Strazynski and von Zweigbergk Showing Love to Poker’s Elephant Men

  • Mixed game players are all about enjoying variety and fun in poker
  • Robbie Strazynski and Cardplayer Lifestyle will host the Mixed Game Festival next week
  • Martin von Zweigbergk has organized The Festival Series in Malta in May
  • Both men believe mixed game players are unique characters in the poker world
The Elephant Man
Robbie Strazynski and Martin “Franke” von Zweigbergk have put together excellent poker festivals for players who love mixed games. [Image: YouTube / Movieclips]

Elephant men

High stakes poker gets love and rightly so. Those players put a lot on the line. Whether it is their own money or their backer’s, vast sums are passed back and forth, a money dance on the upper tier of the great poker pyramid.

Mid-stakes tournament players get love and rightly so. They battle it out on the “felt of dreams,” where great multiples of the buy-in can be won. The amateurs and professionals, the recs and regs, the enthusiasts and the battle-hardened are all swimming in a sea of variance, their edge unrealizable but their optimism intact. 

The TV cash game players get love and rightly so. They straddle. They play Seven-Deuce. They splash the pots. They make high wire bluffs and calls that are scrutinized endlessly by the “chat pros.” They risk more than just their money. They risk their reputations as their characters under pressure are laid bare. 

they are poker’s innovators, inventing new games for a sparse audience

But what about the mixed game players? They sit in the dark corner of the casino or perhaps, if they are lucky, tucked away in a private room. Out of sight, out of mind, they are poker’s innovators, inventing new games for a sparse audience. Poker’s all-rounders, they have sacrificed specialization for the wonder of variety. Poker’s elephant men, they are the loveless. Until now. 

A five-day feast of miscellany

From March 19-23, Cardplayer Lifestyle and their affable leader Robbie Strazynski will be hosting the fourth edition of the Mixed Game Festival, a five-day feast of miscellany at Resorts World Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. PokerStars sponsors the festival and they have added a €3,000 ($3,204) EPT Prague Mixed Game package to be awarded to winner of the H.O.R.S.E. tournament. 

The cash game action will be non-stop throughout the festival at stakes as low as $4/$8 with higher stakes available upon request. At previous Mixed Game Festivals, there was just one tournament to accompany the plethora of mixed game cash tables. This time, there will be two: a $260 Omaha 8/Stud 8 tournament on Monday, March 20 whetting the whistle for the $260 H.O.R.S.E. Main Event on Thursday, March 23.

Beyond the EPT Prague prize package, the Mixed Game Festival has organized a trio of book signings to enhance the party atmosphere. On Tuesday, March 21, WSOP bracelet winner Dylan Linde will be signing copies of his book, Mastering Mixed Games. Then, on Wednesday, March 22, WSOP bracelet winner Chris Wallace will be signing copies of his book, Getting Started With HORSE. Meanwhile, Poker Hall of Famer Eli Elezra will be on hand to sign copies of his autobiography, Pulling the Trigger for a discounted price of $10.

Director of partnerships & PR at PokerStars Rebecca McAdam was emphatic about the importance of events such as this. “It provides players who love to dabble in a variety of games a home-game type atmosphere and environment, but of course with some serious competition,” she said. “We are very happy to be a part of it by giving the community something that continues the journey onwards after the Vegas shenanigans!”

On the other side of the pond

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, The Festival Series and its good-humored leader Martin “Franke” von Zweigbergk are building up to their second event of the year in Malta. Satellites on Unibet Poker are already underway and pumping out €1,600 ($1,709) packages for a trip to the sunny archipelago from May 15-22. 

PLO, Sviten Special, and Chinese Poker tournaments peppered in

The Festival Series had a hugely successful stop in Nottingham’s Dusk Till Dawn in February. Ignacio Menedez took home first prize money of £38,595 ($41,214) in that one after a heads-up deal with Sean O’Donnell in the 609 runner £450 ($481) No-Limit Hold’em Main Event. However, a key feature of The Festival Series is the mix of formats with PLO, Sviten Special, and Chinese Poker tournaments peppered in. There is also some crossover with the other casino game tournaments: roulette, blackjack, slots, and even sports betting.   

Head of poker for Unibet Kris Bergvall highlighted the player-centric aspect of The Festival Series:

“Malta is one of Europe’s great poker destinations and Unibet Poker is delighted to be creating pathways for our players to go there to play a festival with a diversity of formats that prides itself on player experience.”

Strazynski and von Zweigbergk Q & A

VegasSlotsOnline News reached out to both Strazynski and von Zweigbergk to ask them a couple of questions about their respective events. 

VSO: These types of festivals are important in and of themselves, but what kind of turnout would you say is a success? 

Strazynski: So ours is a hybrid festival, incorporating both cash games and tournaments. I’m hoping to have at least 50 players show up for our Omaha8/Stud8 tournament, which I’d personally consider a decent turnout for a “random Monday in March.” I’d like to believe we’ll hopefully get double that for our Thursday HORSE tournament, which carries with it the added EPT Prague Prize Package for the winner. 

For the cash games on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I’d love if we could get three low-stakes dealer’s choice tables running simultaneously throughout.

we are still the new kid on the block

von Zweigbergk: Success is always when friends and players are happy with the events and tournaments that we host. In numbers terms, an increase in total entries versus the same tournament in the previous event means we are making progress and spreading the word. 

The Festival Series is not even two years old, so we are still the new kid on the block. Nonetheless, In absolute numbers, I would like to quote my hero Dr. Evil: “One million dollars!”

VSO: What’s your elevator pitch to players who play Hold’em and not much else to give the other games a try?  

Strazynski: While “Hold’em” and “poker” might appear to be synonymous terms, poker encompasses dozens of variants and I’d argue strongly that you’re not a “complete” poker player until you have achieved proficiency at the full gamut of draw, flop, and stud games. 

What I tend to love about the mix, beyond the games themselves, is that most games are played fixed limit, which means that it won’t “cost you your bankroll” while you learn each game. You can sit on the same $200 for hours at a $4/$8 game, having an absolute blast with the other players, while learning all the games, and never have to worry that your money will be gone in an instant. 

I can’t go back to Hold’em; it’s too boring!”

If that’s not enough to persuade you, I’d say that changing the game every orbit keeps the mind fresh and active. So many folks who have tried mixed games for the first time at our Mixed Game Festival have told me “I can’t go back to Hold’em; it’s too boring!

von ZweigbergkDo you like whining when your AA doesn’t hold up? I can guarantee that when you play PLO 4/5/6 you will enjoy it even more.

VSO: Mixed game players are poker’s elephant men. Discuss.

Strazynski: I don’t know about elephant men, but poker is full of characters and we are always looking for more. I promise that if you sit down at a table at the Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival, you will find plenty.

von Zweigbergk: Hahaha, the mixed game crowd are definitely a special breed. I remember back in the EPT days when Finns started to have bigger pots playing Chinese poker at the bars or at parties after hours. We invented amazing games like Sviten Special, Thriller, The Pyramid, Indian poker, and we added gambling elements like three boards and point systems. We also introduced more joker or wild card variations. If you can imagine it, we played it! 

We may be elephant men but I think we deserve the center stage! 

The mixed game players are indeed worthy of love and thanks to Strazynski, von Zweigbergk and their ilk, they are getting some. In the words of John Merrick when played by John Hurt in “The Elephant Man”: 

“I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!”

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