As days grow longer and the weather gets warmer, the early signs of summer signal that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) will soon be upon us. While Disneyland may own the title of “happiest place on earth”, any poker player that has participated in the WSOP can say the event truly serves as the happiest place on felt. Every year, thousands of poker players from all over the world make a trip to Las Vegas to pursue poker glory. This year, the $10,000 Main Event as well as over 90 other poker tournaments will be offered to WSOP participants, culminating in what may be the biggest WSOP ever.
Weeks of non-stop poker may sound like a dream come true, but even the most experienced poker players can fall victim to the grind that is the WSOP. Long days packed inside a casino can be draining, but if you are properly prepared, you can give yourself the best chance of winning a WSOP bracelet. It’s not all preflop charts and solvers, however, as success at the WSOP often requires players to be at their peak physically and mentally. For first-time WSOP players who may not know where to start, here is the perfect guide for preparing for the WSOP.
Have A Solid and Well Studied Preflop Strategy
In every poker tournament you play, you are required to make a preflop decision in every single hand. Even if you have been dealt nothing but 7-2 offsuit for hours, you must still be cognizant enough to exercise patience and fold such junky hands. While it is easy to fold bad hands, what about marginal hands in “close” spots? Tournaments come with a variety of variables that should be considered within every hand, making it key you know what hands play well in each position, and how stack sizes impact ranges. Your actions preflop influence how the remainder of a poker hand plays out, making it critical you make the best preflop decisions you can.
Being Comfortable Playing Deep Stacked
The WSOP offers a number of deep-stacked tournaments for poker players, but even if you aren’t playing an “ultra stack” event, you will still play at least 150+ big blinds deep in the early stages. It is always nice having a plethora of poker chips, but they are only nice if you put them to good use! To get the most from your deep stack, you must know how to properly implement a deep stack strategies.
Deep-Stacked Preflop Ranges Early In Poker Tournaments
When playing poker tournaments, it is helpful to know what hands are valuable at specific stack sizes. When short-stacked, hands containing face cards are at their strongest, even when they lack the same suit. While typical “face card” hands like A-Q and K-Q are still good hands to have when you are deep-stacked, expanding your range to include suited connectors and even some suited gappers is optimal.
Deep stacked in the early stages of poker tournaments, you want to play hands that can potentially beat premium hands like pocket aces, kings, and queens. While 8♣-7♣ usually loses to pocket aces head’s-up, if the flop comes 6♣-5♣-2♠ not only do you have a chance of winning the pot, but you may stack an opponent who is not capable of folding pocket rockets!
Being Aware of the Stack-Off Threshold
Naturally, the deeper your chip stack the more apprehensive you should be about putting it all into the middle. If you have 200 big blinds and an opponent with an equal stack is more than willing to move all-in, chances are they have a pretty strong hand, requiring you to have a hand strong enough to call. This concept is referred to as the stack-off threshold,
Stack-off Threshold: the amount of equity/strength needed to rationally risk your entire stack. Determined by your stack size.
The deeper your stack, the higher the stack-off threshold must be for you to strategically move all-in. Deep stacked, the strength of nutted hands goes up, which requires you to know how to properly categorize such hands. While pocket aces are certainly considered “the nuts” when you are 50 big blinds deep, 200 big blinds deep on a low, coordinated board, pocket aces are no longer the nuts if your preflop caller puts you all-in.
“Breath deeply, have fun, and play one hand at a time.”– Brad Wilson
Know How To Play Optimal, Short-Stacked Tournament Poker Preflop
In most poker tournaments, the eventual winner is usually forced to play with a short-stack at some point throughout the tournament. It is nearly impossible for you to win every hand from the start of the poker tournament all the way to heads-up play, requiring you to be cognizant of proper short-stacked ranges.
Do Not Play An All-In or Fold Strategy
Many novice poker players make the mistake of playing a pure all-in or fold strategy when they have less than 20 big blinds. In case this applies to you, know this: 15 big blinds is a lot of big blinds! Not only is a shove-or-fold strategy not optimal for a 15-20 big blind stack, it also makes you incredibly easy to play against. Even if your opponent has a lot more chips than you, rarely will they risk 15-20 big blinds preflop unless they have a good reason to. If you are simply ripping 15 big blinds preflop when you have a playable hand, opponents will only call you with good cards, and fold their marginal ones. No one ever won a poker tournament by making it easier for their opponents, be difficult to play against and don’t shove-or-fold when you are short stacked.
