Poker tournament players from all over the world will be descending on Las Vegas, Nevada, beginning later this week to compete in poker series like the Binion’s Poker Classic (May 30 – July 11), the Orleans Open (May 21 – 29), the Venetian Deepstack Extravaganza Series III (May 27 – July 15), the Golden Nugget’s Grand Poker Series (June 4 – July 4), the World Poker Tour World Championship (May 14 – 20), and the World Series of Poker (May 30 – July 19). With direct buy-ins ranging from $150 to $50,000, players with bankrolls large or small can easily find a tournament to compete in.
Especially for players from the from the Wichita region, including me, the process of selecting and preparing for an event or four to play can easily revolve around scraping up a bankroll, taking stock of the cost of the buy-ins, and the type of game. Logistical issues such as selecting a place to stay, booking a flight, taking care of traveling companion issues, and arranging for transportation also can consume a player’s attentions. Where focus lacks is in the actual preparation to compete.
Most players who compete in tournaments in casino poker rooms routinely run into events with 20-minute rounds, or even 15-minute, and last 4 to 7 hours. Antes may not be part of the tournament structure as well. Chip stacks, even to start tournaments, may be shallow. The playing environment offered by the series’ listed above is vastly different than what more recreational players regularly see, and is something players do not think about much less prepare for before making the trip to Las Vegas to compete. Such players put themselves at a substantial disadvantage to those who do. What I offer below is a substantial list of tactics to prepare for an event, or even to survive the wear and tear of playing several.
With tournament rounds typically beginning in the half hour to 40-minute range and starting chip stacks being substantially larger than a routine casino poker room tournament, players can expect to put in 12-14 hour days in events that can stretch up to several days. Players need to condition themselves for the grind by playing extended sessions. The conditioning is as much mental as physical, if not more so.
Keep your head clear, take time off. In a recent Ante Up Magazine article, Doc Bloomfield suggests making travel plans early including flying in a day or two early. In a 2010 Poker News video about preparing for the World Series of Poker Jason Mercier suggests taking time off before playing events in the World Series. Playing in the World Series takes a great deal of energy and stamina so staying away from partying and resting between events is important.
To rest between tournament days Chad Brown, in the same video, suggest watching a movie or doing something else to clear poker hands from your head so you can sleep.
In most instances where I find suggestions for studying I almost completely find referrals to noted books. For instances, while a poster to a 2007 Full Contact Poker forum thread suggested watching multi-table instructional videos found on CardRunners, more common were people suggesting the original poster read titles like Dan Harrington’s Harrington on Hold’em 3-volume book set and works on tells, body language, and non-verbal communication by Mike Caro and Joe Navarro. On the World Series of Poker website Max Shapiro wrote in 2010 about tactics for gearing up for the World Series of Poker. In it Matthew Hilger suggested Harrinton’s books as well. Bernard Lee offered T.J. Cloutier and Tom McEvoy’s Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold’em.
Another tactic is to get some coaching or attend a training session in the days leading up to the tournaments. In Wichita, a World Poker Tour Boot Camp – Power Camp is scheduled for Sunday, June 22. In Las Vegas, a World Poker Tour Boot Camp 3-day Champions Camp is scheduled June 27-29 at the Golden Nugget Casino.
In Part 2 scouting, the importance of setting a schedule, creating a game plan, and patience and mental preparation will be discussed.