Variants and mixed games: why to explore beyond No Limit Hold'em

Most part of recent poker players probably have begun their journey by watching and learning No Limit Texas Hold’em. This game is by far the most popular nowadays, and this is not a mere coincidence. Hold’em is a beginner friendly game firstly because of its simplicity: the player only two cards to handle. A beginner does not need to study too much theory to know that when he receives two Aces or two Kings he is good to go. It is also a game of action: the community cards allow everyone to take part in the fight.

However, poker did not start with Hold’em. If you talk to someone who plays for many years, you will discover that other games like 5-card draw or Stud were the kings of popularity back then. And far more interesting (and maybe shocking), almost all games were played in a Limit betting structure, different for No-Limit (and sometimes Pot-Limit) that we know today. While these “old” games may seem strange or boring, I would like to encourage you to come back to the origins, learn and play other poker variants, for some reasons:

  1. They will teach you how to think in poker. It is relatively easy to sit down and play high cards and strong pairs in Hold’em. It is easy to bet when you have a good hand, and give up when you don’t. As a beginner, you can achieve a lot with this basic game. However, if you want to take your game to the next level, other variants will force you to constantly think for yourself in a logical way. Bluffing and catching a bluff are much more present in games like 2-7 Draw, 5-card draw, Seven-Card Stud or any Limit game. Give it a try!
  2. They will develop your creativity and representing skills. In games like Seven-Card Stud, where the exposed cards play a significant role, creativity is a top quality for a player. In poker it is very important to sometimes represent a hand that you may not have. If you can make your opponent fold a hand that could beat yours, you are in great shape!
  3. They will increase your aggression. In poker, winning players are aggressive players. Games with a Limit betting structure demand far more aggression with draws or marginal hands. Even if you Limit Hold’em you will notice that sometimes a bottom pair is strong enough to keep betting in all rounds. When you come back to No-Limit Hold’em, you will benefit from being more aggressive.
  4. They can bring so much fun. Sometimes people say that Hold’em is close to be solved, because the analysis with powerful softwares is now on a level never achieved before. Although it is not close to be completely solved, Hold’em became far more theoretical than in past years. The competition is high: if everyone is playing, there are many weak players, but there are far more strong players as well. Other variants are far from being solved, and they are a good challenge even for experient Hold’em players. They can also be a lot fun to play with friends and family.

Well, given all these reasons, why not start playing new games today? Here in Replay you can start with Omaha and 7-card Stud, and also their Hi-Lo versions. Then, if you want more games, you can go to 2-7 Single Draw, 2-7 Triple Draw, Razz, Badugi, 5-card draw, Short Deck, and many others.

I wish you so much fun playing these (new) games!!
Please, if you start playing some of them, let me know what are your impressions!

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Thankyou rhoudini
Well written and enjoyable.
I love many of the games you mention, my all time favourite being Razz. I was brought to poker by watching NLHE on the tv, but quickly realized I was out gunned online by the computer and maths kids.
It was only when I learned the other variants that I truly enjoyed poker.
I have mentioned before how I wish there were HORSE tournaments here, and I’m meaning the true game Holdem Omaha lo, Razz, Stud and Stud lo, all in limit format, the grinders game :slight_smile: not some cobbled together version.
I learned to play Badugi in India many moons ago, it was great fun playing with huge piles of Rupee notes, although it was actually relatively small amounts by western standards.
I love all the stud games, and you really know you are up against it when playing old dudes and dudesses who have been playing since they were kids and actually understand the odds and fine margins.
Thankyou again for a well written piece, well done for your first post :clap:
Mark

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There is a League based on the HORSE concept where 7 Card Stud High, 7 Card Stud Hi/Low, PL Omaha, Omaha High/Low, Royal, and NL Texas Hold em are played

Here is a link to the League Forum Page

WILDHORSES Poker League - Private League Discussion - Replay Poker

All are Welcome to join

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What a nice comment!! Thank you for your reply, swamptrash. In fact, maybe one of the best things of these other variants is the fun they bring back to the game, the memories we can make playing.

Stud games are fantastic! When I started playing poker, I considered them boring. But when I started studying them a bit deeper, I could see how fascinating they are! Limit games are really interesting, they really put you to the test much more than NL games, whether you should fold or not, whether you should peel one more street or not… Really challenging!

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@rhoudini Great first post, welcome to the forum and look forward to many more !!

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IMO, the biggest reason to explore poker variants beyond NLH is because Texas NLH is getting much closer to being solved. Strong competitors are studying GTO and becoming nearly impossible to beat, removing exploitable gaps. Lesser-known games aren’t as heavily studied, so the player pools will be weaker.

On a site like RP, where most of the players even at the highest levels have significant exploitable weaknesses, this isn’t as much of a concern.

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Playing GTO on Replay is virtually pointless as most players here aren’t thinking on a level high enough to make it beneficial. Exploitive play is the best option against the majority here.

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Let us not forget the luck factor or the phenomenon of wishful card thinking. I don’t think Texas NLH is ever going to die.