Study Your Preflop Ranges and Know When To Go For It
Recounting the concept of the stack-off threshold, the lower your chip stack the lesser the threshold is to put it at risk (ICM implications notwithstanding). Yes, your opponent may be raising preflop with pocket aces, but it doesn’t mean you should simply muck your A-Q offsuit. Especially when facing raises preflop, there are spots 10-20 big blinds deep where you must be willing to move all-in, but knowing when to pull the trigger starts with proper study.
Short Stack Training Tools Available on PokerCoaching.com
While it is certainly fine to study and attempt to memorize preflop charts, it is likely more optimal (and more fun) to use study tools that drill you in real-time. If you are a PokerCoaching Premium member looking to improve your short-stack game, the Clear The Charts program on the PokerCoaching app allows you to drill preflop spots at a variety of stack sizes. With continued repetition and the ability to review your mistakes, the Clear The Charts program is the perfect tool to prepare for the WSOP.
Along with features on the PokerCoaching app, the Challenges featured on the PokerCoaching website have a number of courses that can help you improve your preflop play. The 5-Day Preflop Challenge, free for all PokerCoaching users (with and without a subscription), provides students with a structured course to help them properly play preflop spots. Featuring Jonathan Little as well as PokerCoaching coaches Jonathan Jaffe and Matt Affleck, the 5-Day Preflop Challenge is a great course that will prepare you for whatever preflop spot the dealer throws at you.
While it is important you are well-versed on how to play every street within a poker hand, putting a considerable amount of time into studying preflop poker will limit mistakes and help you avoid having to play tricky spots in WSOP tournaments.
“Try and remember, the WSOP is a marathon, not a sprint. The days are long and you need to pick your spots wisely! Tournaments are all about survival, stack preservation is key. So take it slow, think through every decision, and make sure to bring your “A” game!”– Lexy Gavin-Mather
Selling Action and Managing Your WSOP Bankroll
The inner workings of the poker community and its economy are complex and fascinating. If you have played poker long enough, at some point another player has likely asked you if you wanted to “buy their action” or vice versa. For poker players new to the community, “buying action” is the exchange of money for a percentage of another poker player’s equity in a tournament. Here’s an example…
Kieran is playing in the $300 Gladiators of Poker No-Limit Hold’em tournament at the upcoming WSOP. Kieran is excited to play in the tournament and already has $300 set aside, but is wary of the variance that comes with poker tournaments. To limit the financial impact of potentially not cashing, he approaches his friend James and asks him if he wants to buy some of his action. James agrees to buy half of Kieran’s action in the tournament and gives him $150 to cover half of the buy-in. By contributing half of the buy-in to the tournament, James becomes entitled to 50% of the winnings Kieran may earn in the tournament.
With $150 of his own money and $150 of James’ money, Kieran enters the $300 tournament. Being a skilled poker player who consistently studies on PokerCoaching.com, Kieran makes a deep run and cashes for $10,000! $10,000 cash for a $300 buy-in, not bad Kieran!
With the $10,000 cash he won in the event, Kieran sits down with James in the Horseshoe Casino Food Court to sort out the finances. Having bought 50% of Kieran’s action and being entitled to half of his winnings, James receives $5,000 of the $10,000 that was won. Simple enough right?
Why Sell Action To Poker Tournaments?
To those new to the poker landscape, the concept of selling action to poker tournaments may seem trivial. If you’re the one playing the tournament and putting in the effort to hopefully score a big payday, why should some dude who may not even be in the casino get a piece of the action? Well, here’s why!
The Variance of Poker Tournaments
As mentioned in the earlier staking example featuring Kieran and James, the biggest reason Kieran sold his action was that he was worried about the variance of poker tournaments. Poker tournaments, although incredibly popular amongst players, have incredibly volatile swings and require skill/study to be profitable long-term. Even the best poker tournament players in the world experience downswings, proving that the unrelenting swings of tournaments escape no one.
Especially for low to mid-stakes poker players who only play tournaments, variance can have the biggest impact as their bankrolls are much more limited and aspects such as rake are felt much more prominently. By selling action, poker players can limit the impact of variance and offset the downswings that may come their way.
