Let's sharpen up our poker tourney skills

Feb 3, 2009 5:04 PM
The Inside Straight by Joe Awada |

Last week, Harrah’s Entertainment announced the schedule for its 40th annual World Series of Poker, to be held here in Las Vegas, May 27-July 15.

As we predicted last week, the World Series has made some changes, eliminating some events and adding a few others. Most important for players, the WSOP increased the number of bracelet events from 55 to 57, and increased by two (from 37 to 39) the number of events with a buy-in of $2,500 or less.

On the opening weekend, the World Series will host a commemorative $40,000 buy-in Hold’em event to celebrate the tournament’s 40th anniversary.

There will also be a special $1,000 "Stimulus" No Limit Hold’em event held on Day two, which replaces the $1,500 event last year that drew nearly 4,000 entrants.

Other announced changes include elimination of all five re-buy events, and the addition of two $10,000 world championship events (there were eight last year).

Perhaps the biggest news is that Harrah’s has elected to keep its main event’s delayed final table, which will again be contested four months after the World Series ends.

Last year’s World Series attracted the most entries ever (58,720) from the most countries ever (124) and paid out the largest prize pool ever awarded ($180,774,427).

Even though the World Series is nearly four months away, it’s a good time to start preparing and sharpening your tournament skills.

One way to do that is by playing in smaller tournaments, which I like to call "stepping stone" tournaments. Here in Las Vegas, there are plenty to choose from over the next few months.

For instance, this month the Venetian hosts its Deep Stack Extravaganza, which started on Monday and continues through Feb. 25.

Poker room manager Kathy Raymond always does a great job in the Venetian poker room, so you can expect a great tournament. The fields aren’t as massive as the WSOP fields, and buy-ins are manageable – most entry fees are $330, with the championship event commanding a modest $2,500 buy-in. Of course, there are satellites to help if you’re bankroll challenged.

Another nice feature of the Venetian tournament is the variety of games. There are H.O.R.S.E. and Omaha high/low events, to go along with the staple No Limit Hold’em events.

Also this month, Caesars Palace is hosting its Mega Stack Series of No Limit Hold’em events, which runs through Feb. 26. Most of the events are modestly priced with a $225 buy-in, with the championship event requiring a$1,060 entry.

These stepping-stone tournaments are a great way to hone your tournament skills, and you have a good chance of picking up some "seed money" along the way, thus padding your bankroll for the WSOP in May.

Also, some of the Vegas card rooms offer promotions that could help you get into the tournament, such as a minimum number of hours of playing time per week, so check with the casino to find out about any of these deals.

No matter where you play, keep in mind that winning a tournament depends on five key ingredients: skill, heart, patience, stamina and luck. And there’s no substitute for logging valuable playing time in a tournament setting.

I know I’ll be playing in several of these "stepping stones" tournaments this month, so I hope to meet up with many of you at the tables.