Over the past month, I’ve had the pleasure of writing up several guides to the Las Vegas poker room scene and its diverse offerings.
Las Vegas locals and tourists alike enjoy Omaha, the four-card offshoot to holdem. It creates additional action in both the Pot Limit (PLO) and Hi-Lo Eight or Better (8orB) formats.
You’ll also find plenty of Seven Card Stud tables up and running in Las Vegas, especially in the summer season when tournament series like World Series of Poker (WSOP) are in full swing.
But if you follow the poker game world closely in any way, either through high stakes cash games live streamed on Twitch or major tournament series like the WSOP or World Poker Tour, you’ve probably heard much to do about “mixed games.”
How to Play Mixed Game Poker Such as H.O.R.S.E.
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In the poker community, the term mixed game describes any table where players alternate between a revolving list of variants. The most popular mixed game format is known as H.O.R.S.E., which is simply an abbreviation for the five games spread.
Variants Spread in H.O.R.S.E. Mixed Game
- Limit Texas HHoldem
- Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better
- Seven-Card Stud
- Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better
Obviously, switching back and forth from wildly different variants like Limit Texas holdem and Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better challenges mixed game players to develop their all-around poker skills.
Excelling in a mixed game like H.O.R.S.E. requires an astute poker mind, one capable of shifting gears completely from one hand to the next.
In a traditional mixed game, a new variant is used every orbit, after the dealer button has completed a full revolution around the table. Thus, you’d be playing the same game for eight or nine hands before switching to the next. Other mixed game formats use the “Dealer’s Choice” option, so whomever holds the dealer button gets to choose their preferred variant from among the mix.
Five-game mixes like H.O.R.S.E. are just the half of it, too… Depending on the venue and the players taking part, high stakes “home” games hosted by the best Las Vegas poker rooms cater to professionals who like to expand the mix in any number of ways.
It utilizes the following variants in its regular eight-game mix:
- Limit holdem
- No Limit holdem
- Pot Limit Omaha
- Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better
- Seven Card Stud
- Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better
- Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw
At any juncture, a mix like this can be further enlarged by adding even more obscure variants favored by the pros. No Limit 2-7 Lowball Single Draw, Badugi, Badacy, Big O (Pot Limit Omaha played with five hole cards), and even the original poker game, No Limit Five Card Draw can be swapped in to further enhance the action.
I mean, seriously, just get a load of this list of games eligible to be called in the WSOP’s 2019 annual $1,500 “Dealer’s Choice” mixed game tournament:
- Limit holdem
- No limit holdem
- Pot limit holdem
- Pot limit Omaha
- Pot limit Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better
- Big O
- Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better
- Seven Card Stud
- Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better
- Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Regular
- Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw
- Pot limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw
- A-5 Lowball Triple Draw
- No limit 2-7 Lowball Draw
- No limit Five Card Draw High
You read that list correctly… Mixed games these days can grow to include 20 or more variants played at a single table.
All told, mixed games have emerged as a vital component of any thriving poker ecosystem, and Las Vegas is no exception. To cap off my running series on the best places in town to play non-Texas holdem poker, check out the list below for the five best Las Vegas poker rooms where mixed games are on the menu.
1 – Bellagio Hotel and Casino
I mentioned the Bellagio Hotel and Casino card room earlier, and for good reason. This 37-table monument to poker has served as Las Vegas focal point for flops and flushes for more than two decades and counting.
The secluded Bobby’s Room area, named after Las Vegas poker legend Bobby Baldwin, has been the home office of Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson and Daniel “Kid Poker” Negreanu since well before the poker boom.
That means six-figure pots are dragged like clockwork, while millions of dollars can be won or lost in a single night’s session.
Thankfully, mixed game players visiting Las Vegas don’t have to bring a bankroll nearly that high, as the Bellagio poker room regularly hosts a $25/$50 blinds mixed game. The $25/$50 limit game at Bellagio requires a $5,000 minimum buy-in to secure a seat, with no maximum cap on your starting stack.
[A quick disclaimer– I know the vast majority of poker players reading this page don’t play limits this high. But this page is about the best places in Las Vegas to play mixed games, and the Bellagio takes the cake when high-rollers are concerned. The following four entries, however, are reserved for smaller stakes tables where recreational players can feel comfortable giving mixed games a shot.]
At the $25/$50 stakes, which are often supplemented by a $100 ante paid by the big blind, the Bellagio’s beginning level mixed game charges a $9 time rake every half hour. Fortunately, that house surcharge is offset somewhat by $2 in comp rewards credited to your Player’s Club card every 60 minutes.
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The stakes only escalate from there, so check out the Bellagio cash game listing on PokerAtlas to learn more about the $40/$80, $50/$100, $60/$120, $80/$160, $100/$200, $150/$300, $300/$600, $400/$800, and $600/$1,200 mixed games running around the clock.
2 – Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
And now, for something completely different…
Whereas the Bellagio specializes in serving the top of poker’s economic pyramid, the 16-table poker room at Caesars Palace tilts toward the other side of the spectrum.