Selling Action Allows Poker Players To Play More Poker Tournaments
For poker tournament players just getting their start in WSOP Circuit or bracelet events, having the means to play a full schedule within a given series is incredibly beneficial. As we’ve established, the variance of poker tournaments can be unforgiving, but by playing enough volume good tournament poker players will see profit in the long term. Sure it’s easy to simply say “just play more poker tournaments and you will eventually make money”, but everyone knows you need to put up the money first before you can play. How can you obtain more money and limit your own poker expenses? Selling action!
While selling action does negate the money you earn if you happen to win a big tournament, poker players who are not yet professionals would rather participate in big tournaments and sell action rather than sit out/only play a handful of tournaments. For low-stakes grinders playing in the WSOP, every bracelet event has the potential to change the trajectory of their poker career completely. More events means more opportunities to score their first big cash, if a low-stakes player only has $10,000 listed on their Hendon Mob, winning the WSOP Main Event for $5,000,000 rather than $10,000,000 probably won’t bother them a whole lot. Winning prestigious poker tournaments like bracelet WSOP events provides not only heaps of money but also potential sponsorships and means to diversify your poker income. If selling action earns you more opportunities to change your poker career forever, it’s best to start selling!
“When going to play the WSOP for the first time, it is important to realize that it just like any other tournament, except perhaps with slower structures and many more players. All you can do is show up prepared to play and then play your absolute best.“– Jonathan Little
Selling Action and Markup – What is the right amount of markup?
Selling action to poker tournaments is incredibly common, but rarely do poker players sell action without an additional percentage of “markup”. For those who are not familiar, markup (at least within a poker context) refers to the percentage of interest a poker player includes when they sell action. Let’s take a look back at our earlier staking example…
Instead of simply selling half of his action “straight-up” to play in the WSOP Gladiators of Poker, Kieran decides to incorporate a 1.2 markup when selling his action to James. 1.2 represents a markup of 20% of the invested amount, 20% which Kieran will keep as opposed to contributing it to the $300 buy-in.
For 50% of Kieran’s action in the $300 buy-in event, James provides not only $150, but an additional $30 to account for the 1.2 markup ($180 total). Kieran pockets the $30, but will still contribute half of his winnings to James if he happens to cash/win the event.
Have Markup, But Be Sensible
In the era of StakeKings and the recent increase in popularity of poker, markup is a common and reasonable factor to include for any poker player who sells action. Even if you are a low-stakes grinder playing in your first WSOP, there is nothing wrong with including markup when you sell action. However, make sure you establish a reasonable markup representative of your skills and past poker accomplishments.
For most serious poker players who are semi-professional or at least profitable in poker tournaments, a “reasonable” markup can range from 1.1 to 1.2 (10% to 20%). While most markup rates hover around this number, you will hear of popular poker players within the community charging much more, often drawing the wrath of the “Markup Police”.
Prior to every WSOP, a famous poker player will advertise packages they are selling to the series with some serious markup, and will immediately draw scrutiny from the community. In 2021, four-time WSOP bracelet winner Mike Matusow famously sold action to multiple $10,000+ buy-in events at markups ranging from 1.3 to 1.5. Despite being an accomplished, generational poker player, such steep markups drew heavy criticism from a number of poker players and personalities. Even though Matusow was and still is a skilled poker player, the notion that he could perform well enough in $10,000 tournaments to overcome a 30% to 50% markup was debatable.
If you thought 1.3 to 1.5 markup was bad, did you know Phil Hellmuth sold WSOP packages at 1.8 markup in 2018? Even if you are buying action from the greatest WSOP player of all-time, that steep of a markup is hard to overcome! The moral of the story: having a markup when selling action to WSOP tournaments is fine and proper, but be sure you are not taking advantage of your investors with unrealistic rates.
Establish Healthy Habits For The WSOP
The saying “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” is incredibly applicable to the world of poker, especially when it comes to WSOP tournaments. Not only are WSOP poker tournaments long, but the entire series lasts a staggering seven weeks! Tournament days are long, and if you happen to have a couple of deep runs the hours you spend at the poker table can really add up. Every year, more and more poker players become vocal proponents of how quality physical and mental health has contributed to their WSOP success. It cannot be debated, most humans feel a lot better overall when they consistently take part in healthy practices. If you plan on playing a full WSOP schedule, having a “wellness” schedule coupled with it may benefit your summer ROI.
