Don’t Mentally Blow Your WSOP

In my previous post I gave you some tactical advice on how to approach training for that big once a year live event like the WSOP Main Event. My core approach is to keep learning simple during this time, so don’t worry, what follows wont overload you. Today I want to prepare you for how your attitude may impact your performance.


The WSOP is a once-a-year event that gives you the opportunity to test your game against the best poker players in the world. The excitement of the event is awesome, and it’s why so many of you will walk away with great memories. But it can be easy to get too excited and that’s a big problem. While it is often the case that everybody nits up near the bubble in the Main Event, it is also the case that a similar number of people throw away their once-a-year tournament in the first few hours of Day 1.

Each player has a line, where too much excitement leads them to do things on and off the table that causes them to perform poorly. You want to put yourself in the best position to do well, and that might mean having to consciously put the brakes on. It would be terrible to go out and get wasted the night before you are supposed to play, so I’d advise making plans ahead of time to do something light and relaxing the night before you play.

It might not be partying that is your problem; it could be that you want to play the night before the Main Event. This might seem more productive than getting drunk with your buddies, but if you end up playing too late, or losing quite a lot, it could have serious ramifications on your mindset the next day. If this is your likely Achilles heel, then plan in advance to do something a bit more social and relaxing instead.

Finally, while a lot of players play too tightly, others are not used to the two hour levels and slow structure and overplay hands early because they are overexcited or lack patience. This is where my previous advice of being aware of what your biggest leaks are, maybe having them written down on a piece of paper, as a way intervening before you press the self destruct button.

Dreaming Too Much

It is every player’s dream to win the Main Event, but each year over 7,000 players have that dream quashed, and only one person has it fulfilled. There is nothing wrong with having high aspirations, but dreaming too much can wreak havoc on your mindset, particularly in a game like poker, where the best players lose more often than in just about any other sport.

Dreaming too much can interfere with your poker game at the WSOP in two ways. First, it simply can get in the way of making good quality decisions in the moment. You only have a certain amount of mental space at any one time during a hand, and when you are too focused on the end result of winning the Main Event, you’re not focused on making clear decisions right now.

The other way it becomes a problem is when your stack takes a hit or has slowly dwindled down. Dreaming too much can make it harder for you to recover and continue to fight. You’ll get deflated when it feels like your dream isn’t going to come true, which is bull shit. You’re not a psychic; you don’t know what’s going to happen. Lay everything on the line and if you do bust, you’ll know that you did everything you could.

It’s inevitable that your mind will wander towards what could be in the Main Event, so here is the best way of using that to your advantage. When your mind wanders, start to think about what you would do in certain tough tactical spots, rather than what you would do for your winner’s interview. Think about, for example, what the best approach would be on the money bubble or if you found yourself facing an all-in call with Pocket Kings during the first blind level. Think about the situations where you know yourself well and could make mistakes, and try and make the daydream about what you would do in that situation. Not only may this arm you well if that scenario comes up at the very least it won’t surprise you when it does. Otherwise you will make mistakes when a call for your tournament life presents itself when it woke you up as you were planning how you were.

If your mind is prone to wandering, let it wander towards something practical and useful.

Stay tuned for a final tip this week dealing with how to stay sharp when you make it deep in a big event.

Written by Jared Tendler

June 10, 2017

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