will always prefer running hold’em tables, as they facilitate the most hands being player per hour, and thus the highest rake being generated. They’ll offer mixed games, of course, but they won’t go out of their way to promote them over the bread and butter of hold’em.
Also, the fact is that it does really only take a couple minutes to learn hold’em, while it takes far longer to understand all the rules of the dozens of different mixed games. Many people simply aren’t willing to put in the effort to learn beyond what’s already familiar to them, and that’s understandable.
That said, many “mixed game converts” end up eschewing “boring old hold’em” once they get the hang of all the variants and learn how fun an experience mixed game poker can be.
Are there any players who come to mind that have stood out over the last few festivals?
I’ve met scores upon scores of wonderful people who’ve made it out to participate in the Mixed Game Festival. It’s easy to single out some of the big-name celebrity poker players who’ve kindly come out to support the event and help enhance the experience for the recreational players. I truly am supremely thankful for their ongoing commitment to helping ensure we run successful events.
But I genuinely think it’s those recreational players who are the heart and soul of what the Mixed Game Festival is all about. Players who see me announce upcoming dates and who then proceed to change their own upcoming Vegas trip dates to ensure they can attend. Players who fly in from all corners of the U.S., as well as Canada and even far-flung locales like Malta! Players who drive into Vegas from Southern California and come straight to the poker room, play for over 24 hours and only then go and check in to their hotel room.
I appreciate EVERY player who comes to play at the Mixed Game Festivals. Over time, we’re starting to build a really special community of mixed game lovers, so each new festival also has a bit of a “reunion” kind of feel, which is just wonderful.
What are some of the things you look forward to this week? What are your own personal highlights? What variants are you looking forward to playing the most?
As mentioned earlier, these festivals came to be when I set out to create “something I’d love to attend if someone else put it together.” So, each Mixed Game Festival is basically a dream week for me, and I wish every moment I’m there could last a lifetime. From the giveaways to the book signings to the poker trivia competition to the tournaments to the cash games… I love it all.
Immediately when it ends, I already start looking forward to the next one.