A Crash Course for World Series of Poker Rookies

Published On: 14 June 2014 / Modified: 6 March 2018
Created By: Allen Rash
Hat guy

Each summer a group of first time WSOP participants descend upon the Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino looking to make their name in the game. But they quickly learn that playing in the WSOP is a little different than entering a tournament in your average brick and mortar casino.

There are plenty of WSOP veterans walking the hallways around the Amazon Room, you can generally tell them by their slow gait and the “six-inches of vision” stare. Rookies are opposite, they have a hop in their step and their head is on a swivel taking it all in.

Players coming to Vegas to grind a full schedule of tournaments may be ready to take on the world but often fall short when they don’t anticipate everything that can happen. Being the next poker wizard is more complicated than knowing the math and getting it in good.

Don’t Be the First at Your Table

It’s a common sight to see players lined up at the door waiting to get into the tournament area. These players will spend 15-30 minutes nervously flipping their chips waiting for the start of the tournament.

In a purely unscientific survey, the first person to take their seat in a WSOP event on Day 1 has never won. It’s tough to argue with statistics.

Play it cool, even if you don’t want to register late, you can join the table as Jack Effel performs the ritual reading of the rules. You’ll look like you know what you’re doing even if you are stunned by the enormity of your task.

Don’t be Shocked by the Size of the Tournament

Day 2a Field

Size matters, especially when you’re ready to play a long string of tournaments and don’t prepare your brain for the sheer size of the WSOP.

Unless you are playing one of the large buy-in non-Hold’em tournaments, you will likely draw a seat in the Brasilia or Pavilion Rooms.

Both rooms are big but the Pavilion is “what-did-get-myself-into” huge.

This isn’t your riverboat poker room and can be intimidating when surrounded by thousands of players.

Forget everyone else; you just have to worry about your eight opponents at the table, or nine with the new 10-handed opening days.

Do Take a Break

Every day doesn’t need to be spent walking the crazy halls of the Rio. Be sure to build some breaks into your schedule. There will be many days with odd formats which don’t fit your game plan, take those days to enjoy Vegas and recharge your batteries.

If you’re one of those odd outdoors people, there’s always a quick trip to Red Rock Canyon or one of the many pools with their eye candy. If your complexion is more in line with the vampire crowd, take in a show or movie. But avoid bars the night before a big tournament, only the seasoned professionals can indulge themselves and then show up to their table fresh as a daisy.

Do Eat Healthy, Try Some Exercise

Scott Clements
Don't be afraid of the gym.

This humble author does not have personal experience with either of those concepts, but it seems to be a reasonable idea.

You will need to play solid poker for nearly 13 hours to be successful in the biggest events and that is just how long it takes to get through the first day.

Being attentive and on your game for that long is tough if your belly is full of candy, snacks, or soft drinks. Avoid cocktail service until the end of the day unless your name is Gavin Smith.

Exercise can also be an asset to your game. They say “a healthy body is a healthy mind” but most players try to avoid it like a two-outer. Take a long walk, do a pushup, take a lap in the pool instead of staring at the waitresses. It just might be a difference maker.

Do Relax, Have Fun

Playing a full slate of tournaments can wear down the most seasoned pro; rookies can overdo it and soon find themselves hitting a wall. Having fun at the table isn’t necessary a winning format for all, but it’s good to stay relaxed and enjoy the experience.

Odds are against winning a WSOP title but that doesn’t mean it has to be a true grind. Ignore the size of rooms, take care of yourself, have a little fun, and stay away from the seedy strip clubs. You probably won’t win a bracelet but you can still make a healthy profit and have a successful first WSOP summer.


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Jeremy Farmer 2014-06-15 01:10:22

Haven't worked my way up to the big tournaments yet, but this is good advice for when I do. I think the field size would be my biggest issue. The time thing doesn't scare me so much. I've had a couple 13-16 hour days playing cash and the 3 tournaments/day at the Strat last few times I was in Vegas. The food and breaks thing is definitely something to keep track of, gone on tilt a couple times because I jumped from one tournament to another without decompressing and refueling first.

Pievegas 2014-06-14 19:30:33

Good to see you writing for the pros, Allen. Wish I could be there. Miss your face, and bacon. I miss bacon. Pura Vida!


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