Take a Seat with Jason Somerville and Learn a New Poker Variant
If the multitude of poker variants on the World Series of Poker schedule every year are any indication, poker is a lot more than just no-limit hold'em. But finding your path to these different poker games can be a difficult one, and some players may find the process intimidating.
Team PokerStars Pro and Twitch streaming star Jason Somerville says players shouldn't be afraid to try new variants. He encourages players to get in there and fire away at a level you're comfortable with and enjoy learning something new.
"The best thing you can do is actually play and practice," Somerville offered as first step advice for anyone thinking about learning a new poker variant.
"Play home games with your friends for low stakes, or no stakes at all, or honestly, play online. On PokerStars you can basically play every single game that you want for as low as $.01/$.02 and tournaments for $1. That's the best way to practice and play."
"I think sometimes people are intimidated by these new games because they don't know them as well as hold'em, but how do you get better without playing? You have to compete in the arena to improve your skill set. I encourage people to hop in these games and play."
Thousand flock to Twitch to watch Somerville's popular Run It Up stream whenever he's online. He says watching poker on this new medium can be very educational as well.
"Another beautiful way to learn new games these days is Twitch," he explained. "You can watch guys like George Danzer, Adrienne "TalonChick" Rowsome, me when I'm learning, or Vanessa Selbst and Daniel Negreanu."
"All these players have made mixed-game streams and you can watch them live or on archive. You can say 'Oh, wow, Daniel Negreanu playing $400/$800' and you can watch him play, he'll give you some advice, and you can ask him questions in the chat. So I think Twitch is a great vehicle for learning new games."
According to Somerville, leaning on your poker playing friends can also be a good way to learn and improve when it comes to different games.
"If you're lucky enough to have friends that are good at other games and open to talking to you, you can write down hands from a tournament and say 'Hey friend, do you mind looking at these three hands I wasn't sure about?' They give you some advice, you try to learn from that, and go from there."
Run It Up is more than just a Twitch stream these days, as Somerville and the burgeoning brand host events in Reno annually, with thoughts about expanding across the country in the near future. Somerville notes how Run It Up offers events at entry-level buy-ins in a variety of games, as do several other series around the world, opening up a myriad of opportunities for players to learn and practice.
"At events like Run It Up Reno we do $100 buy-ins for a lot of these games," he explained. "We did 5-card PLO and we had an 8-game event. I think more and more of these interesting games are being found at events. On the EPT and at the PCA they do small buy-ins also. They actually exists these days at relatively small recreational size buy-ins, so I encourage people to try it out and have fun because that was poker is all about."
Like other players and pros who enjoy mixed games, Somerville shares the view that learning other poker variants besides no-limit hold'em can help your NLHE game as well.
"Not only is learning new games good for your general enjoyment of playing poker, but it will actually teach you to play hold'em better. By playing other games and learning the nuances of stud and Omaha and all these other games, you can come back to hold'em as a better all-around poker player. At least I feel that way."
At this summer's WSOP, Somerville has followed his own advice, playing events featuring a number of different variants among the many on offer.
"This has been my first summer grinding all the non-hold'em events at the WSOP and I've been having a blast. In fact, going back to playing regular old nine-handed hold'em has been torturous compared to playing H.O.R.S.E. or razz or any of these other games. I have definitely found the beauty in these mixed games and I encourage other people to do it, too."