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Westgate event celebrates poker beyond No-limit Hold’em

Robbie Strazynski learned poker at a kitchen table with his dad and grandpa, playing all kinds of games.

Years later, he came to Las Vegas and found a sea of tables but mostly only one game available — No-limit Hold’em, the format made popular by the World Series of Poker on ESPN.

“I’m like, ‘Where are the mixed games?’” Strazynski said.

Years later, he found his solution: Do it yourself.

Strazynski is hosting the Mixed Game Festival, a celebration of all the poker variants besides No-limit Hold’em, through Thursday at the Westgate poker room. The festival culminates with a $200 buy-in HORSE tournament at noon Thursday that includes a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship next year worth $30,000.

(HORSE is a rotation of five poker games — Limit Hold’em, Omaha High-Low, Razz, Seven-card Stud and Seven-card Stud High-Low.)

Mixed games can be found in Las Vegas, but usually only at high stakes unattainable for most recreational poker players.

Four-time WSOP event winner Eli Elezra has played mixed games in Las Vegas since 1987 and was at the Westgate on Tuesday to support Strazynski, a fellow Israeli who did the English translation of Elezra’s autobiography.

Elezra said mixed games offer the antidote to No-limit Hold’em games filled with silent professionals wearing sunglasses and listening to their headphones.

“Mixed games are fun people,” Elezra said. “We’re sitting around, we’re laughing together, we’re talking.”

Elezra and WSOP announcer Norman Chad joined the low-stakes fun in the $4-$8 cash games at the Westgate, where players took turns choosing what game to play, switching every eight hands.

“You could win dozens of dollars!” Strazynski said with a laugh.

He said he played for 16 hours Monday and broke even, never being up or down more than $100. Two tables ran into the early morning hours Tuesday, and they were back at it Tuesday afternoon.

The Mixed Game Festival has been two years in the making for Strazynski, founder of the website CardplayerLifestyle.com (unaffiliated with Card Player Magazine based in Las Vegas). The event was originally planned for July 2020 but was upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Strazynski, a relentlessly positive poker booster on social media, teared up while thinking about finally getting a chance to bring his home-game atmosphere to Las Vegas.

“I live and breathe this game,” he said. “I’m not a professional, but I’ve found a way to make this my life.”

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twittter.

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