The next big tournament I’ll be playing is the 2007 World Series of Poker’s Main Event.
As I’m sure most of you are aware, the Main Event is like poker’s Battle Royale: Everyone plays, figurative fists are flying all over the place, and the tournament is both wildly unpredictable and a great value.
The tournament is wildly unpredictable in several ways. First, a relative unknown wins it pretty much every year. Trying to pick a winner in this thing is an exercise in futility. It is going to be the week of someone’s life, and chances are, you’ll never have heard of that person. Second, and more importantly, my personal performance in this tournament is difficult to predict because it is so dependent on my table draw. I might end up at a table with Patrik Antonius and J.C. Tran in the two seats to my immediate left, which would be a disaster. Or–more likely–I might end up at a table with a nine players who can barely tie their shoes. There’s no way of knowing until I actually sit down.
The Main Event is a great value for me because of the abundance of guys who can’t tie their shoes, who show up in droves every year. These are sane people who would never think of gambing away ten thousand dollars under normal conditions. But this is the World Series of Poker’s Main Event, where the average Joe’s dreams can and do come true! Just plunking down the $10k is a badge of honor of sorts. So there they all are: normally sane guys paying $10,000 to play poker with players who are mostly better than them.
In the early stages of the Main Event, the best strategy is to leave higher level thinking on the shelf. The most important skills are to identify the player types at your table and exploit the bad ones with the appropriate form of A-B-C poker. In a live setting, I excel at both of these things. This is a nice way of saying that some players might give away a lot of chips. This obviously makes the Main Event a great value for me.
I’ve recently been asked what I’ll be doing to prepare myself for the Main Event. I’ve thought about the answer, and I’ve come to the realization that this year will be different from my only other Main Events, which were 2005 and 2006.
In 2005, I was playing in the biggest tournament of my life, both in terms of size and importance. At the time, I had never seen a live field over perhaps 300 players. In the spring of 2005, becoming a professional poker player was little more than a dream. As it turns out, my performance in the 2005 Main Event went a long way. That tournament made me realize that I had a lot of innate ability in poker. It also allowed a seed that was previously unwatered to germinate. It is very possible that I would never have changed professions had I not cashed in the 2005 Main Event.
My preparation for the 2005 Main Event reflected my relatively novice abilities. I was in a phase where I was still absorbing tournament strategy as fast as I humanly could. My bibles were Sklansky’s tournament book and Harrington on Hold ‘Em. Especially Harrington on Hold ‘Em. Despite having been through it cover-to-cover at least five times prior, I read it during most of my waking moments in the days before the tournament: on the plane to Vegas, poolside at my hotel, while eating dinner, late at night in bed. I literally slept next to Harrington’s two volumes for the entire trip. Then I went out and applied them, along with a few instinctive moves sprinkled in, at the tables. Add a dose of good luck and the result was a surprisingly high finish.
In 2006, I was once again playing the biggest tournament of my life, but I was then more seasoned. I was a pro with one big cash under my belt, and my strategic thinking extended well beyond Harrington. I was employing new concepts, ones I had learned mostly from PokerXFactor.com, and I had been testing them out online and in smaller live events. I still wasn’t completely sure of my fundamentals, so I continued to carry Harrington’s books with me on the road, referring to them liberally during my downtime. I still had the sneaking suspicion that I would be somehow outclassed for much of the tournament, but Day 1 disabused me of that notion quickly. Once again, with the help of lady luck, I managed an impressive finish.
Now, things have changed somewhat drastically. Comparatively speaking, I’m a veteran of the poker scene. If you compare my 1.5 years of professional experience to the average Main Event participant, I’m a veritable wise old owl. All the things I’ve gleaned from Harrington, PokerXFactor, 2+2, conversations with smart poker players, etc. etc. are now engrained in my head, forming my basic strategy. Like a big league shortstop fielding a routine grounder and tossing it to first, the fundamentals of the game are now practically etched in my DNA. As a result, I actually consciously avoid reading poker manuals in the days and hours before a big tournament. All they can possibly do is alter the things I innately understand. Does a professional chef need a cookbook to scramble eggs?
So I guess the short answer is:
Beyond asking the poker gods for my third consecutive year of good luck, I’m going to do nothing to prepare for the Main Event.
More to come from Sin City….