Live Poker Tournaments as Vacation Destinations

jet ski
Jet-skiing in the Bahamas is just one option.

This week CardRunners coach Bryan "PrimordialAA" Pellegrino is schooling us on how to use online poker satellites to see the world on the cheap!

PrimordialAA is a HU SNG specialist who also plays MTTs and mixed games. His average stake is $440 but he'll play anywhere from $220 to $5k.

He discovered poker on a high school trip to DC for Presidential Classroom when his roommate taught him how to play. After using his winnings on a Georgetown hoodie, he deposited money online and hasn't looked back. 

He's known for his solid, clear analysis and motivational volume prop bets with friends. He finished 143rd in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, and 5th in the 2011 PCA Heads Up Championship.

Take it away Bryan.

Live tournaments are an interesting breed of poker not only because of how they play but because they are spread out all over the world and therefore offer many unique experiences.

Players who enter these tournaments get to play for stakes and in fields much bigger than they might be used to, and they also get to explore new cities and countries. Many players thus find poker tournaments to be awesome vacations, especially if they can find relatively cheap ways to enter.

If you’re thinking about doing some tournament travel, I’d first recommend looking carefully for a location that you want to visit and have the time for.

Don't confine yourself to the casino when not playing poker!

I recommend Europe from March through the fall: some of my favorite tournament spots are Barcelona, Budapest, Vienna, and Deauville. During the winter, there are attractive tournaments at the PCA in the Bahamas, the Aussie Millions in Melbourne, and the LAPT in various Latin American cities.

I have two preferred methods for satelliting into live events: the 3x-turbo rebuy satellites on PokerStars, and the flatter live satellites. (By ‘flatter’ I mean the satellites that award seats to roughly 1/5 to 1/7 of the field.)

The 3x-turbos appear to have a lot of wild play and variance, but I like them because the goal is relatively simple.

Before the add-on, the best strategy is simply to minimize the number of rebuys you take; after, the tournament resembles a small turbo satellite, with just a few tables of players fighting for one or two packages. There are often rebates given to the next handful of players, and these prizes help soften the swings.

Finally, these tournaments are desirable because they take only two to three hours, instead of a whole day.

Live satellites awarding seats to over 10% of the field have larger buyins, of course, but the variance is smaller than in satellites paying 5% or less of the field, and the competition is often much weaker than you will find in any other online poker satellite.

More specifically, these tournaments are much better to play than the $700 weekly satellites online, which are full of tough players.

Going after real-life fish.

Once you win or buy the seat, you have to plan for the trip itself. I would strongly recommend that you arrive at least two days early; three is even better. This will allow you to adjust to jet lag and to get comfortable in the new city.

You will also want to get into a routine that fits the new time zone, because the twelve-hour days you will (hopefully) be playing will be unforgiving if you’ve not adjusted to the local time.

You’ll also want to set aside time before or after the tournament to see the new place. Many people make a point of seeing every notable building and museum, but I prefer not to get caught up in worries about seeing them all.

Such a project is fine for some people, but more often it makes what should be a fun and enriching experience into a chore and a blur. I prefer to relax and experience a new culture: for example, there is often unfamiliar and delicious food available.

It’s worth setting aside extra time and planning ahead to avoid familiar food and tourist traps—you can always grab a burger or some street kebab if you don’t like what you try, but a good meal can be a highlight of the trip.

When you’re going out at night, don’t be shy about asking for recommendations; people are happy to give you ideas.

Asking locals often leads to a much better time in a new city than you would have if you went to a club full of tourists—even if the tourist club is a good time, it figures to be nothing you can’t get at home. Be sure, however, to be aware of what’s around you, and to stay safe.

No big city has only safe districts, and you can get into trouble even if you’re in a basically safe location. So when you’re going out, be smart and bring friends.

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