Another in my occasional series of poker stories

Several years ago, I was playing in a cash game at the Rio in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker and when I got up to stretch my legs, I saw Craig (not his real name), a former Main Event champion, walk into the room. I had interviewed him a couple of times, so I went over to say hello.

As I approached, he was talking with one of the supervisors who maintains the list of live games and the players waiting to get into them. Craig asked the guy to start a list for $300/600 BOT — a mixed game of Badugi, Omaha, and Triple-Draw Lowball, three variations of poker that would alternate for each round at the table.

The supervisor said sure and went to add it to the board, so Craig turned back to me and we talked for awhile. It only took 10 minutes for that list to fill up, and when the supervisor advised him the table was ready to start, Craig said he’d see me later and went to sit down in his game, while I went back to mine.

After a couple of hours, I got up to stretch my legs again and went over to watch some of the action at Craig’s table. To my amazement, he had a huge stack of chips in front of him, much larger than any of his opponents. When he wasn’t in a hand, I leaned over and asked him how he’d done it, and he replied quietly, “Nobody knows how to play Badugi!”

The valuable lesson from that day: when a professional poker player wants to start a list for a new game, or introduce a variation you’re not proficient in (or never even heard of!), he/she is probably really good at it and knows they have an edge, and you should back away.

I’ve seen this in local poker games where we were playing No Limit Hold’em shorthanded and, to entice other people to the table, some of the players wanted to turn it into a mixed game, with a round of Pot Limit Omaha alternating with a round of Hold’em. The guys doing the proposing were always very good at both games, and they figured that if they could get Hold’em players who weren’t as proficient at PLO (or vice versa), they’d have an advantage.

I’m comfortable playing either, so I’ll usually agree, but it depends on who’s at the table, how big their stacks are, and whether making the change will scare away an opponent that I do not want to leave. At a poker table, it’s better to be selfish than to lose your edge.

Again, the story about Craig was several years ago, and since then, lots of people — particularly high-stakes players — have learned how to master Badugi (along with its bastard cousins, Badacey and Badeucy), but at the time, it was a relatively new game on the poker landscape, and Craig was simply better at it than the rest of the pack. Results might be different today.

Read more of my poker stories here.