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Mixed Game Festival Returns to Resorts World

Jonathan
08 Feb 2024
Jonathan Raab 08 Feb 2024
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  • Mixed Games Festival VII takes place this February at Resorts World, Las Vegas
  • Cardplayer Lifestyle's Robbie Strazynski talks to PokerWired about the upcoming festival
  • NAPT Package for main event winner
  • Women's Wednesday with instruction and beginners game session included in festival schedule
Mixed Game Festival
Images Courtesy of CardPlayer Lifestyle
Resorts World Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is set to host the seventh edition of the Mixed Game Festival, a five-day event from February 25th to 29th. 

The Mixed Game Festival, organised by Cardplayer Lifestyle, features two key tournaments: a $300 Omaha 8/Stud 8 on February 26th and a $300 H.E.R.O.S. tournament on February 29th, which will serve as the festival's main event. In addition to these tournaments, the festival will offer non-stop dealer’s choice cash games, catering to players of all levels, with stakes starting at $4/8 and $8/16. Higher games will also be accommodated upon request.

Adding extra value to this year's festival, an NAPT (North American Poker Tour) prize package, provided by event sponsor PokerStars, will be awarded to the winner of the H.E.R.O.S. tournament. This package, worth over $3,000, includes a flight to an NAPT stop, a $550 buy-in for a non-Hold’em tournament, and a four-night stay at the hosting venue.
Mixed Game Festival VII
This is not the first time that the European Poker Tour operator PokerStars has added value to the Mixed Game Festival. The very first Mixed Game Festival, which was held at the Westgate Casino was in October 2021 and featured a very special prize, a package valued at $30,000, being a Platinum Pass into the PokerStars Players Championship. This was awarded to the winner of the H.O.R.S.E. tournament and the victor was none other than Greg Raymer, the 2004 WSOP Main Event Champion. Raymer, who was himself once sponsored by PokerStars as a member of Team Pro, is a big fan of mixed games and has continued to attend further editions of the festival since.

The festival is not just about the competing at the tables, there are also social and educational elements. These include a Pizza Party to kick off the festivities, a Poker Trivia competition with significant prizes, and a special program in collaboration with the Ladies International Poker Series (LIPS), aimed at introducing more women to mixed games

PokerWired talked to Cardplayer Lifestyle Founder Robbie Strazynski to find out more about the festival, its history and what to expect at this edition.
The Mixed Game Festival is now approaching its 7th iteration. What was your motivation for starting it in the first place?

Strazynski: I suppose it was personal. I really just wanted to be able to play more mixed game poker and have "an excuse" to be in Las Vegas more. After a lot of thinking, I realized there was a decent chance I could succeed at gathering together like-minded folks to play low-stakes mixed games in Las Vegas, if I could manage to put together something that would draw that crowd in, namely a festival with a number of proper "festive" elements to it. I'm grateful that a number of wonderful sponsors  opted to step up and support my vision pretty much since Day 1. So the first one, in October 2021, was an experiment. Thankfully that experiment worked out and here were are, moving on to Mixed Game Festival VII.
Are you predominantly a mixed game player?

Strazynski: Yes. I've been playing in the same low-stakes home game with my Dad and good friends for about 20 years now, and it has always been a mixed game affair. We don't have poker rooms or casinos in Israel, where I live, so that's really my only regular poker outlet. Thankfully, I've been a winning player overall, but it has always been the game's social camaraderie that has brought me the most joy. We've probably got 50+ variants that we play; a different game each and every hand, which really keeps you on your toes!
8 year-old Robbie playing poker at home
8 year-old Robbie playing poker at home
What’s your poker story, when and how did you first discover the game of poker?

Strazynski: My Dad introduced me to poker when I was eight years old and I instantly fell in love with the game. I learned 5-card draw, 7-card stud and Stud hi/low. We used to live in Los Angeles and Dad played in his old home game once or twice a month, with my uncle and their friends. I'd always try to find some excuse to pay them a visit, bring them some drinks, etc -- and hang around for a couple minutes here and there, watching them play. I used to play $0.25/hand 5-card draw with my friends in high school, but only really had the opportunity to start playing proper around age 21, when the home games began here in Israel.
What are your greatest achievements in the game to date, both as a player and someone working in the industry?

