How to Beat a Colossus: Big-Field Strategy Tips from 5 World Champs

Tomorrow, the World Series of Poker will host the largest poker tournament in the solar system.

It’s called The Colossus and it’s a $565 buy-in event with a minimum prize pool $5 million. There are already 14,000 players registered for the event and tournament staff is expecting a field of about 24,000 players.

This obliterates the previous record of 8,773 players that’s been in place since the 2006 WSOP Main Event. The sheer massiveness of the event can be daunting to new players but PokerListings is here to help.

WSOP Colossus Strategy Tips

No one has more experience winning big-field tournaments than WSOP Main Event champions, so we asked five of them what advice they have for new players trying to take on The Colossus.

Phil Hellmuth - Be Patient

Championship Year: 1989
Field Size: 178
Special Powers: Bracelets

While Phil Hellmuth took down a relatively small main event, he won a second one in Europe in 2012. Hellmuth has also won more bracelets than any sentient being and defeated a field of 2,628 players to win his 11th bracelet.

2016 WSOP Phil Hellmuth

Hellmuth’s main piece of advice for Colossus players is a simple virtue: Patience.

“It’s going to take a lot more patience than [players] think,” Hellmuth said. “Amateurs play way too many hands and don’t understand why.

“Patience is really important.”

While Hellmuth isn’t known for his patience with other players, the 13-time bracelet winner says the virtue is imperative when it comes to hand selection and tournament play.

The reigning WSOP Main Event champion agrees.

Martin Jacobson - Short-Term Goals


Championship Year: 2014
Field Size: 6,683
Special Power: Bulletproof Coffee

“Just stay patient and play one hand at a time,” said Martin Jacobson. “Set short-term goals rather than long-term goals.

“That was my approach for the main event and it worked out pretty well.”

Jacobson, who won the 2014 WSOP Main Event and $10 million, said this mindset helped him achieve what seemed like an improbable longshot.

“Don’t look at a field and get intimidated by how many players there are left,” Jacobson said. “In the Main Event or The Colossus, there’s like millions of people still in, if you look at that way, then it seems like too much of a longshot.

“Just take it one level at a time, one hand at a time.”

Greg Merson - Be Realistic

0114 Greg Merson Shuffle Up and Deal2

Championship Year: 2012
Field Size: 6,598
Special Power: Discipline

Greg Merson had a spectacular WSOP in 2012.

That July, Merson won his first bracelet and $1.1 million after taking down the $10,000 NLHE 6-Max event. Just a few months later he followed it up by winning the Main Event for $8.53 million.

The two bracelets also dethroned Phil hellmuth and gave Merson the WSOP Player of the Year title. For The Colossus, Merson says players should stay calm, be realistic, and time their bathroom breaks well.

“[Players should] definitely just take it one level at a time,” Merson said. “Don’t get too ahead of yourself because it’s such an overwhelming field.

“Also, realize that your chance of winning is super small so like, you know, be realistic about the fact that you’re entering a sort-of lottery.”

Aside from big prizes, big lotteries tend to form big lines.

“If you really have to go to the bathroom, try to shoot out with a minute or two left on the clock because it’s going to be madness,” Merson said. “Same thing for getting food.”

Most of all, Merson says players should have fun.

“Just enjoy it,” Merson said. “Especially for first timers. Enjoy the experience of the WSOP because it’s gonna be a super electric atmosphere.”

Joe Cada - Stay Positive

joe cada

Championship Year: 2009
Field Size: 6,494
Special Power: Hats

Joe Cada is the youngest WSOP Main Event champion in history. Cada took the most coveted poker title in the world when he was just 21 years and 11 months old.

Now a grizzled veteran with a bracelet per wrist, Cada advises new players to prepare for long days and to not get too caught up on setbacks.

“You’re playing poker for a long time,” Cada said. “And I think the biggest mistake is that people get impatient and make one mistake and they wish they had it back.

“Don’t get down on yourself when you lose chips, there's always gonna be that point in the tournament. Don’t look at your high point and dwell on it, just try to stay mentally focused.”

Cada still recalls the low point on his way to victory back in 2009.

“Throughout the whole main event I was double average, double average,” Cada said. “Then when we got down to the final 27 I was down to my final 20 big blinds and it was my first experience being that low.

“I was just patient and I was able to find some hands and get back up there until I made the final table.”

When the final table played out in November, Cada won the title and $8.5 million.

“Everyone gets down and loses chips, but the main thing is to stay focused and try to get them back.”

Greg Raymer - Don't Worry

Greg Raymer

Championship Year: 2004
Field Size: 2,576
Special Power: Fossils

In 2004, Greg Raymer bested a field of 2,576 players to win $5 million and the title of world champion. The following year, Raymer finished 25th out of 5,619 players in what’s considered one of the most impressive back-to-back main event runs in history.

Raymer’s advice to Colossus players is simple: worry about yourself.

“My advice is pretty basic,” Raymer said. “Just focus on your table because the rest of it doesn’t matter. [Some people say,] ‘Oh, look at that guy he has 50 billion chips.’ Who cares? He’s not at your table; you can’t win his chips, he can’t win yours.

“The fact that there’s thousands of other tables rather than just three is irrelevant.

“People think they have to do something different, like they can’t wait around because they have to get a big stack. They wonder how they’re going to win this thing if they don’t get those millions and millions of chips?

“You can’t win millions of chips on day 1 no matter what. So it’s like, why are you even trying?”

These thoughts, Raymer says, distract players from what they should be doing: playing their hand.

“You play each hand and you play your table and you ignore whatever else is going on.

“In terms of correct ways for you to play a hand, it doesn’t matter how much chips someone has at another table. I mean, if we’re on the bubble, then maybe, but until that moment in time it doesn’t matter.”

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