Monday, June 24, 2013

WSOP: Some Lessons Learned

Damn, I miss Vegas! I've now been back from Sin City for a little over a week, and I have to confess that I missed being there almost immediately upon touching down in my hometown. I had a great time, and even counting my airfare, hotel, taxis, meals, swag, tourney buy-ins, etc., I still came out ahead and part way toward another buy-in at next year's WSOP. Gotta love a vacation where you come back with a fatter wallet than you left with. :)

Anyway, here are a few lessons learned on this foray for me to the WSOP for the first time:
  • Lodging. I'm still a little torn on what exactly the lesson is on this one. On the one hand, staying at the same place I played definitely made logistics dead easy; in simple terms, I never had to leave the Rio during my entire stay. But the Rio was on the pricey side, and frankly I wasn't very impressed with the hospitality they offered up. Also, the logistical advantage presented a corresponding disadvantage of sorts-- namely, I never got to leave the Rio. I heard that some of the other casinos had excellent deep stack events going on at the same time as the WSOP, but I literally never stepped foot outside the grounds of the Rio during my 4.5 day stay. The WSOP is the epicenter of poker during this period of the year, but there's more poker going on in Vegas than just at the Rio. 
  • Da Crew. I'm not a particularly social animal, and I am almost always comfortably happy alone, especially on biz trips… but I have to say that I missed having the camaraderie of a crew of fellow players with me on this trip. Now, don't get me wrong; I still had a fantastic time, and I have no real regrets, but I think the whole experience would have been enhanced even more if I'd spent the time in Vegas with 2-5 other hardcore poker playing friends. Sweating and railing each other, meeting at breaks, eating dinner together, commiserating and cheering each other one would have made for an even better experience, me thinks. I might see if I can get a few folks like Mr. Multi, Tash-man, and/or Chopper Bob to tag along next time.
  • Deepstack Events. These were definitely fun and worthwhile events to play in, and I need to make time for more of these in the future. The competition is decent, but not crazy good, and the event structures are pretty sweet, especially early on with 300 big blind starting stacks. For a $235 buy-in, a good, cautious/patient poker player has a pretty good chance at making the money in these events. I also would have liked to play in some of the other non-Rio casinos deep stack games, as I heard some of these were pretty good, too. 
  • Cash Games. I have to say that the cash games I played in (three long sessions of $1/2 and one moderately long session of $2/4 NLHE) were pretty good, with relatively soft competition seated at the felt with me. Okay, maybe I ran a little better than average, but I also saw plenty of questionable poker being played by the opp. Some of this I think was due to the fact that many of the players were tourney dropouts trying to "get even" after busting out of various events. The key for me in these sessions was simply be patient, bluff hardly at all, value-town the heck out of the calling stations, and print the money. 
  • $1K vs. $1.5K Events. I am leaning toward playing in a $1500 WSOP bracelet event next time I go in lieu of a $1K event. While the $1K tourney was great fun, and definitely had some dead money at the tables, the structure is just a tad too fast for the money outlay. You start with T3K/T25 = 120 bigs, which is fine, but in the very next level you're down to 60, and then 30, and then 15 by the fourth hour if you don't chip up. Yes, the levels are one hour long, but this is still a relatively fast drop-off in big blinds if you're not getting cards or finding good situations to play. In contrast, the $1500 events typically start you at 180 bigs, then 90, then 45, and then 22.5 in the same first four hours of play. The payouts are also proportionally better (but the field sizes tend to be smaller, however.) Ergo, I might give one of these a try next time I go.
  • Fly vs. Drive. I live just 5 hours or so by car from Vegas, so I probably will drive next time. This could save a little on travel expenses, I could bring more of my own food and gear, plus I'd have a set of wheels that I could use to hit the other casinos in town as the mood strikes. 
  • Stars in my Eyes. I admit it: I was a little star struck at the WSOP with all the poker royalty and celebrity abounding. But what first-timer wouldn't have been? Between chatting with Negreanu, railing Hellmuth, listening in on Mike the Mouth drop F-bombs, eavesdropping in on Duhamel in French while he stood in a snack line in front of me, corralling Brokos at a break and chatting his ear off, and gawking at Tiffany Michelle (after sitting beside her for twenty minutes at an 08 event before realizing who she was), my head was spinning the whole time I was at the WSOP. While this was absolutely a fun part of the adventure, it also took away from a) my concentration; and b) my actual seat time. This latter item probably cost me a grand or more in extra cash game profits simply because I was spending hours and hours watching famous players play, than play myself. Next year I need to get over the spectacle of the celebs and stars and such, and just plain play more poker. 
  • Tactics. If there was one thing I feel I could have done better in the tourneys, it is this: play stronger offense, and don't get sucked into a defensive posture. When Leather Face sat down next to me (and subsequently started running over the table) at my bracelet event, I think I should have picked up on this sooner, and then started pushing back on him faster and harder. In fact, once he showed up, I almost reverted back to a pseudo level-1 (or maybe 1.5) style of poker, waiting for opportunities rather than proactively generating them. When you're 30+ bigs deep, you can afford to wait; when you're under 30, you need to start actively making plays instead of waiting. This is definitely an area I can improve on next time. Said another way: stop making hard decisions, and instead put those hard decisions on to my opponents.
  • Note Taking. I kept hand and play notes in a small pad I had in my shirt pocket, but it was clumsy and distracting to keep pulling it out and jot things down. And because I was writing down items like my own hands and my reads on other players, I kept having to keep the open pages hidden from view of my neighbors while I scribbled. Not sure what I'll do next year, but there has to be a better way of keeping a running record of the game for later review. Or not; maybe I should just forgo the whole note taking thing and just concentrate 100% on the immediate game situation and flow? Dunno. 
In any case, I learned a lot in Vegas this year, had truly great fun playing and gawking, and my poker is definitely better for the whole experience.

But damn, I want to go back. :-)

All-in for now…


  1. I find note-taking and tweeting to be distracting. I mostly used twitter at breaks.

  2. You're probably right, Mojo. While I really liked the ability to go back over my key hands and spot issues, I think in the heat of the moment it took too much concentration away from the game flow. I speak French and German, so I also thought about using a mini-recorder that I could speak some key hand information in one of those languages (much like Gus Hansen did when he won the Aussie Millions a few years ago when he spoke in Danish). Unfortunately, you never know who at your table also speaks those languages, and could pick up some important info from me just by listening in. Also, the English-Only rule is in effect, so I'm not sure if I would even be allowed to do this. Hmmm. Probably just going to resort to jotting down stuff at breaks from my (faulty) memory.