Strazynski: As a player, I suppose I'm quite proud of consistently being a winning cash game player pretty much since I started playing two decades ago. I've always had a bankroll, rather than a "budget" and while it's not too huge (I play low-stakes, after all), I have on many occasions been able to use some of those winnings to treat myself, my wife, and my kids to special gifts and experiences.

I've been fortunate to have been staked to play in the $80/$160 mix at Resorts World half a dozen times. My "record" there is 1 win, 2 breakevens, and 3 losses over 6 sessions, which isn't too impressive, even though it's a tiny sample size. Even so, considering the incredibly tough competition in that game, I'm quite proud to know "I'm skilled enough to hang tough with those guys in there".

Working in the industry, there are a ton of professional highlights I could point to. Translating Eli Elezra's autobiography from Hebrew to English and winning a Global Poker Award for Charitable initiative of the Year stand out as "big things". I've also worked on the PokerGO player bios team for three summers during the WSOP Main Event, and hosted various poker podcasts for about a decade. But I suppose my greatest achievement would be the ability to leave my job back in 2017 to pursue poker media work full-time with Cardplayer Lifestyle. My site started out as a "nights and weekends" side project back in late 2009. Eventually, the site generated enough revenue that I felt able to "make the leap" and I've never looked back. Getting to do something I love, be my own boss, and make a living to support my family is probably what I'm most proud of.
Do you think there are enough mixed game tournaments scheduled at regular poker festivals?

Strazynski: In a way, it's a chicken and egg problem. Series run NLHE and PLO tournaments because "that's what people know", but if you run more mixed game tournaments, that'll (slowly) grow the population of mixed game players. Mixed games are also more labor intensive, with fewer hands dealt per hour, which makes an impact on the room's bottom line; that can't be ignored. In my perfect poker world, I wouldn't "need to run" Mixed Game Festivals because you'd be able to find mixed games available all the time, everywhere, as part of every tournament series, too. We're obviously nowhere near there, but that's my overarching goal. Rome wasn't built in a day :-) With all of that said, I feel it important to note that NLHE is becoming increasingly solved and more cutthroat. With one's entire stack always at risk, newer, lesser skilled players simply have the deck stacked against them. Mixed games, overwhelmingly being fixed limit affairs, offer far more play, and far more opportunities for newer players to make mistakes (and learn from them) without getting felted. I believe as more players eventually realize this, we'll see a steady flow of players into mixed games and demand for them increase.
Mixed games are more often staged as cash games than tournaments. With only two tournaments scheduled during the festival, is it really more of a cash game festival?

Strazynski: It's a hybrid, by design. To me, a "festival" implies lots of festive activities. That means tournaments, cash games, pizza parties, trivia competitions, merchandise giveaways, last-longer contests, and more. We typically get between 50-90 players showing up per tournament and anywhere from 1-6 dealer's choice cash game tables running simultaneously throughout the festival. We keep the tournament buy-ins and cash game stakes low so that the games are as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to give them a try. That's essential in getting otherwise apprehensive NLHE players to dip their toes in the mixed game waters. Different strokes for different folks, and we're aiming to cater to lovers of all games, variants, and offerings.
You’ve almost always had extra value provided by sponsors at Mixed Game Festivals. What additional prizes did you have for previous editions and how important to you is this aspect of the festival?

Strazynski: We lucked out with the first one, having a Platinum Pass to the PSPC to give away, plus the winner ended up being Greg Raymer; it was a promoter's dream come true, and I believe that helped ensure we'd be successful in staging future Mixed Game Festivals. For our last festival in November, the World Poker Tour was our primary sponsor and offered a WPT Voyage prize package. PokerStars has offered EPT Cyprus and EPT Prague packages in the past, and this time it's an NAPT prize package. Again, this goes back to making things "festive". The core "offering" is always going to be the poker play, but the added "bells and whistles" -- at least in my view -- are excellent incentives for players to come out and have a great overall experience. For a low-stakes mixed game player to have a shot at winning a prize package worth a few thousand dollars is pretty sweet. Plus, frankly speaking, all those extra "bells and whistles" make a poker festival that much more interesting and easy to market and promote as unique versus the traditional tournament series that make up 99% of the annual poker calendar.

