In our newest strategy feature, PartTimePoker sits down with mixed game specialist Randy Ohel for a regular feature we are calling “Ask Randy,” where readers can ask Ohel their poker world and mixed-game questions. Although Randy focuses on mixed cash games, he is also an accomplished high stakes tournament player with over $2 million in live tournament winnings, which include a WSOP bracelet in the 2012 $2,500 Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw event.
For this first column, Randy, let’s start with your background. How did you start playing, and what lead you to specializing in mixed games? Brag about yourself a bit.
I started playing in high school with friends right around the time of Moneymaker. We played $20 NLH tourneys at different people’s houses with 20-30 people per week. The games actually ended up tougher than you might think. We had 3 professionals including 2 bracelet winners from the group — myself and Steven Wolansky. I played occasionally in a group from a friend’s high school and mine was much tougher (laughs).
At any rate, I did reasonably well and got into the game with books like Super System and stuff like that. I also played No Limit Hold’em tourneys in local casinos and some cash games on the “cruises to nowhere” that used to be prevalent from Florida before all of the laws changed. I also started playing online when I turned 18. In fact, I remember racing home from high school to try to make it into a $20 No Limit Hold’em tourney on EmpirePoker — a skin of Party back in the day — every day in an era, if you can believe it, before late-registration was a thing. For some reason, I pretty quickly became interested in different games, and the second game I learned to play was Omaha/8. I remember that after I learned the rules from a friend I said “so trips in your hand is really bad.” He replied, “well sort of, but if you hit your card you’re golden!” Even at the time, this seemed suspicious.
What do you think is the best mixed game to learn first for players who might only be familiar with NLHE and PLO?
Best game to learn for Hold’em and Omaha players is probably 2-7 triple draw. They will be familiar with the betting streets that they are accustomed to in 1-winner games. It’s also a game that’s relatively easy to become not-awful at. It’s a foundational game for mixed games, so anyone who wants to branch out is gonna need to learn the game at some point.
Which mixed game(s) do you think players on average play the worst?
I think the game that people play the worst is Badugi. It is one of my best and favorite games, and I’ve found a STRONG correlation between people who think Badugi is stupid and people who are bad at the game. They just have no idea why they keep losing at it. For a while, this was true of me as well, but I’ve really strengthened at the game in the last few years.
In general, do you think your edge in mix games is bigger in one-winner games or split-pot games? Why?
In general, I think my edge is bigger in one-winner games, although there are some on both sides that break the trend. I just think that because of the nature of the games there is more of an edge available, from both a per-hand and per-hour perspective. The pots are bigger, go to one person, and in general, are a lot faster.
Are there any kinds of mix games you won’t play in?
The only kinds of mix games I won’t play in are those whose stakes are too big or too small. To regularly play at the limits I play — 200-400 with occasional 80-160 — you just have to be willing to play every game with everybody. I like to say that I practice stake selection rather than game selection.
What’s your favorite poker room and why?
My favorite poker room has to be my home casino, The Bellagio. The staff, at least the ones I deal with on a regular basis, is super-friendly and helpful. The food options are great — although less great than Aria — and it’s known as the place to play mixed games in Vegas. So we get all of the walk-in traffic and stuff like that.
Have a question for Randy?
That’s it for this week’s edition of “Ask Randy.” Stay tuned to PartTimePoker for more insight and advice from Randy Ohel on the world of poker and how to improve your mixed game skills.
If you’re interested in coaching, the best way to reach Randy is via Twitter at @RandyOhel.
Want to ask Randy a question for his next column? Submit them on Twitter to @PartTimePoker.