Book Review: A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games By Ken Lo
Poker writer Ken Lo’s work has appeared in PokerNews.com, and he runs his personal website, MixedGames.net. But his lasting contribution to the game of poker (at least up to this point) is the 691 page treatise on mixed game poker strategies he penned back in 2014: A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games: Core Strategies for HORSE, Eight-Game, Ten-Game and Twelve-Game Mixes.
At nearly 700 pages, A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games is a big book, but when you’re discussing the mechanics and strategies of 12 different poker games you sort of need a lot of pages.
I recently read Lo’s book. Here are my thoughts.
The three basic questions
The first question I usually ask when I pick up a poker book (particularly a strategy primer) is this: Is there a need for this book, or does it fill a void in the current poker literature? In the case of A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games the answer is a resounding yes. There is very little printed information available on most of the games Lo covers.
For that reason alone, Lo’s book is a good addition to any poker library.
The second question I ask is usually answered by the time I’m a couple dozen pages into the book: Is this book well written?
The answer to that question is yes. Lo’s a good writer, and the book has a good flow to it which makes it easy to read – despite its breadth.
The final question is perhaps the most important: Is the content of the book any good?
Once again, the answer to that question is yes. I would contest a couple of his assertions (mostly in the Omaha 8 or better section), but that’s not uncommon.
I’d also rate the strategic information provided as basic, but when you’re dealing with mostly offshoot poker games that most people have never heard of, let alone played, that’s not the worst thing in the world, and because of the way Lo breaks the book up, it’s easy to skip over the parts you already know about, like posting blinds, antes and bring-ins, and so on.
What you’ll find within its pages
The book is broken up into three main section, Draw Games, HORSE Games, and Other Games.
The games covered in the Draw section are:
- 2-7 Triple Draw
- 2-7 Single Draw
The games covered in the HORSE section are:
- Limit Holdem
- Omaha hi/lo
- Seven Card Stud
- Seven Card Stud hi/lo
The games covered in the Other section are:
- Crazy Pineapple hi/lo
- Pot Limit Omaha
In addition to the main sections there are also sections titled, Tournament Considerations, Concluding Remarks, as well as several appendices.
As noted above, the book is laid out extremely well and is easy to skip around in, with sections broken up into general game play, basic strategies, and street-by-street strategic considerations.
There are plenty of charts, data, and graphs, and handy highlighted sections in between the main text that explain different terms being used, when and why to diverge from the basic strategy, and something Lo calls “fish finder,” which is more or less careless or basic mistakes to keep an eye out for that will help you identify someone unfamiliar with a particular game.
Who should read it
The book is described as providing “core strategies” for these games, and that’s pretty much what you get. You get the basic mechanics of each game, some basic strategies, and, most importantly, some solid data and probability charts for these games.
If you’re not familiar with these games, or if you’re just learning some of these games, then Lo’s book is an excellent primer, as it lays out all of the important points, with a focus on starting hand selection – which is of the utmost importance when you don’t have a lot of experience with a certain game – which he breaks up into different tiers, rather than static rankings.
If you’re familiar with these games the book will be of little use to you, although even experienced players would benefit from having its probability charts as a reference manual – such as your chances of improving if you break a hand in 2-7, or your chances of making a Badugi based on your starting cards.
My one criticism
It seems that Lo began writing A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games as a treatise on the popular HORSE and 8- and 10-game mixed games that have become increasingly popular over the past decade. But by using HORSE as a foundation, Lo covered multiple games that didn’t need to be covered in my opinion.
I would have rather seen him mention games like Holdem and PLO, and maybe even Omaha 8 and Seven Card Stud in passing, rather than devoting sections to them. These games are fairly well-known and have been written about extensively, so there is little he could add to the conversation that can’t be found in another book or even in articles online.
This is a good book, and one I will likely go back to from time to time as a quick reference guide.
If you’re interested in branching out from Holdem A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games will certainly help you get started on the journey.