Sunday, January 11, 2009

Do You Have The Right Mental Approach to Win a WSOP Bracelet?

The first skill to win a WSOP bracelet or any tournament is:

Playing to win and not just to cash.

Before you enter a no limit poker tournament you must put yourself in the right mind frame. If you are like most poker players you have heard Pros tell you: "In order to win, you have to survive."

In fact, you may have read many books and articles telling to play it safe early on, avoid confrontations unless you have a big hand, try to wait out and survive to make the final table. This is the advice that will keep you a loser. Guaranteed.

Here is a simple test to see if you have what it takes:

You fly into Vegas with friends to watch the WSOP Main Event with a $10,000 buy-in. After a night of partying, you wake up in the afternoon and discover a ticket to enter the tournament. You suddenly recall that last night you got drunk and paid $10,000 to compete in the WSOP Main Event!

You rush to the Rio and take your seat as the director announces, "Shuffle up and deal." You are on the big blind with the blinds at $100-$50. You have $20,000 in chips. The player under the gun shoves all-in, and the small blind moves all-in as well. With two players all-in on the first hand, you are ready to muck when you look at your cards and find pocket Aces. What should you do?

Play it safe and fold, or risk all your chips and your $10,000.

If you hesitated, you need to adjust your mental approach to tournament poker. You must push. You must take the risk of getting knocked out on the first hand. You are even a favorite to triple up!

Tournament poker is not about survival. Tournament poker is about accumulating chips and winning. Usually one win in a tournament pays for months of buy-ins for the same event.

Ok, that was an easy test.

But ask yourself this question:

"Are you one of the typical players who plays tight early-on in an event, or waits for premium hands before raising pre-flop, or believes you can always outplay my opponents, or calls pre-flop raises with A-K rather than risk getting knocked out or thinks that you got knocked out only because of a bad beat?"

If any of the above sounds like you, you are not alone. Because that's how most players approach the game. It is why most players never win a no limit poker tournament with 100 or more players. It is why most players never have enough chips to get past one bad beat.

Have you heard the expression, "Making the wrong play at the right time?" It means that someone made the wrong decision on a hand of poker, but still won. It happens all the time. It is why poker is a game of chance.

The next time you play in a tournament, focus on the rewards of winning, not the penalty of losing your buy-in.

In his book Making the Final Table Erick Lindgren wrote:

"You want to be a great poker player? Stop thinking you're better than the randomness of the game. Embrace the randomness. Let people think you're a wild risk taker. And start taking advantage of those afraid to risk their own chips."

Get out of your comfort level. You are not a WSOP bracelet winner yet.

But you can be one if you understand that the way you are playing now is not the right way to win a poker tournament. Use your chips as weapons. Make bets that will put fear in the mind and heart of your opponent. Be a risk taker, not a safe player. And maintain that aggressive mindset throughout the tournament.

Next: Entering a tournament poker event with a plan--when will you play tight, loose, aggressive, solid, etc

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