Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to Win at the WSOP: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Countdown: Day 58

"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."

-Making the Final Table by Erick Lindgren

At WSOP this year, it appears that players do not need to play fast. In the $1,500 event, the WMPP will be gone in roughly 6.2 hours. This is amazing!

Given the added time, should you be patient and wait for the premium cards to come to you or should you take advantage of your opponents who are being patient and waiting for premium starting hands?

Get out of your comfort zone.

You are not a WSOP bracelet winner yet. Work on changing your approach to the game if the following applies to you:

1. I wait for premium starting hands and play them aggressively
2. I play tight at the start of an event since I don't want to risk losing my chips
3. I sometimes get to the bubble but usually with few chips
4. I sometimes get to the final table but usually with few chips
5. I am not even sure how to play differently than I have been playing

It is time you changed your mental approach to no limit poker tournaments. While you can be incredibly patient this year, the fact is that you can not depend on the cards to get you a bracelet. These events go on for 2 or 3 or more days. You will take a bad beat or two or three. You will have incredibly long streaks of getting no cards.
You will slowly but surely be blinded get in the right mental approach.

Play 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.

Tournament poker is not about survival. Tournament poker is about accumulating chips and winning. Usually one win in a WSOP tournament pays $500,000+.

One year at the WSOP I was playing in a $1,500 NL event. I was playing great, getting premium cards, and dominating my table. As the other tables were being broken down, I was feeling more and more confident that I had a shot at winning.

And then it happened. Two new players came over to my table, with trays of chips. It was unreal how many chips these guys had accumulated! These guys must be incredibly lucky, right? Nope. It was Phil Ivey and Erick Lingren. They crushed the players at my table and knocked out my opponents and me. It was unreal. They were playing at a much higher level of anyone I had ever witnessed.

Were they waiting patiently for premium cards? Of course not. They were aggressive, playing many hands, taking risks and playing to win.

Poker tournaments are all about winning.

The $1,500 WSOP event allows for a lot of play and the opportunity to be patient. It favors the pros. It is time to learn other ways to build your chip stack. It is time to try new plays. Test different ways to play starting today. You may lose a small buy-in event, but you will improve your game.

And the next time you play in a tournament, focus on the rewards of winning, not the penalty of losing your buy-in. Put Erick's quote into play. 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.

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