Friday, June 24, 2011

WSOP: Lessons Learned

I participated in my first World Series of Poker this year. It was a great experience, and one I hope to repeat. I didn’t cash, unfortunately. I survived about five hours in Event #32, $1500 NL Hold’em, and I came tantalizingly close to winning a Main Event seat, finishing 8th in a 100 player Super Satellite that gave away 3 seats.  I also learned a few lessons which I will take with me if I’m fortunate enough to go again next year.

Lesson 1: Don’t Play Hold’em

Well, I wouldn’t ignore hold’em entirely, but if I can only play one bracelet even next year, I’ll probably opt for seven card stud or Omaha. Unlike about 95% of today’s poker playing community, I can play all the major poker games. Given that at my buy in level, I can face 3,000 people in a no limit hold’em event or 300 in a stud event where half the people probably don’t know what they are doing, I think the choice is clear. Also, the structure of the low buy in events, short chips – long rounds, probably favors a limit game, as opposed to typical tournament structures, where blinds rise so rapidly that it’s extremely difficult to amass enough chips to stay ahead of them and cash with fixed betting limits (although I’ve done this in limit hold'em too.)

Lesson 2: Don’t Play Cash Games

While many cash game specialists salivate at the idea of all the juicy cash action that happens during the WSOP, I can play cash games at home (well, not at HOME, thanks DOJ, but in Los Angeles). The WSOP is a poker tournament Mecca, and there’s just no time to waste playing cash games, especially since the juiciest games are no limit hold’em, and NLHE cash games are not really my specialty.

Lesson 3: Don’t Leave the Rio

After busting out of my bracelet event, I raced over to Caesars to see if I could get into a tournament. I ended up playing a $100 buy in with a deep stack, short rounds, and not many players, and my head was not really in it. There was no need for this. Events are running constantly and every day at the Rio. At any time, I was at most a few hours away from a super satellite, a bracelet event, a single table satellite, a deep stack tournament or some other type of daily non-bracelet tournament. These tournaments were all stocked with players, many of whom were not particularly gifted. There’s no reason to leave the Rio. No reason at all.

Lesson 4: Stay at the Rio

A corollary to this idea is to be sure to get a room at the Rio. I naturally assumed that the Rio would be all booked up, and that rooms would be at a premium. The truth was just the opposite. If you could present a registration ticket to a WSOP event, the rooms were probably the cheapest casino hotel rooms in Vegas. Considering the Rio is a bit off the strip, being able to stay there is a big advantage. You can bet I’ll be doing that next year.

Although the series is still going on as I write this, I think I’ve taken my shot for this year. My next poker adventure will probably be at the Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino in August. With any luck, I’ll generate lots of blog material there.


Danyul said...

Nice job. A bit surprising to know that you could have (and probably can still get a cheap RIO suite). I don't know if I agree with not leaving the Rio. If we take the idea of not playing Cash Games as written in stone then the only reason to leave the RIO would be to play in the Binion's Tournament Series or the Golden Nugget (The GRAND) tournament series which has numerous non-hold'em tournaments. The multitude of tournies at the RIO is correct but they are most likely 90% holdem.

Craig Berger said...

Didn't know about the downtown tournaments. In fact, I've actually never been to downtown Las Vegas. Will definitely investigate further.