Australia's Mixed Games Academy Aims to Educate Poker Players & Dealers

Australia's Mixed Games Academy Aims to Educate Poker Players & Dealers

Mixed games are only getting more popular in the poker world, and Australian tournament director Shannon Van Den Berg knows that better than anyone.

With knowledge of over 60 poker variants and as Director of Poker for Mixed Games Academy, an event management company that "deliver(s) mixed game events and training for players, dealers, and tournament directors," Van Den Berg is responsible for helping grow mixed games in Australia and elsewhere in the world.

PokerNews caught up with Van Den Berg to learn more about the Mixed Game Academy and its efforts to get more players interested in poker variants besides Texas Hold'em.

Mixed Game Strategy & Tips!

Q&A with Shannon Van Den Berg

PokerNews: When and where did you learn to play poker?

Van Den Berg: Growing up in Tassie I used to play 5-card draw for 5-cent pieces during the 80s, I started playing NLH in the early 2000s. Around 2013 I started getting interested in other varieties, including PLO and PLO - 8 or better - once I learned how to play hi/lo I pretty much bought straight into a Crown 8-Game during one of the quarterly series they ran, this isnt a story of first game/first win though.

I made many mistakes and didnt make it too far through the tournament. It did however give me the drive to learn more about the Draw, Stud, and Flop variants - so the study began, and I started spending more time in these games.

What role does poker play in your life now?

I am a nerd for the rules, continually studying Tournament Directors Association rules and recommended procedures. I provide assistance, training, rulings, and have acted as Head TD for various poker series over the years; as well as having run my own league and now focus on playing over 60 variants in a fun and friendly environment with friends as well as designing new and interesting mixed games events for MGA (Mixed Games Academy).

What can you tell us about the Mixed Games Academy? When/why/how did it come about?

The Mixed Games Academy grew quite quickly once the whiteboard came out. Having played mixed events at our regular home game for several years, the community of players was getting bigger. Technically MGA started around 2017 when we first started teaching new players the gameplay of each variant, starting at HEROS and right through to 21+ game dealers choice home games. From there the decision to run these events on a large scale in venues located in QLD & NSW was made, we added the Academy element to teach new players and added some specific dealer time to go through the different procedures for mixed games.

Are you more focused on educating players or tournament/dealer staff on Mixed Games?

My time is meant equally between new players and dealers/TD staff. They all go hand in hand, as the popularity increases, we need more tables, and more tables means more dealers and TD staff. By the end of 2024, I want 150+ player fields for our mixed games and growing

"Live streaming will be a key to the success and spreading the word on mixed games throughout Australia."

How do you envision live streaming mixed games?

Live streaming will be a key to the success and spreading the word on mixed games throughout Australia. The biggest barrier with new players is access to content so they can learn as well as mixed game series they can play regularly.

In the past, Melbournes Crown Casino was the only venue running mixed games during the quarterly series and a weekly low buy-in rotation. They have stopped tournament poker which has left an untapped market for mixed game events and series. Outside of Victoria the popularity of mixed games is now growing, albeit slowly.

There doesnt seem to be a lot of that these days. There isnt enough, NLH fans are covered in most of the major series around Australia, but nothing for all the other mixed variants to cover draw stud and other flop variants. We are currently in the design phase for the most appropriately sized table to ensure all games can be played, streamed, and provide a workable solution for this gap in the Australian market. The streaming platforms will assist with the promotion of the game, educating players, dealers, and the public alike.

You mention the hope of having $5K-$10K Mixed Game buy-ins one day. Do you think thats possible in Australia and players would respond?

Many accomplished poker players in Australia currently travel to Las Vegas annually for the summer of mixed games during WSOP. There is the skill set for this level, and there is the bankroll so it is just a matter of increasing the education of players over some time so they feel comfortable competing at that buy-in level.

At this point, if we were to run a mixed event in Melbourne at $5k+ I would expect 4-5 full tables (30 players) and by the end of 2024 I hope to have been able to double this number with more growth to come so Australia is considered one of the most popular destinations for mixed games in the world. The biggest mixes, value-for-money structures, education platforms, streamed games, and commentary from Aussie and International crushers.

How have Australian players received your Mixed Games Academy thus far?

The support from the mixed game community has been amazing. With players traveling to play the mixed events we are running, the NLH whiz kids are coming across and taking a seat in some of these games, and finding early success with final table appearances and cashes to their name.

The Academy training has also been popular with most of the players dipping their toes in the water via satellites or medium-level buy-ins. All MGA events are dealer-dealt, the buy-ins have ranged from $300-$1,200 for previous events plus smaller buy-ins for satellites.

I am thankful to all players for helping MGA with some early success, and helping solidify the need for these games in Australia. We have been lucky to have several Australian Poker Hall of Famers join our events, including Grant Levy, Graeme Putt, Gary Benson, and Mel Judah.

What is poker like in Australia right now post-pandemic?

Poker has exploded everywhere post-pandemic, it has gone gangbusters for the NLH games with some huge prize pools being generated around Australia. Poker is as popular as ever, player fields are growing, prize pools are growing, the buy-in levels are increasing, and skill sets are getting better. Overall, poker is huge right now and is showing no signs of slowing down in Australia.

The Aussie Millions doesnt seem to be coming back. How do Australian poker players feel about that? Hearing anything? Is there a void?

As a fan of the Aussie Millions, I am sure I speak for a large sample of players when I say the Aussie Millions has left an enormous hole to be filled. Having attracted many International players over the years, the Aussie Millions, unfortunately, seems to be a thing of the past. So now we must look forward to what the 'poker norm' will look like with new player leagues and tours hitting the scene as well as Mixed Games Academy breaking into a new market for local players and, over time, overseas players.

Five Tips That Will Help You Crush Mixed Games


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