Tournament tips: Get set for the World Series!

May 19, 2009 5:10 PM
The Inside Straight by Joe Awada |

Tournament poker players from around the world will be flocking to Las Vegas next week as the 40th World Series of Poker kicks off Tuesday, May 26, at the Rio All-Suite hotel and casino.

Last year, the World Series attracted over 58,000 entrants, who anted up for a shot at $180 million in total prize money. A testament to its international following, the WSOP hosted players from 124 countries.

This year, WSOP officials are expecting a comparable turnout. In fact, they increased the number of bracelet events to 57, up two from last year.

In addition to a wide variety of mixed events, such as Pot Limit Omaha, Omaha high-low split, Seven Card Stud, Stud high-low, H.O.R.S.E., 2-7 Draw Low Ball and Razz, the WSOP will feature the ever-popular lower buy-in, no limit hold’em events. These events are typically held at the beginning and end of the World Series, with buy-ins of $1,000 to $1,500.

This year the first $1,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event will be held starting on Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31. The two-day start is designed to accommodate what’s expected to be a huge field of players.

These events, I believe, offer the best value for the new and inexperienced tournament player, who is often working with a limited bankroll.

Perhaps the biggest selling point for these events is that you can get in for a nominal amount by playing in a satellite or super satellite tournament.

A satellite tournament, for instance, is usually a single-table tournament in which the winner is awarded a seat in the main tournament.

An even better bargain is the super satellite: for a buy-in as low as $30 you can win a seat into the main tournament. Moreover, since the super satellite usually awards several seats – up to 30 or 40 seats in some cases – you don’t have the pressure of having to win all the chips in order to advance to the main tournament.

Keep in mind there’s always the possibility of negotiation in one-table satellites: you can always negotiate to get $600 or $700 rather than fighting to the end; it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And when you’re on a limited bankroll, if you can leave a table with money you’re a step ahead of the game.

Admittedly, these early tournaments often have huge fields. But within that field you’re going to find plenty of novices and inexperienced opponents, and the chance to cash is substantially higher than in events with smaller fields.

And that, in my opinion, is crucial for the beginning player – cashing out. When you have a small bankroll, your goal should be to cash, even if you don’t win the bracelet. If you can cash early, you’re well on your way to playing in further tournaments.

And that should be your goal – to be out on the floor, playing in a tournament, hopefully using money you’ve already won.

I realize there are going to be players who feel they want to compete for a bracelet by entering "specialty" events such as Razz, H.O.R.S.E., Omaha hi-lo split and the like, which usually have smaller fields.

But keep this in mind: No matter how good you think you are, you’re going to be up against players who are at least as good, if not better than you are. Basically, these fields may be smaller than the lower buy-in events, but the fields are going to be stronger.

Regardless of how you get in, or which event you choose, beginners find that the most critical time of the event is the first half hour. Emotions are high, people are excited and often impatient to make a splash. But, remember, you must play under control and not get carried away at the outset. Keep in mind, one mistake and you’re out, so play on an even keel.

Finally, I’ve found that winning a tournament depends on five key ingredients: skill, heart, patience, stamina and luck.

Keep these attributes in mind when you sit down at one of the tables in the Rio’s massive poker room.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Joe Awada