Tournaments are many things, and while they're not intrinsically easy, getting the edge on the field is not as difficult as you may think. I've been competing in tournaments for over a decade, and here are the most important lessons I've learned...
I’ve talked a lot lately about tournaments, and I definitely haven’t sugar-coated the realities. Tournaments are many things, and while not intrinsically easy, getting the edge on the field is easier than you may think. It all comes down to being a multidimensional end boss and not limit yourself to just strategy.
Here’s what tournaments are:
- A test of physical endurance (long days)
- A test of your emotional stamina (stakes up, pressure up)
- A test of your ability to adjust to the environment (stack size, table draws, constant change)
- A test of your strategic game (some tough opponents, and since you only have one life, you’ve gotta start back at the beginning if you get knocked out - that’s if you can get back in at all)
- A test of your ability to plan ahead (self-management)
- A test of your ability to be in the moment (total recall)
- A place where you’re probably going to be playing higher stakes than you ever played before
Tournaments will push you to your limits. Tournaments will take you out of your comfort zone. They are high stakes, high stress, high pressure contests.
And most people are NOT prepared for this. Just look around the room at your next event. Who’s skilled enough to play high stakes successfully? Who truly exhibits grace under pressure?
Who’s healthy enough to stay sharp for 10 hours - without using stimulants that come with a hard crash and compromise your ability to play through multiple days? Who even realizes that it’s about winning and not cashing? Listen to the conversations going on around you. You’ll see.
You’ll see many of the players don’t know the score, and that some percentage of the field has literally ZERO chance of winning, regardless of how well they run, because they simply don’t have an awareness of the terrain and the killer instinct required to get the job done.
Many people play tournaments because they think that anyone can win. This is not 100% true.
Tournaments attract gamblers, shot takers and dreamers. And luck? Well, it only lasts so long.
This is what I realized when I played the $1,000 event at the Fallsview Poker Classic in 2015.
I was up again people who weren’t prepared for the task at hand. I saw that even some of the better players (results wise) had poor emotional control and would blow off their winnings in the pit after because anything less than top three money wasn’t satisfying for them. I saw there was so much wrong with my opponents, which gave me an edge: if I could get those things under control and right in me, I would have a massive advantage.
Most of the time other people don’t beat us in tournaments: we beat ourselves.
When one comes into battle armed with patience, they can simply wait for others to take themselves out of the fight. It’s really quite easy when you see the big picture: are you prepared to do what you need to do, and are you at peace with whatever outcome may befall you?
Players who are running hot will enjoy big fluctuations in their chip stack and some huge highs in the early going, but typically, the overall trend is downwards when luck balances out or when they run into a superior opponent who knows how to mitigate the effects of luck. (Think small ball, baby!)
If a player can’t win at cash games (where they choose their stakes and are probably in their comfort zone) imagine what will happen when they’re pushed to their limits? Day after day. Mistakes will happen, and this is why if you prepare well and understand the deal, odds are you will win, and win big: it’s just a matter of time and continuing to put yourself in miracle territory.
The gap in poker skill may only be minor, but the gap in the mental and physical game can be major.
And we as pro Gripsters have the time and energy to focus on these other areas of mental and physical play, which our opponents don’t because they have other obligations, other jobs, other had habits or spend too much of their time sitting and playing cards.
Awareness is everything, and I’m drawing your awareness to the fact that if you actually put attention towards these other areas, you’re going to make more money and you’re going to win. And when you win, you’re going to have the energy to be able to enjoy that money.
Does all this help in the online world? Yes, but to a lesser extent.
The biggest money and the softest competition is in the live arena, and especially in tournament poker, so if it’s big bucks you want, this is your opportunity, and your biggest edge comes from covering all your bases, not just one.
The strategy of tournaments isn’t wildly complicated, but the ability to stay focused and be able to apply all those pieces of information in the moment? That’s a tall order. But I’ve got you covered.
How much support and instruction you need will depend on your current skill level in all areas.
You may excel at game strategy, but need help with mental and physical endurance. Or maybe the reverse holds true. Whatever you need, I have the tools to help, from my best-selling MTT Strategy Guide, to the new addition of my one-on-one poker and lifestyle coaching.
Photo Credit: Charina Duenas | Flickr