Exercising During The WSOP
Studies have shown that regular exercise, especially when done prior to engaging in activities that require strategic thinking, greatly benefits brain function and performance. Naturally, if you are playing poker almost every day for 7 weeks, you will be putting your “brain muscle” to the test constantly. By balancing your WSOP play schedule with a complementary workout schedule providing you with enough exercise, you can set your body up to perform at its peak.
Countless poker pros are huge proponents of regular exercise during the WSOP. If you follow six-time WSOP bracelet winner and Poker Hall of Fame Inductee Daniel Negreanu’s popular WSOP vlog series, you will see how intentional Kid Poker is in maintaining his exercise regimen throughout the series. Along with Kid Poker, accomplished pros like Matt Berkey, Alex Foxen, and Ebony Kenney always make time to exercise despite their rigorous poker schedules. Want to prepare to play like the pros? Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity in each day prior to when you play a WSOP tournament. You do not have to engage in intensive weightlifting or 10-mile runs, simply 30 minutes of walking outside will more than suffice and give your body the exertion it needs to fuel your mind.
Eating A Healthy Diet During The WSOP
Las Vegas may be one of the hardest places on earth to maintain a healthy diet. If I’m not grinding $1/$2 at the Golden Nugget, you can usually find me enjoying a gluten-free BLT at Magnolia’s within The Four Queens. While I am one of the biggest fans of “casino food”, I will be the first to admit it does not help contribute to top-tier mental function.
The food within the Paris and Horseshoe Casinos is certainly top-tier, but also provides a challenge for poker players looking for “brain food” during breaks. The Bedford, Gordon Ramsey Steak, and Nobu are phenomenal options for foodies, but where can poker players playing in the WSOP find healthy options within a limited time period? While you won’t be able to find a Whole Foods within the official home of the WSOP, the vendors/restaurants within the two properties will have enough healthy options to keep you fueled and ready to crush.
Food Options Within Horseshoe and Paris
As mentioned previously, you will not find an organic smoothie shop or an artisanal salad bar within Horseshoe or Paris. However, most restaurants, even the ones found in the Horseshoe’s food court, will at least have a salad on the menu. Everyone knows eating healthy is not always the easiest, but if you are willing to look hard enough the vast majority of restaurants and vendors will have some sort of a healthy option for you to purchase.
Even when you are on a one-hour dinner break, finding food paired with waiting in long lines can make it even more difficult to eat healthily. They call it fast food for a reason, but do not be so quick to sacrifice your healthy diet for quick sustenance! For almost as long as the WSOP has existed, the WSOP Cafe has provided poker players with a quick stop-n-go option to buy a variety of meals and snacks. While the hot dogs and Cheetos at the WSOP Cafe may be tempting, consider buying the pre-made salads and fruit they also have available. For reference, the WSOP Cafe is located within Horseshoe Casino, on the left-hand side of the hallway as you make your way to the tournament ballrooms.
The GTO Strategy for Eating Healthy at the WSOP: Bring Your Own Food!
Truly, the best and most optimal option for maintaining a healthy diet while competing at the WSOP is bringing your own food and snacks. Not only does this give you the ability to essentially eat whatever healthy food you want, when you want, but it is also much, much cheaper than purchasing food at the casino. If you have some solid Tupperware and can avoid losing your cutlery between trips from the WSOP and your grindhouse, bringing your own food when you play in poker tournaments is truly the best way to eat healthy.
Prepare For The WSOP With These PokerCoaching.com Resources
Since its inception, PokerCoaching.com has prided itself in being a quality resource for cash game as well as poker tournament players. Many of our students such as Gershon Distenfeld and Lara Eisenberg have leveraged their PokerCoaching premium memberships to become WSOP bracelet winners. With the help of our site, you may be the next PokerCoaching student to become a WSOP champion, but what resources on the site will best prepare you for the WSOP?
Jonathan Little’s Tournament Masterclass
Perhaps the most popular course to ever be offered on PokerCoaching.com, Jonathan Little’s Tournament Masterclass has turned countless losing players into tournament crushers. The multiple variables that come with tournaments can make them incredibly difficult to master, but with the structured, in-depth resources offered through the Tournament Masterclass, there is no need for you to become flustered with a spot ever again.
