Introducing Poker`s Eight Game Mix

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The introduction of a mixed poker event called H.O.R.S.E. at the 2002 World Series of Poker (WSOP) was a major breakthrough for players who enjoyed and excelled at a variety of forms of the game. By 2008, the event had become so popular that the WSOP organisers decided to test the limits of diversity with a new World Championship Mixed Event featuring eight different games combined.

In order to succeed, a player would have to master a variety of disciplines, including draw, stud, lowball, split-pot, limit, pot-limit and no-limit games. The rotation contains all five games played in H.O.R.S.E., but surrounds them with three additional poker variations to form the acronym “T.H.O.R.S.E.H.A.” It starts off with a round of “T” standing for “triple” in the lowball game known as 2-7 Triple Draw.

The first “H” in this event comes from “Hold’em,” as in Texas Hold’em. The “O” refers to Omaha Hi-Low Split Eight or Better (aka Omaha 8). The “R” stands for the game of lowball stud known as “Razz” and the “S” is for traditional Seven Card Stud. The letter “E” is for “Eight or Better,” as in Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Eight or Better. Up to this point, all rounds are played as Limit games.

The seventh round involves “H” again for “Hold’em, but this time the version is No-Limit, as played in the WSOP Main Event (NLNE). Lastly comes “A,” which mysteriously refers to a round of Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO). The letter is taken from a specific aspect of the betting, “No Ante.”

Because 2-7 Triple Draw is part of the mix, requiring three draws per hand, the number of players who can be seated at each table is limited to eight. In fact, in some online versions of the mix, the seating is capped at six per table. The game changes every eight hands (or six at a six-player table), always played in the same order.

For the 2008 WSOP, the buy-in level was set at $10,000. The rationale for making the event so pricey was based upon past experience that amateurs wouldn’t challenge pros in multi-game events and pros did not want to spend hours at the tables for a relatively low prize pool.

As a result Event #8 attracted 192 entrants and featured a prize pool of $1.8 million. Surprisingly, the inaugural $483,688 first prize went not to a tournament pro but to cash-game specialist Anthony Rivera of Henderson, Nevada, who outplayed and outlasted seven other Americans at the final table. The highest placed non U.S.-citizen was Norway’s Gus Hansen in tenth.

In 2009, Americans took 28 of the 29 places, but in the end Event #12 belonged to Ville Wahlbeck of Helsinki, Finland. Although the 33-year-old had been a regular on the European Poker Tour, it was his first U.S. tournament victory and the very first WSOP bracelet ever won by a Finnish player.

Then, in 2010, the WSOP decided that the Eight Game Mix was a better test of all-around skill than H.O.R.S.E., so they made it the basis for the inaugural “Poker Players Championship.” with eight games in rotation. The $50,000 event was won by Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, one of the most successful tournament pros at the time. His payday was worth just over $1.5 million.

Of course, shifting the Eight Game Mix to the highest buy-in level precluded participation by most non-professionals. To allow others the opportunity to play in the challenging rotation, a $2,500 version was added to the 2010 WSOP schedule and it was won by Sigurd Eskeland, a former teacher turned pro.

Since then, the WSOP has maintained both Eight Game Mix events as part of its annual program. American Brian Rast won the Poker Players Championship in 2011, and then Mizrachi shocked everyone in 2012 by becoming the first repeat winner in what has been described as “the battle of the greatest poker players in the world.”

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