Here you’ll find a weekly mixed game using limits of only $6/$12, which runs every Tuesday evening. These stakes are the lowest for a standard mixed game in all of Las Vegas, providing the perfect opportunity for recreational players to get their feet wet at an affordable price point.
You only need $100 to grab a seat in the $6/$12 mix at Caesars Palace, but there’s no maximum buy-in to worry about either.
The game plays nine-handed and uses $3/$6 blinds, with a $6 small bet and a $12 big bet.
The house rakes 10% of the pot up to $5, but they won’t take an additional drop for the bad beat jackpot unless a flop is dealt. As for player comps, expect to see $2 per hour added to your Total Rewards account as you enjoy the session.
3 – The Mirage
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The Mirage poker room has definitely seen better days. But with 12 tables and a dedicated staff of floormen and dealers, the Mirage is still a hotspot for mixed game enthusiasts who enjoy the Dealer’s Choice style of play.
The mixed game here is a $3/$6 limit affair that typically takes place in the evenings. If a table isn’t running at the moment, feel free to ask the board to start a list for $3/$6 Dealer’s Choice, and a game will usually get started sooner rather than later.
You’ll be paying ultra-low blinds of just $1/$3, before betting ramps up to the $3/$6 limit.
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The house rakes 10% up to $4 on each hand, and the “no flop/no drop” rule is in effect for jackpot promotions. And as is par for the course along the Strip, the comp rate holds steady at $2 per hour.
The Mirage is known as the place to be for poker playing locals who like to have a good time. Folks who arrive with a group can always ask to get their own $3/$6 Dealer’s Choice mixed game started up, before enjoying action that feels more like a home game than any other Las Vegas casino.
4 – Aria Resort and Casino
Before stepping up to the big leagues at Bellagio, mixed game players on the rise tend to spend an extended apprenticeship honing their skills at the poker room inside the Aria Resort & Casino.
The standard $9/$18 limit mixed game at the Aria uses $3/$9 blinds, along with an ante in Stud-base games, and it plays out eight-handed.
Buy-ins begin at $90 with no cap, the house rakes 10% up to $5 on each hand, and you’ll earn $2 in comp rewards for every hour of play during regular hours. As a bonus, however, look for an increased comp rate of $3 an hour when grinding the graveyard shift between 5:00 AM and 10:00 AM.
The Aria poker room also boasts its own secluded high-stakes area where characters like Jean Robert-Bellande of “Broke Living” fame and original high-stakes wizard Daniel “Jungleman” Cates hold court every evening.
5 – Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino
For most of the year, the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino runs a quiet little poker room with only a handful of small stakes No Limit holdem games running here and there.
But between late May and mid-July, the annual WSOP arrives at the Rio’s cavernous convention halls to host poker’s most prestigious tournament series. The 50th annual WSOP this summer spanned six weeks and more than 100 unique gold bracelet events.
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As for this year’s historic anniversary edition, the WSOP held a $1,500 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. tournament which attracted 751 entries and paid out $207,003 to the eventual champion. That was the lowest stakes H.O.R.S.E. event on the schedule, followed by a $3,000 buy-in mid-tier alternative, and the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship.
Other mixed games of note at the WSOP include the $1,500 and $10,000 buy-in versions of Dealer’s Choice, a variety of limited mixes like No Limit Texas holdem + Pot Limit Omaha, and of course, the $50,000 buy-in Poker Player’s Championship.
Why So Many Players Are Falling in Love With Mixed Games
As you might suspect, the unpredictable dynamics created by a volatile mix of poker variants can be quite intriguing to top players and recreational poker fans alike. Live streamed cash game coverage like PokerGO’s “Poker After Dark” have increasingly turned towards big mixed games to attract the world’s best pros and high-rolling businessmen to the fray.
Mixed games make for a great poker experience for players and fans for one simple reason— variety. Anyone who has grinded a $1/$2 No Limit holdem cash game at their local card room knows how the classic format can often devolve into a folding marathon.
With so many inferior starting hands in the deck, and “all-in” shoves capable of ending the hand before anyone even sees the flop, Texas holdem tables can easily go several orbits before anything exciting really goes down.
In a mixed game, the combination of constantly changing variants and limit betting structures invite action on almost every hand. When all it takes is a single small bet to see your next card in a game like Seven-Card Stud, building big pots is a matter of course rather than a rarity.
Mixed games give poker’s elite talent a venue to strut their stuff. If you thought getting good at No Limit Texas holdem was difficult, imagine learning the rules and optimal strategies for the laundry list of variants discussed earlier. In a stacked mixed game, pros can test their mettle across the full spectrum of poker skill, thereby determining the best all-around card player.
As the entry-level variant of Texas holdem becomes increasingly “solved,” thanks to computer algorithms and game theory optimal (GTO) strategies, players looking for a challenge will increasingly gravitate towards mixed poker games. Las Vegas is still the world’s undisputed capital of poker rooms, so it’s no surprise to see top-tier venues like those listed above including mixed game offerings on their menu.