Starting with the basic fundamentals, Jonathan walks students through every street of a poker hand while covering a variety of different spots and board textures. Do you find yourself struggling every time you are faced with a monotone board? Fear not, as Jonathan will show you how to navigate monotone boards whether you are in position, out of position, have the nuts, or lack the nuts!
Once you master how to play the various streets within a poker hand, go beyond poker strategy and learn how to properly approach different variations of poker tournaments. Are you planning on trying to satellite into the WSOP Main Event? The satellite section of the Tournament Masterclass is exactly what you need to be properly prepared. Plan on firing a few bullets into some online WSOP tournaments? Not only will the lessons within the Tournament Masterclass prepare you for the virtual felt, but you can watch Jonathan review a plethora of online hands he has played in real-time. Regardless of what no-limit hold’em events you plan on playing at the WSOP, the tournament masterclass has everything you need to master intermediate tournament strategy.
PokerCoaching.com’s Advanced Tournament Course (ATC)
Every year, the WSOP attracts the best poker players in the world and provides them with plenty of action. Even if you are playing a $500 event, you may very well see an established pro seated at your poker table. While it may be intimidating to face accomplished poker players, our Advanced Tournament Course can teach you the elite strategies used by the world’s best poker tournament players.
Along with Jonathan Little, PokerCoaching coaches Brock Wilson, Jonathan Jaffe, and Matt Affleck have contributed to a course designed to teach PokerCoaching students how to implement strategies used by poker’s best. A team of coaches with a combined total of over $25 million in career tournament winnings, learn how to compete with the pros straight from the source!
Deep into the money in a WSOP tournament is not the time to start considering whether or not you know enough about the Independent Chip Model (ICM). When in the money and especially at the final table, every decision you make can either make you or lose you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Within the ATC, Brock Wilson teaches PokerCoaching students how to properly use ICM and make the proper adjustments at the poker table.
Every poker player dreams of competing heads-up for a WSOP bracelet, but if you have never studied heads-up strategy, that dream may very well turn into a nightmare. With the help of PokerCoaching coach Jonathan Jaffe, PC students can study advanced strategies used by professional poker players when they engage in heads-up play.
After Jonathan Little’s Tournament Masterclass, the ATC truly is the next step in transitioning from intermediate to advanced poker tournament strategy. If you want to be properly prepared to face the world’s best at the WSOP, the ATC is the course for you.
PokerCoaching.com’s Crush The WSOP Course
Much like how The Avengers assembled to defeat Thanos, almost the entirety of Team PokerCoaching has gathered to help you properly prepare for the WSOP. In the newest course created for our members, the Crush The WSOP Prep course offers users insights from WSOP bracelet winners and Main Event final tablists. Drawing from the experience of 11 professional poker players, not only will you learn from our team of coaches, but you will also be instructed by prolific poker YouTuber Ethan “Rampage Poker” Yau.
Teaming up with PokerCoaching coach Brock Wilson, Rampage Poker reviews hands he played from his tournament victory in the 2022 Poker Masters. Covering the ICM implications of each hand, Rampage relives one of the greatest binks of his career, and shares how Brock’s instruction got him to the top of the podium.
Any course on PokerCoaching.com would be incomplete without instruction from “The Boss” Jonathan Little. Proper three-betting strategies can be the toughest to implement at the poker table, but with the help of JL, you can three-bet even the best WSOP players with confidence.
Recounting his final table run in the 2018 WSOP Main Event, PokerCoaching coach Aram Zobian instructs students on how they to can make a deep run in poker’s most prestigious tournament. Sharing how to properly adjust at various tournament stages, Aram’s lessons will help prepare any PokerCoaching member who plans on playing in the WSOP Main Event. Do you dream of adding your name to the poker history books? Let Aram teach you how to possibly make your dreams a reality.
The WSOP represents one of the longest traditions in the world of poker. While you may be content to simply play in a tournament series you have always dreamed of playing in, if your goal is not just to play but to win, being prepared is a must. Drawing on years of experience and winning poker, the coaches of PokerCoaching.com provide everything you need to be best prepared for the WSOP. Poker tournaments come with variance and prominent swings, but if you put yourself in the best position to succeed by preparing, you may very well achieve WSOP glory. Study hard, sell as much action as necessary, and above all take care of yourself, and you may very well win yourself a bracelet.
To all of our PokerCoaching members who will be playing in the 2023 WSOP, best of luck, and we’ll see you at the tables.