As the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event November Nine final table quickly approaches, we thought it would be a good idea to explore what goes into preparing for a long, major live poker tournament as a player.
After competing for two long, grueling weeks in July, it all comes down to a couple of days of action as the WSOP November Nine do battle for the $7.68 million first place prize and coveted Main Event gold bracelet.
These poker players have arrived at their final destination through a combination of good play and fortunate breaks, but each outlasted over 6,400 opponents to have a shot at championship glory.
Multiple-day live poker tournaments, many with several “Day 1” stages, have made their way into live series. For players who have little experience, the long haul can prove quite daunting. The smallest misstep can result in throwing away days of +EV play.
Following are some tips on how to outlast and prepare for large player fields in live tournaments.
Be Ready To Go From The Very First Hand
As soon as Hand #1 of a major tournament is dealt, you should be physically and mentally focused, ready to begin exploiting advantages and opponents’ weaknesses. It goes without saying here that if you’re not mentally prepared to wage a prolonged battle against a massive field, then you should not enter the major live event in question.
Given the multiple-entry format of so many major live tournaments, the “Fold to Cash” strategy that many pros use to successfully employ no longer works. Arriving late for Day 1 action is a significant hole in some professional players’ games, and often results in thousands of dollars in lost expected value.
There are many ways to motivate yourself at the start of a long live tournament. You can look upon yourself as a poised competitor looking to chip up, a mercenary who is on top of every +EV opportunity, a goal-oriented specialist who looks to get involved in big hands against weaker players at the table, or some combination of these. All of these strategies will work just fine as long as they are positive.
Maintain An Emotional Balance
If you manage to make it more than a few hours in a major live poker event, you’ll likely experience at least one emotionally “high” or “low” situation. It’s understandable to want to ride the wave of emotion at these times, but doing so can take a lot out of a poker player who is aiming to be successful over the course of several days in a single tournament.
Letting your emotions take over after a big pot is a quick way to lose your edge, especially when it will require days of action to make a substantial amount of profit from a live poker event.
Unless you’re extremely fortunate, a large percentage of your chips will eventually find its way into the middle of a pot, pending the outcome of one or more community cards. A poker player always hopes to have as much equity as possible in these situations, but regardless of how the cards fall, you’ll need to continue playing as well as possible.
Stay In The “Here & Now”
Live poker tournament action during major events can last anywhere between 8 to 14 hours with only a couple of breaks for food and necessities. It is very easy for a poker player to let his/her mind wander during lulls in activities, but you’ll want to maintain your focus on what is happening right now at the poker table.
Failure to do so will result in missing “tells” that other players give off while severely limiting your opportunities for exploiting mismatches that arise.
Use the tournament breaks to rest your mind and recover from long hours of mental focus.
Physical Toughness, Comfort and Diet
Whether or not professional poker players are “athletes” is debatable, but even if you don’t believe they are, they must still remain physically acute and healthy during long events.
If you’re not in at least reasonable shape or if you have poor eating habits, they can catch up to you in more ways than one at a major event table. Becoming sleepy will shut down both the mind and body, and not being physically comfortable can cause a player to give off information unintentionally.
Try not to eat a huge meal immediately before starting or re-starting action in a major tournament. You can supplement your diet with quick snacks while you’re at the table, but also be wary of downing a half dozen energy drinks, as this could also cause a Darwinist effect once the Taurine and Caffeine have worn off.
You should also Dress For Comfort at the Live Poker Tables.
Come Back Refreshed Each Day
There will be time for rest after the day’s action has ended, and this is precisely when a player should be relaxing. Admittedly, there is plenty of adrenaline flowing through a poker player’s body at the end of a long poker day when more action is scheduled in a few hours. However, you should attempt to get as much rest as you can.
Avoid waking up just a few moments before a new day’s tournament action begins. If you’re awake and refreshed 90 minutes before play restarts, then you have time for a shower, light breakfast, personal motivational speeches, and all that good stuff.
Event in non-WSOP events, it can sometimes take several days just to make the money in a major live poker tournament. One way of maintaining a significant edge over the majority of your opponents is to arrive each day with your mind and body clear of excess fatigue.
Get Full Value on Your Time
Major live poker tournaments which take days to complete require a massive time investment from each person involved. No matter how great your game is, that chances are high that you will not win, or even make the final table.
This is why it is vitally important to make the most of your time while competing in said tournaments. Use the experience and information you gain to become a more well-rounded player to give yourself the best possible shot at scoring big when the situation presents itself.
It only takes one major live tournament cash to change the life of an up-and-coming poker player, so put yourself in as many positive scenarios as you can and make the most of your big buy-in investment.