It’s June – and poker players know what that means: It’s time for the World Series of Poker! This year’s WSOP starts May 31st – the last day of the month. Most, though, won’t be visiting until weeks later in June and even July.
- The kick-off event is always reserved for casino employees only.
- Then we have a very pricey $100,000 High Roller Bounty, obviously way over most people’s budgets.
- The Dealer’s Choice 6-Handed event is also relatively niche.
For all intents and purposes, the WSOP starts with the Housewarming event – $500 for a $5,000,000 guaranteed prize pool. The first flight begins Thursday, June 2nd.
Whether your WSOP start date is (July 3rd Million Dollar Bounty, anyone?), here are ten things you can do ten days before the big moment.
10 Days Before: Hit the Gym
Ok, ok – 10 days isn’t exactly enough lead-time to give you that perfect bikini body or washboard abs. But the correlation between physical health and mental health is undeniable. Similar to poker players, evidence suggests more physically fit chess players achieve better results.
The stereotype of the out-of-shape, takeout addicted poker player, glued to their computer screen is slowly fading. Many of today’s biggest names prioritise fitness.
There are even former competitive athletes who participated at or near the collegiate and professional levels, such as the following prominent players:
- Alex Foxen (football)
- Jason Koon (track and field)
- Matt Berkey (baseball)
- Fatima Moreira de Melo (hockey)
Poker is a game of optimisation. How can we perform to the highest degree and maximise our potential? We start with training our brains, which begins with training our bodies. The connection is becoming more apparent and more mainstream.
Can you drop twenty pounds in less than two weeks? Probably not. But use the goal of the WSOP as a good motivator and an excellent short-term goal to get back on the treadmill. (Plenty of gyms offer one to two-week unlimited class specials or short class packages.)
If the idea of making significant lifestyle changes overwhelms you, see what you can achieve in these ten days as a more feasible program.
9 Days Before: Bag Some Books
Are you looking for some plane reads or maybe an audiobook for the car ride to Vegas? Now is the time to pretend you’re back in grade school and compile your summer reading list.
As the author of a poker book myself, I’m slightly biased – reading does wonders! My publisher, D&B Poker, has a wide selection of books on their website and Amazon. They range from Phil Hellmuth’s bio to advanced PLO strategies.
If you want to get into the WSOP spirit, I recommend Qui Nguyen’s book From Vietnam to Vegas! How I Won the World Series of Poker Main Event. It is an excellent compilation of hand histories to get your mind going.
Another hand history favourite is Gus Hansen’s classic Every Hand Revealed.
If you want a more easily digestible audiobook, a few good reads focus on your mental game. There are several by Dr Tricia Cardner, who also has a podcast, Poker on the Mind. It’s easier to follow while listening with earbuds than preflop charts!
Maria Konnikova’s The Biggest Bluff is another audio-friendly choice guaranteed to get you revved up for the series.
Or, if you want a good laugh peppered in with some strategy, I recommend A Girl’s Guide to Poker by yours truly.
8 Days Before: Play Online Poker
What is the best way to get better at live poker? Play online poker!
People shield behind a computer screen. So, online poker plays much more aggressively – a fantastic skill for you to bring to the real felt.
You will have an enormous edge on your competition if you practice playing poker virtually first.
Another extreme benefit is the sheer volume of hands you can achieve only by playing online. When you sit at a casino or home game poker table, you will see, on average, around 30 hands per hour.
Online? That number triples to around 90 hands per hour – per table! The amount of experience you will get is simply unparalleled - time to start clicking buttons.
7 Days Before: Watch Previous Main Event Footage
As you round the corner into the final week, it’s time to get in the mood and dream the big dream: playing the Main Event. Psych yourself up – and improve your skills – by watching previous footage of the most famous spectacle in poker.
Generally, the commentary for the Main Event tends to be more entertaining and less technical than in most poker tournaments. It’s more accessible to wider audiences.
- For newer players or those just dipping their toes into technical theory, watching the Main Event is a great place to start.
- For more advanced pros, it’s less mentally taxing – by far, the best poker programming on television! (Or iPad… or computer… or mobile…)
It’s also strategically worthwhile to compare play styles between older and more current Main Events. It’s a win-win no matter which year(s) you watch.
6 Days Before: Update Twitter
You've got to have a Twitter account if you want to be anywhere close to the in-the-know on the poker community happenings. Seriously. It’s mandatory.
During the WSOP, in particular, you’ll want to be on Twitter and let the algorithm know poker is your interest. You’ll want to be aware of all the updates happening during the series.
Last year, for example, players reported changing policies for being able to cash in lammers won from sit ‘n’ gos and satellite events. It was also my first year playing the Main Event, and I was pretty disoriented by the heavily coloured-up chip stacks – on Twitter,
I found out I was not alone, and people shared pictures of how stack sizes fared differently from previous years.
