The 2022 World Series of Poker kicks off on May 31 and runs until July 19.
Thousands of poker players will soon descend upon the Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino for this year’s World Series of Poker. For many, it will be their first-ever live tournament series.
To help you navigate your way through the WSOP, we asked the pros:
If you could go back to the first-ever live series you attended, what would you do differently?
Here’s what they had to say.
Twitch superstar, BBZ Poker student and all-round poker legend
I would definitely try to look at things from a bird’s eye perspective. When I first got to the World Series, for instance, I would think about cash games and tournaments but I’d also want to play mixed games. Then I’d play mixed games until 2:00 AM even though there was a new hold’em tournament starting at 11:00 AM, so I would kind of throw everything in one pile and I didn’t really have a sense of direction. I think that burned me out a little bit, so when the more important tournaments started and the really juicy cash games started to run, I was already a bit tired.
I think that I should have cherry-picked a bit more between the best tournaments and the good cash games, instead of trying to do everything. I definitely think there’s a big FOMO element in general when you see high stakes cash games and big tournaments everywhere; you want to be a part of everything.
It’s also very tempting to just drink a lot and party and hang out but I think that you need to have some obvious goals on why you’re there and what you’re doing, so that’s something I would tell myself.
JON “APESTYLES” VAN FLEET
Long-time high stakes crusher and BBZ Poker coach
The first time I ever played a big live tournament was literally the $10,000 Main Event. The biggest live tourney I had played before that was a $20 dollar rebuy. Naturally, I was petrified to be playing in such a big tournament at age 24, but I hid my anxiety with cockiness. I looked around at the table full of recs and thought “they look so scared; I’m going to destroy this table.”
In retrospect, I believe I may have been projecting. When we were in the 50/100 level (300 Big Blinds deep) I tried to run a huge bluff versus the Big Blind. I was UTG. I remember thinking “they may have to fold a set here”. After some tanking, the villain called me with top pair, second kicker. That left me with a third of a starting stack and I busted shortly after.
My successful poker career has been littered with stupid moments and bad decisions, but luckily the path to being an expert involves making many mistakes. Here, I realized that I reacted to my anxiety by playing too many pots and trying to make too much happen in the early stages. Poker is a game of patience; you must let the spots come to you. And keenly focusing on table dynamics will help to ensure you are making optimal decisions on every street.
I still get nervous sometimes when I’m deep in a big tournament, but I now do my best to relax, breathe and feel whatever I’m feeling. The goal is to just make the best decisions I can with each hand. I will always make mistakes but now I realize it’s part of the process of moulding me into the best poker player I can be.
2021 WSOP bracelet winner and BBZ Poker student
Be sure you’re signing up for the correct day/flight! The first high buy-in tournament I ever entered, I only had enough money to enter flight 1B but I want
ed to be registered in advance, check out the room, and get a good night’s sleep. The following day when I went to check-in, I was told I had registered for day 1A! Luckily I had mentioned to somebody how I’d planned to play the next day and they allowed me to have a fresh stack and play anyway!
JARGO “BUNGAKAT” ALAVALI
BBZ Poker coach and high-stakes wizard
I wouldn’t have registered 200 big blinds deep with no antes in the game yet. Just wait for the antes before you hop in, as my first big event was the €1,100 Unibet Open and those first few hours being card dead were probably the most boring live poker experiences ever.
Also, talk to people at your table as you will be there for a long time and it can get very boring.
BBZ Poker performance coach
I’d tell myself to play fewer tournaments than I intended to. Basically, managing my energy to be as fresh as possible during each tournament I play.
I would also try to arrive early to my first tournament(s) in order to get comfortable and familiar with the room I will end up playing in. This alleviates the stress of potentially arriving late, waiting in line, and realizing you’ve forgotten something. Think about all the pro athletes, they show up early to their game and often spend time on the field before going back to their room to prep for the game. You can approach poker tournaments the same way. Even online, do you just wake up and sit at your computer and start playing? If so, that’s probably not the best approach. Have a warmup routine. I would do a check-in on the technical, mental and physical side. That means, a small review/refresh of theory (technical), a meditation to bring awareness to my state of mind at that moment (do I have leftover feelings from the previous day?) and a physical check-in (how’s my energy level, do I need to take it easier in upcoming days? Changing my schedule?)
LUKAS “ROBINPOKER” ROBINSON
Twitch streamer and GGPoker pro
I actually wouldn’t do anything differently! It’s quite a funny story on my first ever live series…
My first one was the Dublin Poker Festival 2018. I was 20 years old and always dreamed about going to a big live event, so I was very excited to play. I was working in my family’s Fish & Chip shop at the time and didn’t have much money so I remember borrowing £1,000 from my uncle to go to this poker festival (I’d obviously pay him back through my wages when I got back from it).
I went with my dad, uncle and our good friend. The first event we played was the €550 Main Event, and we all made Day 2. I honestly felt in my element playing in this tournament and it was everything that I had ever dreamed of. Unfortunately, I busted on Day 2 before making the money but I loved the experience so much.
The next day I wanted to play in the €300 side event but I’d run out of money by this point, so my uncle backed me in this one and we went 50/50 on any cashes. I remember thinking I had nothing to lose and just played the best poker I could. I wasn’t scared to make any plays or bluffs. I ended up final tabling this one with my friend that we went with! We ended up taking a six-way even chop of €4,600 each, but I was the shortest stack so I 100% got the best deal overall. I was so happy to chop for this amount as I had never won anything like this amount before!
We then played on for an extra €500 and a trophy. I ended up busting in 6th after a pretty loose jam. This was actually the only thing I would do differently: not playing so loose once we made the deal. But Liverpool were playing Spurs at the time so I didn’t mind busting, taking the €4,600 and then celebrating by watching the match! My friend actually then went on to win the trophy, so the trip was an amazing one overall.
Twitch streamer and PokerStars Team Pro
If it came down to trying to improve my performance I would drink less, party less, go to bed at a proper time and treat it more like work than a vacation!