The World Series of Poker is an experience unlike any other. It is the largest poker festival in the world and attracts players from around the globe to vie for their chance at fortune and fame. Nowhere else are so many different games, limits and tournament types under one roof. No other tournament series spans a whopping six weeks, which makes the WSOP not just a test of skill, but of endurance as well. The WSOP has events for absolutely everyone, regardless of their skill level or bankroll size.
Almost everyone who plays poker or who has watched poker on TV dreams of playing in the WSOP. While the allure of winning the title, the bracelet and having a picture of them in front of all those chips surrounded by their loved ones is the ultimate image of success, for many players simply cashing an event is a dream come true. I can tell you from personal experience that making it to Day Two and seeing massive fields whittled down is a pretty surreal experience (which gets more and more surreal every day you moves forward). Every break is an accomplishment, every color up feels like an upgrade to another level, and it’s true, because every step is one step closer to the ultimate achievement: being the last player standing, triumphant, glorious, the champion.
In my eight years attending this auspicious event, I’ve been fortunate to cash very consistently, but this wasn’t a result of purely luck. No, as all successful poker players know, the skill in this game goes beyond making good decisions at the table, and in a city where there are five-10 different tournaments to choose from everyday, game selection is a crucial element to one’s success.
It’s easy to get tempted to play every event - after all, they all look so good! But, you’re human, you have limited time, limited energy and a limited bankroll, so putting those resources to play in the ideal spots is essential if you want to have a pleasant experience. With that said let’s look at the best events to play at the RIO this summer.
Here’s the first - and biggest - determining factor when selecting a tournament: What’s more important to you? Making a deep run, or making a lot of money if you’re lucky enough to make a deep run.
This is a crucial distinction because field sizes vary vastly at the WSOP ranging from 100 to 20,000 players. While smaller fields usually mean stiffer competition, they also mean better odds of reaching the final table and the top spots (anyone with a background in basic probability can see that).
On the other hand, there are only so many elite, great and good poker players. As field sizes get larger and larger the average skill level tends to get smaller and smaller. While it takes a lot more luck to get to the later days of the massive field events (since every player represents a potential landmine you must navigate around) if you are fortunate enough to get deep, odds are you’ll be playing high stakes with players who are way out of their comfort zone. Naturally larger field sizes also mean larger prize pools, so while you won’t make it deep as often, if you do hit that final table in a big field event you’ll be guaranteed way more money than you would be in a smaller field.
More players = More money in the pot
With that said, this article is going to focus on the best value spots where you can expect to have the biggest edge on the field.
In my MTT strategy guide, I speak about the fact that even in massive fields, you still only have to play against your table mates, not all 20,000 players. Large field tournaments don’t differ that much in terms of general strategy, but they require more stamina, more discipline and more risk tolerance. The days are longer, the players are often crazier, and let’s face it: you have to deal with a little more riff raff in the lower limits.
Humans are naturally more drawn to things that sound exciting. What sounds cooler to you?
“Hey guys, I won the Millionaire Maker at the WSOP this summer!”
“Hey guys, I won a $1,500 event at the WSOP this summer!”
If you’re like 99.9% of humans you will say the former. It’s got a more pleasing ring to it, it’s got a better story, and that’s what draws players to the ‘brand name’ tournaments. Another reason the brand name events are such a hit is because they run on the weekends which means more average joe’s can hop in them.
If you can only play a limited amount of events this summer, the brand name events are definitely your best options:
- $565 Colossus
- $1,500 Millionaire Maker
- $1,500 Monster Stack
- $888 Crazy Eights
- $1,111 Little One for One Drop
If these are outside of your bankroll, a great option is the $100-400 Daily Deepstacks (see top of schedule) at the Rio. These deepstack turbo re-entry events offer weak fields and massive payouts. Around the time of the Main Event (which I’ll talk about separately in another article),it’s not unheard of for the Daily Deepstacks to pay well over $50,000 to the winner.
Also, in planning your trip, keep in mind that as things get closer to the Main Event more people come to town. Field sizes and prize pools get bigger and skill level drops dramatically for two reasons:
- More amateurs coming to ‘take their shot’
- A lot of regulars who have been bricking events are feeling tired, tilted, frustrated or burnt out
So again, if you’re in it for the money, go for those big field events. If you’re in it to make a deep run, maybe consider coming earlier, or consider playing less popular events. The beauty of the WSOP is that it offers tournaments in all formats, so whatever your prefered game may be, there will be an event for you. Don’t believe me? Check out the schedule and tell me what you love that they don’t have: www.wsop.com/tournaments.
If you’re not an MTT fan, the Rio still has great action. They spread single table sit’n’gos, mega satellites and cash games around the clock, and all these tables are filled with tilted players who recently busted events, and newcomers who are playing outside their comfort zone because they simply want to experience the WSOP. If you’re taking yourself and the summer seriously, this is an excellent opportunity to cash in on the poker skills you’ve been developing!.
Keep in mind that the WSOP does also attract the very best players in the world, and in the non- brand name events competition will be significantly tougher than it would be at a normal tournament stop. This is the highlight of every MTT professional’s year, so you can bet they will be registering every for $1,000, $1,500, $2,500 and $3,000 event.
It’s not going to be a cakewalk, but if you prepare appropriately and are implementing good habits that others aren’t, you can expect to have a very significant edge at the WSOP. Choose your games wisely!
If you’re interested in learning some more strategies for optimizing your summer experience and maximizing your expectation, come out for my WSOP Winning Weekend, held June 4-5. Here I’ll go deeper into game selection, what other games are in town, and strategies I use to cash on such a consistent basis. I’ll also be bringing in an expert player, backer, coach and investor to speak on the topics of selling action so that you can stretch your bankroll and get more shots at glory.