This past week, the guys and I not only continued our tournament grind, but took advantage of some alternatives to traditional no-limit Texas Hold’em (NLH). Exploring Las Vegas has also meant exploring different games, providing amazing opportunities to see different sides of poker as well as meet new players. With the WSOP organizing events outside of NLH, this time of year provides players from all over a chance to connect and take part in games not every player necessarily knows how to play.
Playing Our First Tag Team Poker Tournament
For our first adventurous attempt outside of the standard multi-table tournament (MTT), we made our way to Fremont for the Golden Nugget’s Tag Team event. Before hopping in the Uber, we had to decide amongst the four of us who would be paired with who. Letting the poker gods decide, we drew cards from a deck that ultimately paired myself with James, and Spenser with Kieran. Our partnerships determined, both teams were motivated to become the undisputed tag team champions of the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino.
Tag team NLH tournaments function just like regular MTT tournaments, with the added twist of two player representing each seat. Throughout the course of the tournament, players are responsible for alternating within the subbing guidelines of the specific tournament. The main requirement for this tag team tournament was after a substitution, the seated player was required to play at least a full orbit before another swap could take place. The format of the tag team tournament allowed us to explore the room and see how the other pair was doing over the course of the tournament.
Personally, transitioning from playing solely by myself to coordinating with James was certainly an adjustment. Reflecting on the event afterwards, we collectively discussed how the substitutions at times broke up the “rhythm” we try to facilitate at the table. Player tendencies, stack sizes, table dynamics, all details worth referencing become even harder to track when you have twice the players to remember with half the time to play.
“Try and remember, the WSOP is a marathon, not a sprint. The days are long and you need to pick your spots wisely! Tournaments are all about survival, stack preservation is key. So take it slow, think through every decision, and make sure to bring your “A” game!“– Lexy Gavin
Busting Tournaments While Still Building And Improving
Unfortunately, neither one of our tag team duos were able to play their way into the money. Even with the bad beats James and I were bestowing upon opponents, we couldn’t quite make it past the bubble with Kieran and Spenser also busting an hour prior. Despite the bad luck of this particular outing, the past week was not short of small victories and milestones.
Spenser Makes His First Final Table
Continuing to enjoy the cheap, daily tournaments at Westgate, Spenser out lasted us all in our most recent poker outing making his first ever final table. While I attempted to show the Brits how valuable free spins are when playing penny slots, Spenser made his deepest run yet as he continues to improve and enjoy the “firsts” that come with being a new poker player.
A month remaining in Las Vegas, Spenser’s next goal is to not just cash a tournament, but go all the way in at least one daily. With the continued reps and feedback he gets in our home games, I’m sure Spenser has at least one bink in him.
Kieran Cashes A Tournament At The Orleans
While James has had a consistent and profitable start to the WSOP, a few weeks in Kieran and myself continue to pursue our first deep run. When it comes to tournament poker, a successful player must maintain mental toughness in what can sometimes be a maddening game. Although Woodsy’s first deep run is due any day now, he enjoyed the small victory of cashing his first event of the summer at the Orleans.
With lots of poker yet to be played, Kieran and I’s first big score gets closer and closer as we continue to support each other as players. It is often said that one of the best strategies to improving at poker is finding other players you can discuss the game with. Talking through hands and making time to study, I can already see how much the guys have helped me improve as a player. The game of poker can sometimes feel isolating as it is an individual activity, having this “team” dynamic amongst the guys continues to pay off at the tables and in our day-to-day.
The Totals So Far
Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival
Despite having a rough go of it so far at the tables, one of the best parts of the WSOP has been getting to meet individuals from the poker community. One such individual is Robbie Strazynski, owner and founder of CardplayerLifestyle.com. While being a strong presence in the poker media space, Robbie is also an avid mixed games player, hosting the Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival for the second consecutive year.
I have often heard from experienced poker players how studying different variations of poker can help you improve at Texas Hold’em. Wanting to take part in the fun and learn a thing or two, I grabbed my poncho, then my backpack, and made my way to Resorts World.
Learning The Ropes From Mixed Game Ambassadors
After greeting Robbie and having a chance to meet members of the awesome Cardplayer Lifestyle staff, the first mixed game of the day officially kicked off in the Resorts World poker room. Up until the festival, I had never played a mixed game in my life, and had never even played a hand of Omaha. With my lack of experience, there was no better place to learn than from the mixed game enthusiasts at the event.
Robbie Strazynski, Owner and Founder of CardplayerLifestyle.com as well as the nicest guy in poker.
Incredibly patient and willing to answer every question I had (even mid-hand), the players at the festival taught me everything from Razz, 2-7 Triple Draw, and even Squid Game made popular by The Lodge Card Club in Austin, Texas. After a couple hours of play, I’m happy to report I won $100 despite having no idea what I was doing. Having an incredibly fun time with true mixed game ambassadors, my mood got even better when I met a poker legend.
Meeting Main Event Champion Greg Raymer
Day four of the Mixed Game Festival had a special featured guest: 2004 Main Event Winner and mixed game expert Greg Raymer. Having grown up watching Raymer play on television, I had been looking forward to shaking hands with Fossilman, who was kind enough to sign my copy of Fossilman’s Winning Tournament Strategies.
“If you like the book, feel free to leave an Amazon review. If you don’t like it,
I would appreciate it if you did not leave an Amazon Review.” – Fossilman
Raymer wasn’t the only poker celebrity in attendance as superstar poker commentator Ali Nejad also found his way to Resorts World. Perhaps looking for new a game to win a second bracelet with, PokerCoaching.com coach Justin Saliba represented the team well as he also took part in the $4/$8 mixed game action.
While I didn’t get the chance to play with Greg Raymer, sitting at the table with Robbie, Ali, and Justin was truly special as we played and chatted for hours. Before I knew it it was 4 AM, the fun and good company spilling over into the next day. Despite not cashing in the nightly NLH tournament I took part in, my first ever mixed game session helped me make back the losses.
Learning More Than Just Badugi
While I continue to learn and improve at poker during the WSOP, I’ve been fortunate to learn even more lessons outside of just strategy. As I interact with more players and people within the industry, I’m beginning to see just how important it is for the game to have quality ambassadors. Fellow low stakes tournament players may relate to the sentiment I find often comes with the game. Even when it’s a low stakes, $50 daily tournament at a random casino, you will still find players berating dealers and maintaining an environment anything but inclusive. If you’re a novice player simply trying to play a poker tournament for the first time, the aura maintained in some environments may be just enough to keep you away.
Despite being the featured guest of the day, Greg Raymer sat at the table for hours, not just explaining to new players how to play mixed games but sharing strategies and concepts to help them improve quicker. It is not too bold to say: not every Main Event champion would take the time to share the game the way Raymer did at the Mixed Game Festival. Even the regulars, who knew my participation would slow down the pace of play, went out of their way to explain all of the games to me so I could participate and have a good time.
Often I hear from people in the poker industry about what needs to be done to grow the game and attract new players. You can make the case that despite it’s current popularity, the game is not what it once was twenty years ago after the Moneymaker Boom. There is not as intensive of an interest in the game of poker as there once was, but future players still need people to teach them to keep the game alive. From my perspective, being a quality poker players includes a willingness to share the game as well as being proficient and profitable. I am truly thankful I got to witness an event based in such a true love of the game, and I do hope I get a chance to attend the Mixed Game Festival again next year.