Still lots of poker events to be played (won!)

Jun 16, 2009 5:03 PM
The Inside Straight by Joe Awada |

Plus, tips for tourney beginners

After two weeks of play, the World Series of Poker continues to set new records as tournament events attract elbow-to-elbow throngs, players intent on capturing that elusive gold bracelet.

Personally, I have only played in a few events, cashing in one of them, which will help fund playing in more events. Hopefully, one of these reports will include a first-person account of how to win a final table!

For now, I’d like to offer a few tips that beginning players might find useful in the World Series, or in any of the other tournaments currently being held in Las Vegas and beyond.

As I’ve noted before, the best value is in a lower buy-in, No Limit Hold’em events, such as the $1,000 tournament held at the start. That one is in the history books, but there are comparable events yet to be played.

There are still four $1,500 No Limit Hold’em events left on the schedule, including two this week (Tuesday and Saturday).

There is also a $1,500 No Limit Hold’em Shootout on June 26, plus a $1,000 event for seniors (aged 55 and older) on June 22.

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, HORSE, 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. Basically, these fields may be smaller than the lower buy-in events, but the fields will 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.

I think, of these attributes, patience could be near the top of the list. One of the problems with tournament poker players is they panic when they lose a couple of pots and become short-stacked. There’s nothing wrong with short stacks. Just wait for good cards, and you can win a couple of hands and get back into the race.

I think the great Phil Ivey said it best after he won his seventh gold bracelet last weekend (the second in this year’s WSOP). Here’s a part of what he told Nolan about 15 minutes after his victory:

"I think I am a little more patient. I take my time. I’m trying in every pot. I’m trying to stay focused and recognize that every pot matters. I think (before) I was making major mistakes that ended up costing me the tournament. It would cost me chips in a tournament. This year I am not making mistakes."

Obviously, playing with a clear state of mind is also key, Ivey said: "I think (last year) I really wasn’t into it. I don’t know, I am just feeling good right now. I think last year I had a lot of distractions, especially in my personal life. And there were a lot of things going on outside of poker. I wasn’t able to focus as well. Also, I think I am a better tournament player now than I was a year ago."

If players at the top of the poker food chain can have their game altered by their personal lives, all of us can. It’s just a matter of getting a clear picture of what you’re doing, then making the best of it.

And in the World Series, you’ll have to be at your best.

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