Gearing up for poker tournaments

Dec 29, 2009 5:04 PM


Time to fine tune your poker skills

Last week, the World Series of Poker announced its 2010 schedule, along with some changes that will be put in place this year.

Although, it seems like the May 27 starting date is a long way off, it really isn’t. Once we get into the New Year, time will move quickly and the Big Tourney will be here before you know it.

Thus, it’s not too early to think about tips for fine-tuning your tournament play. If you find your way into the WSOP, or any other tournaments along the way (and there should be plenty of them), you definitely want your share of jackpots!

I used to have about 50 or 60 rules for winning poker tournaments — but over the years I’ve pared them down to only three.

The first thing is that you must have enough money to get into the tournament.

The second requirement is that you must have enough courage to go broke on every hand.

The third requisite is that you must have enough luck so that your best hands will stand up, and so that with an inferior hand, you can outdraw your opponents.

You have to be luckier than they are at least two or three times in the tournament. Money, courage and luck — these are the three things I think you need to win a poker tournament.

Now let me recall some of the other good rules I followed when I first began to play tournament poker. First, you should prepare yourself like an athlete. I remember the second year that I played in the World Series of Poker at Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas. I went to Hawaii about three weeks before the tournament, to the garden isle of Kauai where very few people live.

My wife Carol and I went backpacking through the mud and the slosh in the tropical jungle there, climbing high up into the mountains where we ate a nourishing lunch. I was training myself to become accustomed to solitude, getting my mind right, and improving my ability to focus. And I was getting oxygen — you know, if you’re drowning in the ocean and you deprive your brain of oxygen for 10 minutes or so, you’ll suffer severe brain damage even if you’re rescued. You also suffer brain damage in the poker room if you deprive yourself of oxygen because you have to have oxygen to function properly.

So at the breaks that come every so often in the tournament, instead of heading for the restroom like most others do, I make a dash for the open air so that I can replenish my mind with some of that good fuel, that fresh, clean air. It also doesn’t hurt to run around the block a few times to get your heart pumping and your body and mind ready to return to the tournament refreshed.

All the tournaments at the WSOP are now at least two-day events with the final table played on the second day. I designed The Seniors World Championship of Poker in the same way so that you can play five to six hours the first day and then return the next day at about noon rested and ready to play the final table. I have a little saying that I like to use at The Seniors: "We don’t take breaks, we take naps."

Also, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and shoes that fit just so. If you’re uncomfortable for any reason, try to rectify the situation. If it’s too cool in the tournament area, go back to your room and get a jacket. One school of thought says that you shouldn’t do anything before the game or during the game that distracts you. Another one says to wear headphones and listen to music. I’m a strong proponent of both schools of thought! Do whatever works best for you.

Excuse me now, I have to go win a tournament somewhere.

Until next time remember to Stay Lucky.

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Johnny Hale