Here are the most common mistakes I've seen over the past five years which are an almost guaranteed recipe for failure at the WSOP. Take heed: learn all about them, but don't repeat them!
I've been in Vegas for 3 days now and managed to get my bearings. I’m fortunate to have some really great roommates at the house down here and the atmosphere is very fun and laid-back. We have all the amenities that are required for success:
- A huge backyard with putting greens and a basketball court
- Outdoor pool (an absolute must for the insane desert heat)
- Projector along with 23 other TVs complete with PlayStation 3 and Xbox, great for winding down from a hard days work
- A fully stocked fridge (thank you Walmart)
- A quiet rural neighborhood with plenty of great running routes
- 7 Cars to get us where we need to be anytime of the day
The great thing about having so much stuff is that there’s always something to do and boredom isn't going to be an issue. Variety is key for maintaining excitement and therefore a positive attitude. My roommates also have a lot of interests so there’s lots to do (golfing, shopping, movie going, basketball, video games, clubbing, etc.) It appears that my decision to come in late was a good one since the house is collectively around 4 for 100 when it comes to cashing WSOP events. This brings me to the main point of this article, the most common mistakes I've seen over the past 5 years which are an almost guaranteed recipe for failure at the WSOP. Some of these are mistakes that I have made personally in the past, other’s are one’s that I have witnessed in many of my friends from the poker community.
10. Going to Vegas to Escape other problems
It may seem like hopping on a plane to Vegas will cure you of all the problems you are experiencing at home. You get a fresh start while you’re down here, you can form an entirely new identity if you’d like to and you are surrounded by entertainment and distractions. For the first few day everything will seem perfect but the feeling will not last. Eventually whatever wasn't going well at home is going to creep into your mind and cause you stress. It is common knowledge that a brain under stress performs much more poorly than one that is at peace. If you have unfinished business at home, or relationships in need of repair these are things you need to address BEFORE you hop on that plane down to Vegas. It is important that you eliminate all the stressors before taking on such an important challenge or else they will be guaranteed to bring you down and your play at the tables will suffer.
9. Not Taking Things Seriously Enough
The world series of poker offers a very large schedule (this year it’s 54 events) which would make it seem like each individual tournament is not that important (after all, you can always try again tomorrow). Between the Rio and the events offer at the Venetian Deepstack extravaganza, Ceasar’s deepstack challenge, the Wynn Summer classic and other venues there are probably close to 200 different events every summer. But there is a reason that players who play a lighter schedule tend to enjoy better results than those who play every single event they can squeeze in. By playing a very heavy schedule it’s easy to treat each event as unimportant and thus justify poor play. Also playing so many events will lead to burnout, without enough rest and recovery thing you’re brain is not going to be able to perform at the level you need it to. Solution: put together a schedule of events that excite you and skip all the one’s that give you that ‘meh’ feeling. That way every event you play will be fun, and mentally you will have the time to prepare yourself and ‘get in the zone’. Every tournament is an opportunity to change your life, and they should be treated as such.
8. Being Surrounded by Negativity
You are what you surround yourself with, your mood is highly dependent on the external factors you experience everyday. This is something that i have seen first hand, in years where everyone was rooting for each other to do well, things seemed to go well for the house as a whole. In year’s where there was some animosity and people were rooting against each other or ‘anti-sweating’ the results were what you would expect. Obviously a little bit of ball-breaking here and there is fun and completely normal for guys but there is a point where you have to draw the line. At the end of the day you should always want your friends to succeed and do well, after all what are friends for if not to be there for each other? Have fun poking fun at your friends but make sure that deep down the message is still one of positivity, you get what you give out, so give out that positivity and your friends will return the favor. Root for everyone to lose and you’ll find yourself full of negativity and probably end up feeling miserable whenever the slightest thing goes wrong in your sessions.
7. Unrealistic Expectations
Just because you crush tournaments on-line all year round doesn't mean you’re a lock to have a highlight reel summer in Vegas. Likewise if you are a cash game wizard you still need to acknowledge that tournaments are a different beast. The world series (despite having many events) is still a very small sample size and is therefore highly luck dependent. The player’s who win bracelets and get player of the year honors will most likely be playing well, but it is a complete guarantee that they are also running hotter than hell. Luck is something you can’t control, you just have to be prepared for if it comes your way, and this is where being a realist is important. The possibility of being ‘the chosen one’ for the summer exists but it is far from a guarantee. If you come in with the expectation that you are going to outperform everyone it is going to be very difficult to swallow every time you get coolered or lose a key pot in the tournaments. If on the other hand you come in full well prepared for the most likely outcome it will be easy to accept what happens and not allow it to have a negative impact on your play in subsequent hands and subsequent tournaments.
