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Some Unusual WCOOP Variants to Try
The World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) is almost here and players are no doubt preparing for their favourite NLHE and PLO events across the world. As a 15 year old, I would meet up with two friends and sit and play 5 card double draw (an almost unheard of game, but the only one we knew) for hours on end. This game lacked the open information and deductive range reading potential available in NLHE, but it had definite majesty of its own and kept us hooked for the entire summer of 2002. Holdem took over in a major way during the initial poker boom of 2004-2005. No doubt about it: NLHE is a fantastic game and is popular for good reason, but I cannot help but fear that, through its relentless dominance, it has stunted the aspiring players motivation to learn other variants. The WCOOP brings us the chance to rediscover some of these lost treasures and so as an avid fan of the weird and wonderful games of days past, let me give you a few recommendations as to how you might want to mix it up this year.

5-Card Draw 

Tournament Prize-pool Date Time (EST)
WCOOP-20-L - $11 NL 5-Card Draw $15K Gtd 9/6/18 14:30
WCOOP-20-M - $109 NL 5-Card Draw $25K Gtd 9/6/18 14:30
WCOOP-20-H - $1,050 NL 5-Card Draw $50K Gtd 9/6/18 14:30

All players are dealt 5 cards and there is a round of betting. This is followed by an opportunity to exchange between 1 and 5 cards in your hand for new cards. There is then a second round of betting.

At the 2016 WCOOP, well known poker veteran Shaun Deeb took down the $1050 NL 5-Card Draw event by being dealt a flush right off the bat and eliminating his opponent and his pair of Aces. There were just 70 competitors. This game probably attracts a smaller field due to the absolute lack of clues as to what your opponent has and the apparent utter randomness of the game. Some expect that 5-Card Draw is just boring, like sitting at a video poker machine. This is a very flawed assumption to make about the game.

Firstly, I find the randomness of the first 5 cards a real thrill. As a NLHE pro, I am almost bored by the fact that the best hand I can be dealt is AA. There is no feeling quite like looking down at 777Q3 or JT987 in the late stages of a big 5-Card Draw event or in a high stakes cash game, knowing that this hand is almost certainly yours and that if your opponents are unfortunate enough to be dealt a big pair or improve to two-pair, they are going to be in a for a world of pain.



Secondly the element of disguise and deceit in this game comes from how many cards you and your opponents throw away. I embarked on many a bluff back in the day where realising that my opponent had a big pair, I stood pat (drew zero cards) on my pair of fives as no one had stood pat without a made hand in weeks. The bluff was sure to get through as long as I did it very rarely (about as rarely as you get dealt a pat hand or less) and never showed my bluff. There are other options too such as drawing one with a gutshot straight draw and representing two-pair that was going for the fullhouse.

Finally what I really like about this game is that there are no libraries of training videos, modern textbooks, or forums where millions of hands have been discussed. 5-Card draw is a very old game, but a less discovered one than NLHE or PLO. Why not give it a shot this year and see if you find a new love?

8-Game

Tournament Prize-pool Date Time (EST)
WCOOP-25-L - $22 8-Game $50K Gtd 9/8/18 11:00
WCOOP-25-M - $215 8-Game $75K Gtd 9/8/18 11:00
WCOOP-25-H - $2,100 8-Game $250K Gtd 9/8/18 11:00

This is one of my favourite games. As you might have guessed from the name, this is an 8 game rotation. The variants included in the mix are: 2-7 Triple Draw, Limit Holdem, Pot Limit Omaha, Omaha High/Low 8 or better, 7-Card Stud, Stud High/Low 8 or better, Razz, and of course, No Limit Holdem.

The beautiful thing about these events are that the edge actually switches every few hands as one player's weakness is likely to be another's specialty. I once spent a miserably Scottish winter wrapped up indoors learning 8-game. I soon found out what my strengths and weaknesses were and was able to play looser and more actively in the games where I had the biggest edge. Staying rather snug in games like seven card stud, which made me extremely uncomfortable at first. These events fixture a mix of limit and no-limit games, but the blind structure fluctuates between games to make sure that the limit game pots carry enough clout to be relevant.



You might find NLHE players taking a shot at these games who can be exploited by spending your preparation time honing in on some of the variants most removed from Holdem such as 2-7 Triple Draw and the three stud variants (Razz is essential 7-Card Stud Low). You might also find limit game specialists who will bleed money to you in the bigger bet games like NLHE and PLO. This is one of the best things about 8-game: 'who is the strongest player?' is a dynamic question and not a static one.

4-Handed NLHE Games

Tournament Prize-pool Date Time
WCOOP-21-L - $22 NLHE [4-Max] $100K Gtd 9/6/18 16:00
WCOOP-21-M - $215 NLHE [4-Max] $250K Gtd 9/6/18 16:00
WCOOP-21-H - $2,100 NLHE [4-Max] $500K Gtd 9/6/18 16:00

These games are my personal favourite. As a 6-max cash specialist, I've always found playing pots from UTG and the HJ a little underwhelming. Ranges are just too narrow! While exhilarating, I've also found HU play a little too adversarial and relentless to enjoy. I grew up playing poker 4-handed poker with three of my high school friends and it remains my favourite size of table. There is just so much action, but you also get a little break every now and then.

For those of you who love battling with wide ranges, being able to value-bet second pair top kicker for three streets, or want to develop quick reads on your opponents and exploit them for a large edge, these events are perfect. No doubt there will be many players who try these tournaments out from a full-ring or 6-max background. Expect a lot of under-adjustment and look to bleed dry your opponents who are too tight while patiently waiting to trap and punish those who are over-adjusting to the very short-handed format. There's nothing quite like super short-handed play.

Conclusion

The WCOOP brings a great opportunity not just to try out the lesser known games, but to popularize them in the long-term so that they may become viable options with enough traffic to run on a regular basis outside of the WCOOP and WSOP seasons.
 
Besides NLHE, what other variants of poker have you played so far? Leave a comment below!
 
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