Preparing for the WSOP
The World Series of Poker is now only one week away. For any poker player, this is without a doubt the most exciting time of the year. However, given the ecstatic anticipation filled with dreams and expectations, it’s important to not let the nerves take over. Nerves are generally positive because they keep us motivated and focused, but only if we use them to our advantage.
So how do you prepare for such a grueling grind with so much on the line?
As this will be my 14th consecutive World Series, I have tested a lot of different methods throughout the years, which eventually has led me to this preparation routine.
There are specifically three areas that I like to focus on. I find that separating it into different sections provides clarity, as it makes it easier to get an overview of what needs to be done.
1) Working on My Game
“Why?” You might ask, and I like to be provocative here as questioning the motive behind my decision turns it into an active decision with the extra motivation behind it.
It’s pretty simple: My goal is to increase my knowledge. Better knowledge leads to improved skill, confidence, and motivation which ultimately results in greater profitability or at least a higher expected value in the tournaments I’m about to play.
The most important aspect is how you go about improving your game. With so many different options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You got all types of data-driven solvers, ranging from pre-flop scenarios, post-flop, ICM, heads-up pots compared to multi-way pots, and so on. There’s also a ton of free poker content with major final table replays and the option to invest in many different poker courses.
Perhaps you’re part of a study group or fortunate enough to have friends, who also happen to be high-level players, which whom you’re able to discuss strategies.
I realize I’m throwing out a million different suggestions here, so you’re probably wondering which of these I consider optimal.
But my philosophy is that any type of studying is highly individual and dependent of what works for you. I believe we all process information differently and that different study techniques suit some better than others.
Explore all these different options and find out what works best for your way of learning.
Just remember that there’s no right or wrong here.
I have friends who are competitive at the highest stakes in the world, some of whom have never used a poker solver in their life. Instead, they’re spending their study time watching every single final table coverage they can get their hands on, while critically analyzing the play of some of the best players in the world. That’s what works for them.
What I will say though, is that having solid poker fundamentals is key. Only then can you fully comprehend why the best players make certain plays. You need to understand the different concepts.
This is why I structured my poker course, the Prepare and Perform Program, by teaching the different principles on which the game is based. Learning these concepts makes them useful for many different scenarios which result in a very powerful strategy. If you’re interested in joining the program, now is a perfect time as we’re running a Special WSOP Promotion. Use code: "WSOP2022" for 25% OFF (*limited time only).
2) Clearing My Head
Before heading out to Vegas, I try to take care of most of my admin. The last thing I want is to have distractions playing on my mind while I’m in the middle of a tournament series.
This means planning ahead, like booking hotels and flights of course but also planning my meal and transportation routine.
I like to eliminate as many decisions as possible, so I don’t suffer decision fatigue. I truly want to save my best decision-making for my time at the poker table.
I also schedule payments of any upcoming bills. Setting up automations as much as possible, such as direct debits and subscriptions. It might sound simple, but I truly hate having “everyday life stuff” interrupt when I am in the middle of a tournament. My best advice is to plan as much as possible so you don’t have to waste any brain power on stuff that easily could have been avoided.
3) Mental and Physical Preparation
To get ready for the long and demanding weeks ahead, I make sure I prepare my mind and body so I’m in great mental and physical shape heading in. There’s nothing healthy about sitting at a poker table for 12-hours a day, all while your heart is riding a rollercoaster which more often than not ends in devastating disappointment, so it’s essential to do what you can to limit the damage.
Especially in today’s day and age where the game has become ultra-competitive and we have to rely on marginal advantages. It would be foolish not to utilize an advantage that will also improve my overall health.
For the mind, I do a mediation practice first thing in the morning. It’s really just a 10 min long guided meditation which I feel is a good ballpark of what I am willing to commit to. Besides, what else can I achieve in 10 minutes?
Sometimes I also do a short meditation after my sessions to reflect on all the emotions and the many decisions I’ve made. This gets my adrenalin levels back to normal which contributes to much better-quality sleep.
Speaking of sleep, I always make it a priority. I don’t think this is news to anyone when I say that there are tons of studies which all point to the importance of sleep in order for our brain to function properly. And I definitely need my brain to operate at its optimal capacity if I want to maximize my chance of success at the tables. Some studies have even pointed to sleep being the greatest nootropic there is. I also try to avoid screen time or any excess stimulation one hour before bed.
My physical preparation is, as you probably can imagine, based on exercise and nutrition.
My main focus is to improve my physical stamina by increasing my conditioning. This will lower my heart rate, even in high-stress situations, and makes it easier for me to concentrate even towards the end of my poker sessions. Which is ultimately when the most important decisions are made, and the stakes are the highest.
My exercise routine will look very different before a series, as increasing conditioning requires extra effort and hard work. This uses a lot of energy and time to recover. That is why I never do these types of workouts on the same day as I play, or even the day before.
Check out below if you’re interested to know what my exercise on game days looks like.
I find it critical to create a habit of regular exercise. I want to crave the feeling of energy and dopamine that follows afterward, because I’m going to need it when my mind is convincing me to skip a workout. Just like studying I find that exercise improves my confidence but also my mood, which is key whenever I suffer setbacks or bad beats at the table. You need to be strong, both mentally and physically, to not surrender your game plan and get tilted at that point. From my experience, here is where the majority of players are losing the most. The far too common reality of getting unlucky and seeing underserved chips being pushed towards your opponent. It undoubtedly takes a ton of self-control and acceptance not to let these emotions get to you.
I try to remind myself that everything I do to prepare provides an edge versus my opponents’ who are not doing all of these things. And if everyone else is putting effort into their preparation and I’m not, well, then they will end up having an edge versus me. That is just how zero-sum-games work.
See you in Vegas!
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