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Phil Ivey made what would be considered a rookie mistake during the 2009 WSOP when he mucked a winning flush on the river. While Ivey is clearly no rookie, it showed that even the best players can make mistakes on poker’s grandest stage.


Every year, thousands of players make their way to the Rio in Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker for the first time. These WSOP rookies are dreaming big but also are hoping that they don’t make an epic mistake that puts a bull’s-eye on their back, or worse still costs them their buy-in.

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Today we are going to take a look at five tips to avoid looking like a total rookie at the World Series of Poker.

Avoid the Lines

wsop long linesOne thing that baffles me year-after-year are the players that decide to wait until the day of a big event and then stand in the monolithic lines to play in an event. Events such as the Colossus, the Monster Stack and others are going to have insane lines and it’s not like you HAVE to register the day of the event.

Event registration is open 24/7 and you can register for any event on the WSOP schedule. If you know that you are going to play in an event, why not just register during a time where you can walk right to the cage window and walk right out. Stroll in about 7 or 8 p.m. in the evening and signup for the event or go register about 1 p.m. on a day that a non-Hold’em event started at Noon. Beat the lines and register early.

Wear Your Glasses

You think that the high cost of playing the World Series of Poker would weed out rookie mistakes such as registering for the wrong event. As Christian Pham famously proved last year, there are plenty of players that accidentally enter the wrong event and once they are seated, it is too late.

Pham entered the $1,500 NL 2-7 Lowball Event last year thinking it was a NL Hold’em Event. He quickly discovered his mistake but he was already committed. Most players in this spot would win up losing their buy-in and taking the walk of shame. However, Pham quickly adapted and went on to win the tournament.

A mistake such as this can be avoided by simply paying attention to what event is printed on your card. If you are still confused, ask the cashier or a staff member to verify what even you’re playing

Just Say No

just say noIf you like to partake in certain “recreational drugs” (meaning illegal), you better learn how to “Just Say No” at the WSOP. The Rio has a strict anti-drug policy and that includes marijuana. If you get caught using or holding on premises, you can book your flight back home as you will be insta-banned from the property. (That has been the policy in the past.)

In addition to these drugs being illegal, they also can inhibit performance at the poker table. Even legal drugs such as alcohol will adversely impact your performance, so the WSOP is a good time to “Just Say No” and focus on playing solid poker.

Be Smart With Your Money

Many poker players like to carry large amount of money with them when they are playing at the World Series of Poker. We don’t recommend this for various safety reasons. The amount of money in play at the Rio during the WSOP can bring out various nefarious characters and sometimes you might be putting your safety at risk by flashing too much cash.

Some players like to use their room safe to keep their money but we suggest that you contact the Rio Cage about setting up a marker system. With this system, you make a deposit with the Rio and then you withdraw money from the cage as needed to play. You are basically using the Rio as your own personal bank.

I’ve personally used this system in the past and you don’t even have to make a physical deposit. You can wire funds to the Rio for use at the casino. Just contact the main cage and ask to speak to a supervisor about setting up a marker account.

Pack Accordingly

If you’re going to play at the Rio, be prepared for both a physical and mental workout. Also make sure you have stocked up on the appropriate gear for the series.  Here is a quick list of extras to include on your packing list:

  • Walking or Orthopedic Shoes
  • Sweater or Hoodie
  • Bottle for Water
  • Snacks
  • Cold Medicine

Walking shoes are recommended because everywhere at the World Series of Poker is a hike and if you play on a large-field NL day, you might have double the hike from the parking lot.

You should also have a water bottle with you for the long walks into the Rio and to stay hydrated at the tables. For those that need to eat every so often, either for energy, blood sugar or other reasons take a couple snacks to munch on during play.


When we recommend a sweater or hoodie, we aren’t suggesting these as a way to hide your face from your competition. Rather, it can get right cold during some of these events due to the air conditioning being cranked really high. You may not notice it when there are 2,000 players in the room, but later in the day where there are just 200, you will wish you had something to wear.

Finally, the crazy extremes from heat and cold are enough to give some players a summer cold, often referred to as an air-conditioner cold. Some people also get sick when they go across country due to the change in climate. It can’t hurt to have a little cold medicine with you just in case.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.