Saturday, August 18, 2012

WSOP 2013: Putting a Plan Together

Okay, so how does a player go about getting ready for a major live tournament that's nearly a year away? Especially if said player has never attended a major tourney like this before? Here's my to-do list:
  1. Pick an event and register;
  2. Get ready to play; and
  3. Go to Vegas and sit down.
Ha. Ha. While I'm obviously being more than a little facetious with this three-step plan, the reality is that this is the basis of what I intend to do. Let me explain by expanding on the first two:

Pick an Event. This step is more involved than it sounds. Obviously, I'm going to stick with one of the NL Hold'em events, as this is where I'm in my comfort zone. Also, while I'd love to play in the Main Event, I frankly don't have ten large lying around that I can justify spending on a mid-life crisis. It's also pretty hard to justify even $2500, but one of the $1500 or $1K events is do-able for my limited budget. Fully 15 of the 61 events at this year's WSOP (i.e., 25% of the tourneys spread) were $1K or $1.5K games, so finding something that fits my budget and schedule next year should be reasonably easy. There are also things like hotel, food, transportation, and a side cash game or two that currently aren't in my budget. Oh, and I want to spend some time between now and then in some local live tournaments, which means buy-in fees. In other words, I've got some saving to do between now and then.

Get Ready. This is where I put my money where my mouth is; i.e., I frequently tout my "ABC Edges" approach to mastering poker on this blog (hell, I devote four of the nine drop down tabs at the top of this blog's home page to the subject of Edge). This system was/is-being developed primarily for learning cash games, but I really don't see a reason it's not applicable to tourneys, too, so this is where I intend to start:
  1. Preparation. As you no doubt know, I believe there are three subparts to this Edge: pregame, postgame, and offtable. In the context of this big tournament endeavour, this far out from the WSOP, the "pregame" prep is going to focus primarily on selecting the tournament that has the most dead money and offers me the biggest edge. The "postgame" part is going to be me reviewing tournaments that I play between now and then, including posting a lot of questions about hands played to the forums. This will involve a lot of online tournaments (to get in volume), some local live tournaments (to practice handling chips, etc), and perhaps a pre-visit to Vegas to get my feet wet in one of the smaller regular tournaments like a Venetian deep stack event*. The "off-table" prep is where the bulk of my work on this edge is going to take place. Get in shape/increase staminia (read: lose 30+ pounds and improve cardio), read tournament poker books (at least three between now and then), watch a bunch of MTT training videos (review the ones I already own, plus maybe invest in some more), steering away from the cash game sections of the forums and focusing on the MTT sections, and perhaps investing in some type of software tournament training program. 
  2. Technique. I also believe there are three subparts to this Edge: preflop, postflop evaluations, and line implementations. I've got a pretty good handle on preflop hand selection, but not necessarily for tournament play (which is strongly a function of payout structure, blind size, stack sizes, and stage of the tournament); I have a lot to bone up on here, including ICM and the concept of cEV. (I intend to finish my cash game starting hand chart, but once I do I'll revisit it with tournament play in mind). Similarly, I'm OK at postflop evaluations in cash games (i.e., the "R" and "E" parts of REDi), but I need to really start turning my focus to tournaments. Hand reading is going to be vitally important, and factoring in all the ICM stuff is going to be an interesting challenge to master. Finally, line implementations are pretty standard (the "D" and "i" parts of REDi), but I need to wrap my head around things like the concept of making thin +EV plays when my tournament life is on the line.
  3. Emotions. The three subparts to this are Tilt Control, BRM, and Discipline. I think I'm fine with the Tilt part (and getting in cardio shape has been shown to actually improve this part of a person's emotional control, so this should improve). BRM is also an area that's OK here; I've got a monthly budget set aside for tournaments and training, and as long as I don't exceed this I'll be fine. The last one, Discipline, is where I think I have the most work to do. Frankly speaking, right now I simply don't have the patience one needs to play a three day tournament. Hell, in online tournaments I have a bad habit of lasting 2-3 hours and then busting out for no good reason other than I got bored and wanted the thing over with. Sigh. I also tend to surf, read, work, etc when playing online. Not good. I watched a video the other day in which a guy was talking about a big, slow live tourney he played in; his comment was that the slowness of the game really allowed him to focus on reading and observing other players. I need to learn this mental approach to the game.
Obviously, this midlife crisis is a big undertaking, but as they say: you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Over the next week or two I'll get this list and plan a little better formulated and formalized. Then it's just a matter of implementing it (and fitting it in and around the rest of my life). The goal is work on the big-picture leaks and weaknesses in my game first, and then fine tune the closer I get to the event, hopefully peaking physically and mentally around early Summer of 2013.

All-in for now...
*I'm actually torn about playing at the Venetian. A true enemy of the legalization of on-line poker is Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Venetian. I will look hard at alternate venues to  play in, but these games are known to be player friendly, with good structures and soft fields. Arghgh.

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