The inaugural World Poker Tour (WPT) Boot Camp kicked off at The Mirage last weekend, where 50 "recruits" spent two days learning the ins and outs of championship poker.
In addition to intensive instruction that included hands-on play in poker "labs," the students participated in a "live" game in which 10 students won seats to an upcoming WPT satellite tournament.
Some of the students were residents of Las Vegas, though most came from outside the state.
The Boot Camp’s instructors included World Poker Tour TV show commentator Mike Sexton and the television show’s associate producer, Alex "The Insider" Outhred.
"They have played the game of poker and been witness to the skills of top players worldwide," said Lyle Berman, co-founder of the World Poker Tour and chief of Lakes Gaming. "Together they provide the kind of coaching necessary to help amateur poker players reach and succeed at a WPT final table.
"The best way to improve quickly is to learn from the pros," Berman continued. "This is tournament poker education in a safe environment ”¦ not at a table in a casino."
Even if they don’t reach a championship table, the recruits learned many of the key skills needed to compete successfully in Texas hold’em, the game of choice in most big tournaments.
In addition to the basics of the game and how to bet, instruction included tips for reading and analyzing opponents and their hands, how to bet aggressively, when and how to bluff and the significance of position at the table.
After exploring the basics, students then moved along to the mathematics of poker where they were taught to analyze poker hands, calculate odds, and decide on the right amount to bet. There was also strategy presented that addresses pre-flop betting, post-flop betting, early position plays, stealing a blind, avoiding dead draws and making all-in bets.
Lastly, students received tutelage on how to approach tournament play so they may make it to a final table. Early, middle, and late tournament strategies were discussed along with the value of changing tables, overcoming bad beats, short stack play and keeping a chip lead.
Because of his history as a poker tournament pro (he’s a former European poker champion and the winner of a World Series of Poker gold bracelet), Sexton provided plenty of practical anecdotes to go along with his lectures.
Adding color to his examples were several first-person stories related to players such as Stu Ungar and Doyle Brunson. Instruction also used tournament video footage from the World Poker Tour, which provided students visual examples of the points the instructor wanted to make.
"While high-stakes poker can be a pretty serious, stressful business, that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with the folks we’re teaching. Poker is, after all, a game," Sexton said.
The other lecturer and lab instructor was Alex Outhred, who has worked on the World Poker tour for three seasons. His job is to review and scrutinize on WPT film the players’ every card, bet, critical decision and telling glance. By watching every hand ever played on the tour, Outhred has gained invaluable insights as to how players play and win.
The cost of the WPT Boot Camp is $1,495 and its class size is limited to 50 students (the seminar at The Mirage was sold out). The camp will be offered in other cities throughout the year. See the WPTbootcamp web site for dates, locations and details.