So you're playing in the main event this year? Great! So am I. This weeks strategy article will be geared towards preparing for not only the main event, but for a big tournament. For me it's the main event. For you it could be a preliminary WSOP event or even a daily Deepstack. Either way, there are definitely do's and dont's when it comes to preparing for an important tournament. I'd like to touch on some of these in today's article.
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Through many years of playing poker professionally I've learned to handle the daily ups and downs of "the grind." The one thing that always haunted me though was how to prepare for a day of poker that meant significantly more to me than every other day- day one of a major tournament. Through trial and error I've found a few things that help me keep my focus and enter the event feeling good and I'd like to share those things this week.
I used to treat each tournament the same, as just another day of work. While it is just another day at the office I feel like treating it as such has often handicapped me and left me unprepared for the emotions and swings of an important event. We all know the the main aspects of preparing like not getting drunk the night before, not staying out late, etc etc etc. Another thing that I have found that works well for me is taking the day before the event off from poker. Too many times I have went to play cash games and found myself looking so far into the future of the next days tournament that I neglected what was going on at the table that day. This often led to unnecessary losses and shaken confidence leading into the next days event. I would highly discourage playing serious poker the day before to avoid this happening. Also, a day off from poker is good to clear your mind, reset, and go into the next days event with a fresh outlook on what's to come. Sitting around talking about poker, playing, and in general getting too excited about the next days event can often be a downfall. If things don't start out right and we were too "hyped up" to begin with, it can often lead to a downward spiral of emotions and an early exit from the event that we were so looking forward to playing. So, if we shouldn't spend all day taking about what could happen in the big event, and we can't play poker, what should we do?
In my opinion the day before a big event should be spent doing fun, enjoyable things outside of poker. It should also be a relatively healthy day to avoid a food hangover the next day. I like to start out my day prior to a big event with a small but healthy breakfast. During the day I'd try to fit in a workout of some sort if that's your thing. For me this is playing basketball for a few hours. Be careful though. If you're not normally working out or playing sports, don't overdue it to the point where you're sore beyond belief the next day. If you like golf, the day before a big event is a great time to fit in a round of golf to escape from the poker mindset. If it's in your budget, taking a relaxing spa day including whirlpool therapy and/or a massage is always a good option. A healthy lunch high in protein is a good option the day before. An afternoon movie or Vegas show is a great and relaxing way to spend the afternoon/evening. A good dinner that's easy on the stomach is the best option to end your night. The last thing you want is to be running to the bathroom during the first few levels of the next days event because you overloaded on burritos and tacos! Finally, a good nights rest goes without saying but is of utmost importance. Using sleeping aids is not a good idea as they often cause a hangover the next day. Some natural melatonin is best to use if you absolutely have that "kid on Christmas Eve" feeling.
On the morning of the event I'd recommend a small protein filled breakfast followed up by snacks before and during day one. My breakfast would often be a protein bar and a small meal like a white meat teriyaki chicken bowl about an hour before the start of the event. During the second break or so I eat some fruit or another protein bar which keeps me full but not uncomfortable until dinner break. Eating too much kind of puts you in a food coma of sorts where you may not be at your best when making crucial decisions during the event.
All of these things are very easy to do and ultimately will help put you in your best state of mind and allow you to think clearly and feel good at the table. Don't over-think about what can happen during an event. Take each hand one at a time, don't worry about how many players are left, average chip counts, and all the other stuff that doesn't matter. Just play the best poker you can and let everything come to you.
Once at the table take a deep breath and mentally prepare to play a long day. Start out slowly. Feel out your table and decide who you believe to be the best and worst players at your table. Specifically pay attention to what players say. If you know a player is playing in their first WSOP event it is quite likely that they will be easy to be moved off of hands as they likely will be trying to last as long as possible and enjoy the experience rather than playing aggressively and risk being knocked out early. Once you do your best to assign each player a style, then feel free to open up your game and start acting on your reads.
And if the stars align and things fall into place hopefully we'll meet at the final table!
Written by PokerAtlas Resident Pro Benton Blakeman