Taking a break without taking a break
Not long ago I won a couple of small mixed game tournaments. One came at a PokerStars series in Australia where I won a mixed games side event, and soon after I won another tournament in the Philippines that combined pot-limit Omaha/pot-limit hold'em.
The tournament in Australia was at ANZPT Melbourne in August, a 7-game event. Then just a couple of weeks later in September came the PLHE/PLO event in the APT Asian Series in Manila. It was certainly satisfying to win those events, but a lot of fun as well just to play something other than no-limit hold'em.
I've come around to believe it is important for a lot of reasons for NLHE players to try out other games, if only to stimulate your brain a little by the effort of learning a new game and broaden your knowledge of various aspects of poker, generally speaking.
I've been playing mixed games for about two-and-a-half years now. I think it started when I was getting frustrated with a NLHE session one day. I knew a little about PLO and started playing that, then moved over to the 8-game mix on Stars. A couple of months in I took a liking to 2-7 triple draw and started playing that more, then moved on to razz. Now I'm routinely adding in sessions of mixed games anytime I get a little bored with NLHE, which can happen when you play a lot.
It becomes a nice way to take a "break" (in a way) while still playing poker. Instead of just turning off my brain entirely with other computer games or watching TV, I'm still thinking about poker although in a different way. Then when I go back to NLHE I always feel fresh and my passion for playing has returned.
Before I got into mixed games, when I needed a break from NLHE I would sometimes binge watch an entire TV series or do something similar. The next thing I'd know it would be three days later and I hadn't played poker at all, which made it kind of challenging to get back into playing again afterwards. But by filling that "down time" with non-NLHE games, I don't entirely escape thinking about poker while also sticking to my schedule more faithfully.
During the WSOP last summer, I didn't play too many side events although I made it a point to play the mixed game tournaments. Even though I didn't do too well in them, I got a lot out of the experience and I think those events have a lot of value because a lot of amateurs play them without really knowing how to play all of the games.
It benefits you to learn other games, too, because you never know when you might find yourself being invited to play a really good razz game or really good triple draw game. If you aren't already versed in those variants, you won't be able to take advantage.
I remember once I was in the Philippines and there were all of these huge Badugi games with high stakes -- no-fold, pot-limit, triple draw Badugi games. When I looked at those games I wished I'd learned how to play Badugi a lot earlier, because they provided such a good opportunity! I wasn't really ready to play in them then, and so didn't jump in. But that's an obvious benefit from learning all the games, being able to take advantage when those games come around.
PokerStars has such a wide selection of games, and even though I haven't really gotten into the newer ones like 5-card PLO there is still a huge variety to choose from for those looking for something different. I definitely recommend to those who play heavy schedules full of NLHE to take these "breaks" with other games, as they can do a lot to keep you excited and interested in playing while also helping you learn more as you go.
Bryan Huang is a member of Team PokerStars Pro