6. Underestimating the competition
This is one that i have been guilty of first hand and i paid the price for it with an 0 for 12 showing. Again, these tournaments are highly luck dependent and being of a higher skill level than the competition doesn't guarantee success. Just because someone is over the age of 60 doesn't mean they don’t know how to play good poker (it’s more likely, but not guaranteed), just because someone is young or European doesn't mean that they will be a lose and reckless player, just because someone is a girl doesn't mean they don’t know how to play as well as the boys (Google Amanda Musumeci if you’d like an example.) You have to be willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and not assume that everyone sucks just because you are awesome. Your job in these events is to play the best poker you can and avoid making mistakes, not to go out of your way to try to outplay everyone and stroke your own ego. Remember it’s survival of the fittest out there, not survival of the coolest.
5. Not Being Prepared
Make a checklist before you arrive in Vegas of the things you would like to have: comforts of home that will make for an enjoyable experience. Here are some items you should definitely bring down that you may not have thought or: sunscreen, warm clothes for the cool casinos, fully stocked iPod, chapstick, a backpack to bring all your daily essentials with you to the events. Having whatever you need to keep you happy will make for a more enjoyable experience. Likewise you have to be prepared to play the tournament when it starts up, the structures are very fast and registering late will leave you with no chips AND NO READS ON THE TABLE. This means putting yourself at a large disadvantage for no good reason. It’s important to wake up a few hours before the event starts and to have a good solid breakfast so that you will feel energized and at ease before the work day begins.
4. Too Much Alcohol
This one is pretty obvious and shouldn't really need much explanation as to why it’s a bad thing. There are plenty of drinking opportunities in Vegas: Nightclubs, Pool Parties, Strip Clubs, Free alcohol in the casino, cheap alcohol at restaurants etc. That’s not to say that you shouldn't indulge in these experiences at all, far from it. The important thing with alcohol and partying is to keep in mind what your focus is and to maintain that as the priority. If partying and good times are your priority then by all means, go all out. If however your priority is performance in the tournaments, then you should keep the partying to a minimum when you know you will have adequate recovery time (going to bed early, or having a late starting tournament would not qualify as adequate recovery time).
3. Eating Bad Food
You are what you eat, and if you want to perform while in these long days your body needs adequate fuel. My last blog entry covered what you should be ingesting if you want to perform at peak levels. It may not seem like eating some fast food here and there will have a huge impact on your play, but every extra ounce of energy your body needs to use to breakdown complex foods that weren't meant to be ingested by humans is energy that could have been better used elsewhere, be it for thinking, exercising, resting, you name it!
2. Not Enough Sleep
Sleeping is when your body has a chance to recharge its energy stores and prepare for the next day of hard work. If you aren't getting enough sleep, you are almost guaranteed to crash and burn at some point during the day. It’s important that you are getting quality sleep (which will not happen if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol before your head hits the pillow) and that if you are feeling drained during the day you take adequate naps to refuel those stores (it’s amazing what 15 minutes of light rest can do). Go to be early and allow yourself adequate rest or it will catch up with you. In cases where you can’t nap it’s OK to make use of caffeine (red bull, coffee, tea) on occasion, but if you are using caffeine as a crush everyday eventually your body will have enough and you’ll have to give it the rest that it demands.
1. Not Being Confident in Yourself
Confidence is probably the single best weapon you can have at the poker table. When you are confident in your abilities you make good decisions, when you are confident in your reads you are more willing to act on them (and they will be on point more often), and when you are confident in yourself you don’t let the little things bother you and you keep your eyes on the prize and the bigger picture. Lacking confidence in yourself will lead to second-guessing every decision and dwelling on things in the past that you may have had no control over but more importantly have no impact on subsequent hands in the tournament. So be confident in yourself! If you made the decision to come play the World Series of Poker it’s probably because you’re pretty damn good at the game, so don’t lose sight of that. Just because the first few events don’t go your way, doesn't mean you’re an less of a poker player than you were before the series started. Remember to look at the series as a whole and keep your major focus on your mind at all times, this is what will give you the best chance of achieving the success you so much desire.
Now you know what not to do. As for what to do? GET STACKIN!
Photo Credit: Dan Hughes | Flickr