The festival is a low buy-in event, but it is supported by a lot of players who usually play much bigger. Who are you expecting to come and play this time?

The festival is a low buy-in affair, but it is supported by a lot of players who usually play much bigger. Who are you expecting to come and play this time?

Strazynski: I'm grateful to have gotten confirmations from Justin Saliba, Andrew Yeh, Nathan Gamble, Lupe Soto, Kevin Gerhart, Eli Elezra, Jan Fisher, Scott Abrams, and Linda Johnson. More recreational and home game players could never dream of playing for high stakes with poker talents like the aforementioned, who they see on TV and posing for winner's photos. Getting to splash around in the $4/8 streets with those folks is a genuine thrill for all our players, and for ME!
What’s the difference between H.O.R.S.E and the format that will be this year’s main event - H.E.R.O.S.?

Strazynski: Nothing other than the order the games are being played in. There's a shift in this direction, as it eliminated the potential confusion (and likelihood of players making mistakes) by not featuring Stud immediately followed by Stud 8.
Resorts World Poker Room
I’ve heard good things about the chairs in the poker room at Resorts World. What are they like and do they live up to the hype?

Strazynski: Players regularly record cash game sessions in excess of 10-12 hours at our events. I'm positive that the ultra-comfy chairs have at least a little to do with it! :-) In all seriousness, I've visited dozens of poker rooms all over the world and the chairs at Resorts World easily make it into the top 3 of my list.
The Mixed Game Festival seems to be about more than just poker. The pizza party seems to be a tradition, but the other off-the felt activities have varied over the years, including book signings and other activities. At the next festival there is a focus on women’s poker. What does that entail and what players can expect from it?

Strazynski: Our Women's Wednesday initiative came about as a result of a partnership between Cardplayer Lifestyle and LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Poker Hall of Famer Linda Johnson and Women in Poker Hall of Famer Jan Fisher will kindly be giving their time to give basic instruction on Razz and Omaha 8 or Better. Players (both women and men are welcome to attend) will gather at 10am on February 28th for one hour of instruction, to be followed by an hour of free practice games, dealt by Jan and Linda, to get familiar with game mechanics. At noon, $1/$2 fixed limit beginner's games with a max buy-in of $30 will begin alongside our regular $4/8 dealer's choice cash games. Pre-registration is kindly requested via this link, so that we have an idea of how many players to expect.
Do you have any plans for another international edition of the festival and where would your dream overseas location be for it?

Strazynski: I'm admittedly partial to Las Vegas and Resorts World is, in my opinion, the best room in the city for mixed game play. So in a sense, we're already "living the dream". There are plenty of reasons why this will be our fifth time staging a Mixed Game Festival there. :-) But yes, I do sincerely want to grow the festival to other US and international destinations. I don't know if the "playing with poker celebs" aspect is really possible to replicate outside of Las Vegas, but we could certainly line up all the other elements that make our Mixed Game Festivals what they are. I feel like somewhere in South Florida could be a pretty natural destination -- but it's also a matter of me making the right connections there to ensure the room offers the caliber of experience players have become accustomed to, and to ensure that enough players in the region will come out to support the endeavor. Outside of the US, I've had my eye on Dusk Till Dawn in the UK for a while now, and I've been meaning to enter into discussions with Rob Yong about this. He's always been kind and supportive of the work I do in the poker industry, so perhaps it's time for me to be more active and try to get this idea fast tracked towards execution.
Thank you Robbie for taking the time to talk to PokerWired, best of luck with the event and do stop back to tell us how it all went down after the dust settles on the Mixed Game Festival VII.

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