The World Series of Poker is now in full flow for the first time in over two years. The crowds are returning to Las Vegas for the biggest and most exciting live poker festival on the calendar.
For the inexperienced this can be a daunting time. Not only will this feel like the most competitive poker you’ve ever experienced, the sheer energy about the place adds an extra dimension that many are simply not prepared to deal with.
If you’re heading to Nevada for your first WSOP then you need to manage expectations before you even arrive. That said, you always have a chance to grab some success—a chip and a chair is all you need, right?
Prepare Yourself for the Long SessionsThere’s no getting away from the fact that playing at the World Series of Poker is all about long sessions. If you make it to the sharp end of any event you’re going to have been sitting on your back side for almost every one of your waking hours.
You must take full advantage of the breaks to make sure you don’t come unstuck here, and find yourself unable to concentrate. Eat sensible food choices in the break so you return to the table with enough fuel for the session. Filling yourself too much with a stodgy meal will leave you feeling sleepy and unable to think clearly.
Whenever possible, try and go for a short walk to get your circulation flowing. This will help increase your alertness level and counter any sleepiness from digesting food.
Tournaments Are Not Won in the Early StageIt’s easy to get overcome with excitement when you first sit down to play in a WSOP event for the first time. This can be compounded by the images in your head of great players from the past making hyper-aggressive plays to win what is only a small, insignificant pot.
The truth is that the early stage of any poker tournament are not as important in terms of long-term results when compared to the mid-stage and late game. For that reason, never forget that you cannot win the tournament when it’s only just started.
We’re not suggesting that you don’t fight at all for pots, just appreciate that risking your tournament life when there is still a long way to go won’t help you as much as you think.
Arrive with a Solid Pre-Flop GameIn tournament play it is crucial to have a coherent pre-flop game, much more so than in cash games when a smaller percentage of the stacks go into the pot before the flop comes down.
The upside to learning pre-flop strategy is that it’s much simpler than what happens post-flop. Broadly, it is a memorisation task where default plays can be executed without any critical thinking necessary. In large-field poker tournaments you will be seated with players you have no history with, and therefore no information you will be able to use to make adjustments to default plays.
There are many variations of pre-flop hand charts to be found online. Mostly they are very similar, and as an inexperienced player it is unlikely to make much difference in EV whichever you choose.
Learn How Different Stack Sizes InteractThe prevalence of different stack sizes is what really marks the difference between tournaments and cash games.
Although you will occasionally find short stacks in a cash game, those players are only the very weakest you will find. Alternatively, in a tournament you will often find all manner of stack sizes whatever the stage of the event.
It is crucial to learn how these stack sizes interact and force you to make adjustments to your desired play.
For example, sometimes you will want to open a hand that is only just strong enough to do so, but if there is a short-stacked player to act after you there will be an increased chance that they shove all-in and force you to fold and waste the chips from your open raise.
Learn About ICM and Deal MakingICM(independent chip modelling) is a mathematical tool used to adjust late game strategy when the difference in prize money between the current placing and the next one is considerable. This has a significant effect that isn’t seen when the exact same hand is played in the early stage.
If you are lucky enough to reach the money paying stage of an event you must have at least some idea of how to adjust for the greater pay jumps or else you risk making a huge mathematical error that will prove costly to your bottom line.
ICM is also used during a deal making discussion. Although no hand is being played at that time the stack sizes will affect how much each player will get before any adjustments are made to take relative skill into account.
If it looks like you are going to be at the final table then it would be good advice to consider what kind of a deal you will accept before the session even begins.