The Main Event of the World Series of Poker is an absolute poker marathon: multiple day ones, multiple day twos, and the final table is on day eight. Every level is two hours long, followed by a 20-minute break, with a 90-minute dinner break after the third level of each day. Consequently, every day successfully navigated through the Main Event takes about 13 hours of real time, including poker, breaks and chip-bagging.
In 2011, I made a deep run in the Main Event. I spent about 77 hours playing poker, 24 hours on break, 20 hours watching video of my opponents, eight hours driving, and the rest sleeping over eight long days. My preparation for the Main Event is what helped me persevere through those long days. Here are my tips for surviving the highlight event of the WSOP.
First, take care of all necessary life maintenance before the Main Event starts. The next chance you’ll have to take care of that stuff will be after you bust, and you won’t want to take care of it then, either. You want to make sure that nothing will distract you from the tournament ahead, because there’s nothing like stressful life matters to put a poker player into punt formation.
Rest. Go into the Main Event with plenty of rest. It’s awfully difficult to get eight solid hours after day two, so you need all the gas in the tank you can get.
Since the Main Event is a marathon, your play should reflect that.
In 2011, halfway through day one, I was cruising along when I picked up Ah Kh and faced an opening raise to 600. With blinds at 100-200 plus a 25 ante, this was a pretty standard spot to reraise, except this was the Main Event, where effective stacks are 35,000. Going broke on day one is far worse than missing some value with A-K, so I chose to flat-call to disguise my hand and keep the pot small.
Heads-up, we saw a flop of As 7h 3d.
My opponent bet 1,100 into a pot of 1,725. In any shorter-stack situation, I’d be pretty excited to raise and get my chips in here, but again, this was the Main Event. It would be hard for me to get more than three streets of value with this hand, and he could bluff, so I called.
The turn was the 9h. My opponent bet 2,350 into a pot of 3,925, and I called again.
The river was another trey, and it wasn’t a heart. The villain bet 6,000 into 8,625, and I contemplated folding because of his big bet size. I had the top of my range though, and it’s generally a bad idea to fold the top of your range to a bet that easily could be a bluff.
I couldn’t talk myself into folding, eventually called, and lost to pocket aces.
I ended the day with 23,000 of my initial starting stack of 30,000. I’m often asked what I think is a good stack to end day one with, and I respond 30,000. The most important thing to do on day one is make it to day two. I easily could have gone broke in this spot.
Be ready to play poker all day, every day, by the time you play your first hand of the Main Event, and don’t punt your stack on the first day. And if you’re fortunate enough to go on a run, make sure to have fun. It’s an experience you will never forget and may never have a chance to relive.
Bryan Devonshire is a professional poker player from Las Vegas. Follow him on Twitter: @devopoker.)