Darrin Wright has the right stuff to win WSOP Event #50: NLHE/PLO mix

Kat Martin
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Posted on: October 28, 2021 9:33 pm EDT

Every World Series of Poker features many players in search of their first ever cash at the Las Vegas gathering. Darrin Wright made that dream come true in style, by winning the $600 No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha mixed event.

Like many of the lower buy-in tournaments on this year’s schedule, the event attracted one of the larger fields at 1,569 entrants. This produced a total prize pool of $800,190, of which Wright took home $127,219.

Onlookers were amazed by Wright’s aggressive approach at the final eight-handed table, at which he personally eliminated five of his seven opponents.

While being involved in the majority of pots typically requires a particularly favorable card distribution, the PLO portion of the event worked in Wright’s favor. The combination of the pot-limit betting structure preflop, along with the fact that hand equities run close in PLO, allows for a big stack to pound on the smaller stacks. Wright carried out this strategy to perfection.

A strange mix?

To the uninitiated, combining two forms of poker with different betting structures may seem somewhat random. Beyond the blinds and community card board, the games are quite different, so is WSOP simply trying too hard?

It turns out the NLHE/PLO mix has its origins in cash-game play. Even before the poker boom of the mid-2000s, it was not uncommon to find card rooms spreading this mix.

If this mix came at the request of a player, the rationale given was invariably that a round of PLO spiced up the monotony of NLHE. But in many cases, the reason behind the PLO addition was more rooted in practicality and profit.

To an uniformed hold’em player, PLO looks deceptively simple and like a similar game to hold’em. However, as all PLO specialists know, the game is full of traps for the unwary novice. Further, these same specialists go to considerable lengths to promote the game as “fun and full of gamble,” whereas in reality it is a technically-challenging game that can be mastered.

Transatlantic rivalry

For many years, pot-limit poker was favored in Europe, whereas fixed-limit or no-limit structures dominated in the U.S. This led to the assertion among the Brits in particular that PLO was “their game,” and that they had an edge over Americans in any event.

There was certainly a strong crop of British PLO players in the 2000s, led by David “Devilfish” Ulliot. Despite dying in 2015, Ulliot still sits seventeenth on the all-time tournament PLO money list.

While it is possible that ongoing travel restrictions share some of the blame, the PLO performance of the Brits so far in this WSOP has failed to reinstate their claim to supremacy. Indeed in Event #50, the only Englishman at the final table was John Gilchrist.

Final table pay-outs

  1. Darrin Wright: $127,219
  2. Victor Paredes: $78,604
  3. Joshua Ray: $57,276
  4. Colten Yamagishi: $42,192
  5. Hanan Braun: $31,425
  6. Ryan Colton: $23,668
  7. John Gilchrist: $18,028
  8. Kyle Mclean: $13,889

Featured image source: Poker.org