For many in poker now is the most exciting time of year…the World Series of Poker is upon us. Those of you who are not regulars on the live circuit are very possibly about to take your once-a-year shot at a much event. Perhaps the Main Event, perhaps the Monster Stack, or maybe it’s a one off shot at a Mixed Game event.
Whatever your own “Main Event” is, there are a number of mental game and performance traps you can fall into that will harm your chances when you get there. Too many players treat taking a shot at a big live event like a blowout. I have a lot of clients who have won bracelets and/or made the November Nine, and I like to build them up towards the WSOP, much in the same way elite tennis players gradually build up towards Grand Slam tournaments, rather than just throw them in the deep end. Even though the Main Event is imminent, there is still plenty you can do to prepare now to perform better when you sit down. This week I am going to be producing a series of tips to help you get the most out taking a shot at a big live event, so if you haven’t already make sure you subscribe to my Newsletter below.
The Main Event is still a way off, but many players will have already written off the need to “train” for it, because it seems so close. Nothing could be further from the truth, there is still plenty you can do. In particular you should heed this advice because it is likely thousands of your peers will have the same attitude, so anything extra you do now gives you an edge on them.
It’s certainly not too late to do one or two “training sessions.” If you’re not used to playing live poker or long sessions, getting in one or two sessions now is a good idea. The World Series of Poker is long, mentally taxing and physically grueling. You still have time to put in a couple of sessions, ideally live but online is ok, where you play for most of the day. You’ll know whether, for you, that means 8, 12 or 14 hours. Whatever would be a significant deal more than usual for you. It can even be cash sessions, it’s less about the format and more about the endurance.
Doing this now will give you a good workout, but more important it will show you where you make mistakes when you are tired. When you are not used to 12 hour sessions at the WSOP, you may find yourself surprised just how poorly you play deep in the tournament. If nothing else, doing a few intensive training sessions will show you what to expect when you are tired, and give you a chance to correct those mistakes at the tables.
Time to Perform, Not to Learn
This brings me to the next important part of the puzzle: minimize active learning. Rather than learning a lot of new information away from the table, now is the time to work hard on eliminating your biggest leaks and really making your game solid. While flattering, I don’t like to see players reading my book at the tables. When you are in a big event it’s time to perform, not learn.
So make a note of what the biggest errors you make are, especially the ones that show up when you are tired during those “training sessions”. Your primary learning goal when taking a shot at a big event like the WSOP is to ensure that these errors do not happen. Away from the tables discuss these errors with friends, post them on forums and by all means read strategy about them. And since they can often be connected to a mental game problem like tilt or overconfidence, be sure to have the mental correction to go along with the tactical one. At the tables, keep a piece of paper handy that reminds you not to make these errors when they’re most likely to happen. This way the corrections to your biggest leaks can quickly be corrected.
Focusing on eliminating your worst makes it easier for you to automatically play your best. If you instead focus on learning a lot of new things, you can’t guarantee the new stuff will even show up (since it’s so new), and you make your big leaks more likely to appear.
I have more tips coming your way this week. Don’t worry, these don’t fall into the remit of new learning that I have just rallied against, they are much more immediate actionable ideas you can implement right away.
Finally, I go into much more detail about the role of learning and how it relates to pressure in my book The Mental Game of Poker 2. If you happen to buy it, pick one or two sections that can help you prepare, but don’t read too much until afterwards. Oh, and please don’t let me see you reading it at the tables!