IMHO

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Love this post! When I was growing up, my family played poker at the kitchen table. It was always dealer’s choice so we played many variants of poker, many with wild cards but not always. Also, there was always a limit in the betting. As an adult, a friend introduced me to NLHE and that was a completely different game. It took me a bit of time to adjust to the no limit aspect but once I did, I loved that game! Now that I have been playing it for many years, I have been exploring the mixed games for fun. I really appreciate CardsChat offering the weekend variants league…it has been a lot of fun to try so many variants. The limit part of the game is tough for me and I am intrigued by your thoughts on bluffing in them. So far, I have mostly played “small ball” with the limit games since it is frustrating not to be able to bet people off their draws. I will need to look into this and try it in the games!

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Hey mattiebumpo
I am no expert, but I do love a good bluff in limit stud, but I will only do it in tournaments when the blinds/minimum bets are large enough to put someone on a difficult decision and possible tournament life, even putting my own tournament life on the line to do it, there’s a bit of satisfaction pulling that off :). Generally low ball for me as well until then, just trying to survive to the prizes then start ramping it up. I have learned though, there is very little point trying to bluff a poor player, but usually towards the end of a tournament most of the players that are left are the decent ones.
Cheers Mark

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What a great history!!! I am really happy to hear it! By the way, one of the most remarkable moments that I have with my friends is playing some sort of board game. Sadly I live in a small town where poker is not known by much people, although it is changing little by little. Fun is almost always guaranteed when people gather to play and chill together.

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True words. I can attest to that !

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I used to know very little about mixed games but now i love them.

i would recommend watch GJreggie and Mason Pye of the mixed games movement over on Twitch member of team pro pokerstars if you are interested in learning about mixed games.

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You can learn mixed games right here. Their is a league dedicated to that .

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What’s 2 Aces or 2 Kings. Haven’t seen that for a very long time. I usually get A 5 u. Rarely get A with a face/10 card.

Once You Go Mixed, You’re Always Fixed.

No, but seriously I have thought that Mixed Games would be the future of poker for at least ten years now.

The oversaturation of Holdem makes me really want to play any other poker variant. As mentioned in the thread NLH has reached a point where even the nano-stakes players at 2NL sit and study solvers, GTO, and of course, have the latest HUD.

Wouldn’t be surprised if you see some play-money guy (or gal) here at Replay makes a big bluff on the river and when called write in the chat: But I had blockers!!!

I can understand that live casinos may think it’s not worth the trouble to arrange variants that take a long time to deal and set up. The dealers also have to be educated and so on.

But online I think it would be super fun to have a constant rotation of games like not only like 8 max (on Pokerstars) but like 20-30 just to constantly challenge the players.

You could even have an AI come up with new variants in addition to the one people know - like 8 card stud and holdem with 2 draws.

But I guess most people rather do what they know best and are exposed to the most. Even if they totally get destroyed in NLH cash games and NLH MTTs are like a big lottery.

Casino games and lotteries are still popular even if people know that they are -EV.

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Yeah , i have given this some thought in the past , and recently .
i would like to try more variants besides NLH , but there are some problems . It will take a lot of time to study some new formats , and this study will not pay me i fear in the near future , cause i play in the micro stakes , and at these stakes i do not see many games besides NLH , or also PLO

PLO is a game that i used to play for fun when i began playing poker , but i have to admit i wasn’t winning , so i stopped it . i might play once in a while PLO zoom only for fun

i like very much Razz , but i cannot find very cheap cash games or tournaments to play , but i might try once in a while just for fun
stud is interesting , fun , but i am not good at it .

so for the time being i will play only NLH and only for fun Razz or PLO .
but in the future i would like to learn and play more variants like you suggest .

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Hey Antonis, thank you for your reply!! You raised a very important question! I will tell you what I did (and I am still doing) to play more mixed games.

First, you are right, it takes some time not only to learn the theory about the games, but also to practice and play with relative ease, without worries or without thinking too much. But that is the case with Hold’em, PLO and basically everything we try to learn, right? We need to invest some time in order to grasp the basics and become at least an average player.

The joy you have playing Razz will be similar to other Stud games, for example, because the mechanics are basically the same. Enjoying a game is basically 50% of the process, because it will be much easier to find motivation to study, even if it is a little bit everyday. But you can’t avoid the study part, that’s for sure. If you want to become really good at something, you will have to exchange some playing time for some study time. The good news is that this is valid not only for Mixed Games but also for Hold’em and PLO.

My suggestion to start playing some of these games is this: find a homegame in which you can practice with people that play minimally well, it does not matter if they play for real money or for play money, as long as they keep the game serious. That may seem difficult at first, but you can start here at Replay and try to find other communities like Cardschat, for example. Later, you can move on for some cheap micro tournaments.

The only rule is do something you enjoy! Particularly, I love the challenge of learning something new. I wish you great joy in your journey as well!!

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Your remarks remind me of the first time I played Hold’em. I played poker long before Hold’em came along. I was in Las Vegas at Christmas time and played seven card at the IP enough hours to get into a tournament. then I found out the tournament was Texas Hold’em. I had heard of it but had no idea how the game was played. My brother and nephew (who lived in Vegas) tried to explain the game to me but I must have had a mental block. Finally my nephew told me to play only certain hands. That was easy enough for me to remember. I played in the tournament and made the final table. I busted out one from the money. it was the most exciting thing that I had ever done in poker. It was something I will always remember.

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