People sell action on Twitter, host contests, and share stories to give everyone a sweat! Last WSOP, my father and I took third place in the Tag Team event. We loved everyone following along and got starstruck by tweets from big-name pros and commentators.
This is my dad teaching me how to play poker with lime green chips. 15 years later, we have made the final table together in the @wsop Tag Team Tournament.— Amanda Botfeld (@amandabotfeld) November 2, 2021
Love you dad, and couldn't have done it without you. 💚 #fatherdaughter #poker @joinpokerpower pic.twitter.com/Mb04y3KaEJ
Who knows? Perhaps you, too, will have a deep run and want to be able to communicate with a following. Personally, my account doubled its follower count.
My dad felt terrible that he jumped on the Twitter trend too late. He only made an account after our final table finish. So, he had to look over my shoulder at my account to see what people were saying about us.
Bottom line: You need to have a Twitter account set up ahead of the WSOP for yourself (get news) and others (in case you score!!)
Make sure you’re already following people in the poker community and liking their tweets so, Twitter knows the best content to recommend to you.
5 Days Before: Stock Your Backpack
How do you spot a grinder from a mile away? Look for their backpack.
Almost all professional poker players – men and women alike – travel with a backpack. Most women skip the purse, and even guys’ jeans don’t have deep enough pockets for most WSOP buy-ins.
So, you want to prepare with an awesomely stocked backpack.
You’ll want to throw in the two essentials: phone and wallet. But what else should you add to the list? Here are a few suggestions:
- Phone charger (even better? A portable charge bank)
- Extra headphones (in case yours break)
- Sunglasses (if you get to a televised table, TV lights are very bright)
- Hoodie (the WSOP can feel like an arctic tundra! Particularly if you run deep and play late)
- Mints (not just for you, but for your tablemates)
I also recommend gum – as long as it’s not a poker tell. Sometimes we freeze when we are bluffing - gum can make that more noticeable and be a dead giveaway.
And before you hit the bank, remember to ask for at least twenty dollars converted into one-dollar bills.
You’ll want to use these for tips!
Remember, you can’t use tournament chips for gratuity. So, always keep singles on hand.
4 Days Before: Know the Odds
Want an edge over the competition? Have the basic probabilities and equities memorised.
The easiest way to do this using our free poker odds calculator on your phone.
Drilling the odds at home saves brainpower at the tables. You need to input a few hands, and pretty soon, you’ll recognise patterns. If poker feels random and like a series of lucky shots, mastering maths tops the list!
Time to do some homework.
The good news is that there are only so many combinations of poker hands in a deck. Once you know the approximate equity of a gutshot with a backdoor flush draw, you’ll remember it forever.
3 Days Before: Play Live Poker
With your phone calculator in hand and cards in your head, it’s time to brush up on your live reads. If you’re playing the WSOP, you’ll want some experience playing in person.
The pace of online and live is very different. It’s an adjustment. Playing live poker is also a lot more passive. You don’t want to be rolling into the WSOP guns blazing, or people might think you’re crazy.
People skills are not to be discounted. Going from online to live is a transition, and you’ll want a head start. Otherwise, you risk punting your stack, playing too fast and furious as though you are button-clicking from behind a screen.
2 Days Before: Read Articles
OK, we’re out of time for reading an entire book – let’s jump to the CliffsNotes! Reading articles is a great way to study up and cement information. (Naturally, 888poker magazine has an extensive online library!)
You’ll also want to pay particular attention to rising stars in the poker community so you’re “in the know” by the time the WSOP rolls around. Plus, look up past poker legends and greats.
See if you can match the Main Event winner to the year of their victory!
- Can you pinpoint 2012 to Greg Merson?
- Or do you know that Joe Cada has final-tabled the Main Event twice?
- Are you aware that Mark Newhouse famously tweeted, “Just bought into the Main Event day 1c - not f****** finishing ninth again”? Of course, he finished ninth place a second time in a row!
Answer yes to all of the above, and people will be impressed. While you’re on a plane flight or sitting in your hotel room, it’s a great time to get in the mood by mastering poker trivia.
Just bought into the main event day 1c. Not fucking finishing 9th again— mark newhouse (@mark_hizzle) July 7, 2014
One Day Before: Breathe!
At last, you made it! The day is finally here. Whether you flew, drove, or walked, you have arrived – and are probably full of excitable nerves and jitters. Breathe!
Dr Tricia Cardner is a mental game coach for poker players and the author of books such as Positive Poker: A Modern Psychological Approach To Mastering Your Mental Game.
She recommends a specialised technique for calming yourself down and curbing tilt:
- Count the seconds you breathe in
- Count the seconds you hold your breath
- Count the seconds you exhale
You may want to inhale for five seconds, hold for seven, and exhale for nine. This thoughtful, controlled method will work more effectively than sporadic breaths-in and breaths-out.
Regimentation is key.
So, close your eyes and take a few methodical breaths (in, hold, out… in, hold, out…). When you open your eyes, don’t forget to smile. You made it.
Have fun… and stop counting. Well done!