Over the past few years, a new form of mixed game poker has become increasingly popular. Called "8-Game", this form of poker rotates between eight different poker variants: no-limit hold'em, pot-limit Omaha, 2-7 triple draw, and then the five HORSE variants (Limit Hold'em, Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Stud, and Stud Hi/Lo Eight or Better). This game has surpassed the formerly-popular mixed game HORSE because, frankly, it's less boring. With HORSE, every game is played with limit-betting rules. After a while, this just becomes mundane. Players like more action. With 8-Game, you grind through six rounds of limit-betting and then get two variants where fortunes can change hands on a single pot (no-limit hold'em and PLO).
As evidence that 8-Game has surpassed HORSE in terms of popularity, the WSOP dropped their $50k buy-in HORSE event and replaced it with a $50k buy-in "Player's Championship" 8-Game event in 2010. As players get more and more proficient at no-limit hold'em, I expect 8-Game to only increase in popularity. Online players are growing tired of no-limit hold'em since there aren't as many bad players anymore. 8-Game should serve to rejuvenate online poker to some degree by giving players a new challenge and keeping things fresh by mixing up the poker variant every few hands.
Most 8-Game tables feature only six players. This is because only six players can participate in a single hand of 2-7 Triple Draw. Some live poker 8-Game tournaments, such as the WSOP Player's Championship, has eight players to a table. When Triple Draw is being played, the first two players to the left of the big blind simply sit out the hand.
The presence of 2-7 Triple Draw forcing games to be played six-handed means the other seven variants are pretty action-packed. Generally, Stud variants are played with 8 players. In online 8-Game tables, there's only six to a table during all variants meaning the action is pretty intense during all forms of poker since you're essentially playing short-handed for every game except Triple Draw.
Before diving into an 8-Game table, ask yourself how much experience you have in each variant. If you have outright never even played some of them, I would strongly encourage you to play at least several hundred hands of that form of poker before trying an 8-Game table. The decisions you make in a six (or fewer) player Stud game can sometimes be pretty difficult. If you have no experience some of the variants, you're probably going to bleed chips hand over fist. Learn the basics first by playing long-handed versions of the games you're less experienced at before trying to play these games with just a few players. We have basic strategy articles for all of the variants played in 8-Game, so try to polish up on each variant first before testing your skills in a mixed game setting.
Mixed games require a certain level of proficiency in and of themselves. Not only do you need to be competent in eight different forms of poker, but you also need to be able to shift in and out of strategies for different variants. On one hand, you need to be in "Omaha Hi/Lo mode" and be able to drop that and go into "7 Card Stud" mode in a matter of seconds. These quick transitions can tend to be overwhelming to new poker players, so again, I would strongly recommend gaining proficiency at each individual game before trying to play a mixed game format.
When you do decide to play mixed game format, start out by playing smaller stakes than you think you're comfortable with. In other words, if you feel okay playing $1/$2 Limit Hold'em, you probably shouldn't start out by playing $1/$2 8-Game. Try the $0.25/$0.50 tables first until you get a feel for what it's like to switch between variants.
So you're going to sit at an 8-Game table. How much should you buy-in for? The maximum buy-in is usually the equivalent of 100 big blinds for whatever the big-blind in NLHE and PLO is. If an 8-Game table is advertised as $1/$2, the maximum buy-in will probably be $50 because the blinds in NLHE and PLO are $0.25/$0.50. Whether or not you buy-in for the maximum depends on how you feel about your NLHE and PLO skills. If you think you are a fairly weak player at NLHE and/or PLO, consider buying in for a smaller amount. By doing so, you'll keep your decisions in your "weak" game easier because you'll be playing them on a short stack. NLHE and PLO are considerably easier games when you have 20-40 big blinds rather than 100+ big blinds.
Let's suppose you feel pretty strong in six of the games played in 8-Game, mediocre in one of them, and pretty bad in one of them. At smaller stakes, this level of ability could still very well be enough to be a winner in 8-Game. At no-limit hold'em tables, pretty much everyone is fairly decent nowadays even at smaller stakes. In 8-Game, some players are just completely clueless in several of the variants. This is probably because they didn't follow my advice of gaining proficiency in each game before trying to play 8-Game. If you can learn strong fundamentals in each of the eight poker variants played in 8-Game, you stand to make a lot of money on account of the fact that some of your opponents will just be downright clueless at times. So if you feel good about your decisions in seven games and not so good about one game, don't sweat it too much. This probably puts you ahead of the curve in the smaller stakes action.
Let's say you really want to try 8-Game but aren't sure what areas you should work on the most. Sebastian Sabic, a fantastic high-stakes 8-game player, suggests you focus on improving in the following areas listed from most important to least important:
The reason he thinks polishing up on your PLO skills is most important is because more money changes hands in this game than any other game (except maybe NLHE). With NLHE, most people probably already know what they're doing. However, many players who are strong in NLHE still have a fair amount of weaknesses in PLO. For this reason, you can expect PLO to be your most profitable game in the 8-Game mix if you are a really good player. By the same logic, 2-7 Triple Draw could be your second most profitable, etc. The reason Omaha Hi/Lo is listed last is because it's a split pot game that is fairly straight-forward. In other words, even a bad Omaha Hi/Lo player probably won't lose too much in this game since the pots are split and decisions are fairly simple.