For Wichita regional poker players journeying to Las Vegas for the summer tournament season preparation to play for many is limited to the financial and logistical: gathering up the money to spend on the trip and booking a flight and hotel. That preparation either revolves around interest in playing specific events or making tournament selections fit into the window of time the player can get off work to make the trip. Players who limit their preparation to those areas put themselves at a substantial disadvantage to those who invest the time to prepare more completely.
This two-part series offers a number of tips I have gathered from a variety of sources to help players prepare for the Las Vegas summer tournament action. In Part 1 I covered pre-tournament play, getting rest, and studying. This Part 2 will add to the list.
Scout not only the tournament surroundings but also the competition. Scouting tournament surroundings can be logistical as well as environmental. Take time to prepare for transportation. Even if you are staying in the casino/hotel where the tournament is located it is a good idea to factor in how long it takes to walk to the tournament area from your hotel room. In relation to the tournament area find areas to step outside and catch some fresh air. Doc Bloomfield suggests walking the tournament area to learn where bathrooms and food options are located. Plan breaks to efficiently take advantage to these areas. Anticipate if you need to bring snacks and what and how much you drink. Keep hydrated by minimize consumption of coffee and other diuretics to reduce trips to the bathroom and high-caffeine and high-sugar drinks to limit their rush-crash effects on your play.
In a Card Player Magazine strategy interview from April, 2010, Bernard Lee stressed the importance of knowing who your competition. He had someone he communicated with that helped him learn about the other players at his table, sometimes before he ever sat down at the table with them. In 2005, when he finished 13th in the WSOP Main Event, Lee had someone he communicated with who researched everyone at the table and supply him with their chip counts and their background, including the number of cashes they had. Now, with more prevalent internet access he is able to do that research himself. That information, especially deep in events, can help you gain an edge. Late in the 2011 WSOP Main Event Josh Brikis asked on his Facebook wall if anybody was familiar with the opponents he was scheduled to play against. Within the hour I was able to reply back where his opponents were from and what their recent successes after checking a variety of resources. I had been reading the official live blog coverage for the event and I was able to report anything of importance that had been reported about those players from there as well.
5) Set a schedule.
In a Poker News video, Gavin Smith humorously suggests setting up a schedule of which events to play and stick to it. He states that he just registers for another tournament as soon as he gets knocked out of one and figures that is one of the reasons he doesn’t do well in WSOP events. Don’t play every day, take days off.
6) Game Plan
Evaluate and prepare for a tournament’s structure. In a January 2010 Full Contact Poker article entitled “Bouncing to Biloxi” Daniel Negreanu commented on how a $10k World Poker Tour event was condensed from to 4 days from the usual 5, the levels in the tournament structure that were missing to enable the shorter time structure, and the changes in play that he anticipated once play reduced from 45 players to the final table. He appreciated that the tournament structure was available ahead of time online so they he could decide if he was going to play and adapt to the anticipated changes he spotted. Similarly, on April 29, 2011, Allvegaspoker.com blogger Miamicane wrote about the no-limit hold’em structure for the 2011 Orleans Open events. He commented about the $1k/$2k level with a $500 ante and the impact that has on unsuspecting players.
In the same Poker News video about preparing for the World Series of Poker that Gavin Smith and others appeared in, Daniel Negreanu stressed the importance of mapping out which tournaments you are going to play. Because the World Series of Poker is such a grind it is important to know what days you will be able to rest. If you have a number of back-to-back events you aren’t going to get a great deal of sleep when you may be playing from noon to 3 am. For most players it is a good idea to get to tournaments early because there is a large number of people around and lines can be long.
7) Patience and Mental Preparation.
James Ankenhead suggests playing tight during Day 1 because players begin with a great deal of chips and it is not necessary to get involved with donks. The idea is to get through Day so that you can start playing poker on Day 2. Maria Ho offers that players should be patient early on and not try to outplay other people. Many people try to get involved in a lot of hands early and make many mistakes in doing so. Sit back and let people make the mistakes and capitalize on their mistakes. Max Shapiro reports that Bernard Lee instructs himself to be patient as well. He notes that many people try to win the tournament on day 1, that you can’t make the final table without making through day 1, the importance of preparing mentally for the inevitable bad beat. Susie Isaacs suggests keeping a positive attitude and preparing for the player who “has no rhyme or reason to play.” Mental control must be practiced to “tilt” when losing on a bad beat because the only person who is hurt by losing control is you. Doc Bloomfield suggests practicing relaxation techniques including breathing exercises to keep your focus on people reading, mathematical, and fundamental poker skills.
It is clear that those players who do not take the prepare in terms of pre-tournament play, getting rest, studying, scouting, setting a schedule, making a game plan, and the mental game will be at a substantial long-term disadvantage to those who do. In my plans to venture to Las Vegas in a week and a half to compete in events at the Binion’s Poker Classic and the Orleans Open I am doing what I can to attend to these seven areas. With the shutdown of well known poker sites, including one I played on, I am not getting enough live or online seat time needed to feel completely sharp, but the non-Texas Hold’em tournaments I want to play in Vegas I was able to prepare for until the shutdown because I played online tournaments for months. Studying is easy for me, I read profusely and review periodically the material I gleaned from the World Poker Tour Boot Camp I attended a year and a half ago. I am traveling to Las Vegas the night before the first tournament I want to play and the plan is to go right to bed once I arrive. I already know how I will be traveling to the casino my first tournament is scheduled at and anticipate arriving a few hours before hand to make the registration and scouting process easy. I am bringing a backpack with me so I can take whatever I might need while grinding through levels. I also know the best places to restock, which isn’t easy in Las Vegas if you aren’t planning on renting a car. I’ve already looked at the online posted tournament structure and have a pretty good idea of what the average stack would need to be to just cash. I will be in Las Vegas for 10 days. My series tournament plans are already set. I’ve also scheduled in some down time away from tournaments to either play cash games, set by the pool, people watch, or do whatever.
I’m doing what I can to prepare to play my best. Hopefully what I have shared will help you.