After a brief hiatus, our ongoing Ask the Poker Experts series is back again this month. With the World Series of Poker (WSOP) approaching, understandably many players are planning their schedules and finalizing which tournaments they’ll be playing. Most poker media sites are similarly producing plenty of content revolving around the dozens of bracelet events as well as other tournaments series that will be running around Las Vegas during the WSOP. But what about the cash game scene?
In the early years of the WSOP, many of the best professional poker players opted to skip the tournaments altogether in favor of focusing on the cash games, which were known to be jucier than usual. Some things don’t change, and the same holds true today in regards to cash games, namely that WSOP season is still thought to be the best time of the year for them, with numerous games available 24/7 at pretty much any casino with a poker room.
I’d like to thank Roy Cooke, Andrew Neeme, Brad Owen, and Tim “the Trooper97” Watts, who kindly agreed to take part in this month’s panel and offer their tips. I’m certain that Cardplayer Lifestyle readers will find their answers intriguing and instructive.
QUESTION: As a seasoned Las Vegas-based cash game player, what three tips would you give someone heading to Las Vegas for cash games during the World Series of Poker?
Poker is a game of skill, luck and opportunity, and one of the best opportunities is about to present itself. Have you groomed yourself and devised a plan to win the most money possible at the WSOP? The money is going to those who prepare!
So what can you do to perform your best? First, plan your trip, get your accommodations in place, organize any backers, be adequately bankrolled, and be well rested and ready to play. It’s going to be a long grind. Arriving rested and unstressed will delay some of the wear and tear that’s bound to occur later.
Second, bring your favorite books or visit a gaming bookstore when you first arrive in Vegas. In poker, knowledge is vital. Knowing how to actualize that knowledge is imperative also. Additionally, the WSOP offers poker players from other venues the opportunity to play with seasoned “world-class” players. Observe what they do, what plays they make, and think about why they made them in that specific instance. Make the WSOP a learning experience!
Many go on a “WSOP binge.” They arrive all excited to be in Vegas, rush to get in action, hit the bar to party with long-lost friends, party hard, sleep little, don’t take care of themselves, and burn out early, physically, mentally and financially. In short, they play like crap, way below their own potential. The WSOP is a two-month marathon, one in which your mental and physical state will determine your performance level. Structure your activities to accentuate your stamina and thereby your performance. Exercising, eating right, and most importantly, sleeping right can make a monumental difference.
I’ve found that the first two weeks and the last two weeks are the best times for the side action. The first two weeks are great because many players have come into town with fresh bankrolls and lose them early. The last two weeks are great because many come to participate in or watch the Main Event. So plan some breaks in the middle of the WSOP, during the weekdays, when the “poker opportunities” are fewer.
For the side action, game quality, game type and poker room management vary greatly. The Rio gets many players staying at the casino, and the action is good there. That said, while the Rio always has a lot of games going, there are no shuffle machines outside their permanent 10-table poker room at the other side of the casino and the WSOP dealers are often new with little experience. When the WSOP is in town, there is a huge overflow to the other Las Vegas high-limit cardrooms. The Bellagio, Venetian, and Wynn all have the advantage of regularly running high-stakes games, have experienced employees, and are major recipients of the WSOP overflow. At all three of them, you’ll find well-run high-limit action with proficient dealers.
Once you’re in tune with the situation, you need to make sure you stay confident and keep in tune with yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up in the action, being stuck, the parties, etc. Know your weaknesses and limitations. Many players play higher than normal at the WSOP. Make sure you’re playing at your comfort level and if you’re looking to extend that comfort level do it incrementally. Don’t just take a massive leap in limits because you’re stuck or thrill seeking.
If you’re susceptible to “tilt,” recognize it. Take a few deep breaths, walk away from the table, quit, give yourself a good talking to, but DON’T play tilted. If you step up to play a higher limit and don’t fare well, it’s not a requirement that you go broke at that limit. Step back down and take another shot when you’re fresh, confident and bankroll-ready. Don’t get yourself stuck, sleep-deprived and burned out. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep relaxed and focused.
So, plan your trip, study up, stay within your element, keep out of “the pit,” remain in tune with your mind and body, constantly grade your performance, learn something new every day and enjoy the ride.
Most of all, remember you’re there to play poker, and win the money.
Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is [email protected]. You can also find him on Facebook.
Before we get into specific tips, you need to decide ahead of time what it is you’re looking to accomplish. I think there are generally two categories of poker players come WSOP time: The Grinder and the Life Experience Collector. Decide which category you belong in, assess what your goals are for the duration of your visit, and plan accordingly.
A) The Grinder
- You want to make as much money as you can, so plan to be working your ass off and be putting in a lot of hours. There are going to be a ton of games going in every casino and you need to take advantage. That said, don’t get burnt out and work yourself to the point of exhaustion/depression, and take a day off if you need (Tuesday or Wednesday tends to be best, I’ve found). Have a tentative plan for what games and stakes you’ll want to play; it doesn’t have to be set in stone though. Figure out if you’re going to need to sell action in advance in order to play in all the games you’re looking to participate in.
- Play for your regular stakes, but keep an eye on the level above that. With the player pool swelling during the WSOP, more available games by definition means better game selection is possible. To that effect, don’t be lazy! Be willing to move around town until you find the game, especially on the weekends. There are increased opportunities to find a game being played for higher stakes that’s a good fit for you. If you’re nervous about the risk factor, you can sell action to friends, but I recommend doing that in advance and being ready to pounce when you find that special game.
- The above notwithstanding, don’t go broke trying to get rich quickly. In other words, don’t put too big a portion of your bankroll on the line in any one particular situation.
B) The Life Experience Collector
- You’ve come to Las Vegas looking for some fun and hoping to make great memories, while also playing some poker along the away. As such, don’t be results-oriented. Winning is more fun that losing, of course, but you’re not playing the game for a living. Don’t base whether or not you have fun on whether you’ve won or lost while playing. You have very little control over variance during such a small window of poker playing.
- Regardless of where you intend to play poker, be sure to visit the Rio, see the sights, hear the sounds, roam the hallways, and check out all the different ballrooms in the convention center. The ambiance is incredible; it’s poker heaven. Also, don’t be shy. Say hi to your favorite players if you see them (as long as they’re not in the middle of a hand, of course).
- Las Vegas is a beautiful place. Take time to see the city, drop in to some bars and restaurants, take in a show or two, and not just be on the poker grind.
Andrew Neeme is a professional cash game player, poker vlogger and a three-time Global Poker Index award winner. His videos can be watched here.
- Download the Bravo and Poker Atlas apps, which will show you every game in town that is running. If you’re a $2/5 player, you’ll want to be on the lookout for $2/5 games running at properties that don’t normally spread it because often times they’ll be better than the ones at Aria, Bellagio, Caesars, Venetian, and the Wynn.
- The wait lists are usually long but they do tend to go relatively quickly. Almost all properties allow you to call in to put your name down at least an hour ahead of your arrival. Take advantage of that, otherwise you may be wasting lots of time waiting instead of playing.
- The WSOP is the most exciting time to be a poker player in Las Vegas. All of the big-name pros will be in town firing in some of the largest cash games in the world. If you’re interested in seeing them at work, cruise by the Bellagio and take a glance inside Bobby’s Room. You’ll also find a lot of them playing at Table 1 (formerly Ivey’s Room) at Aria.
Bonus Tip: check out Herbs & Rye for some of the best steaks and drinks in Las Vegas. You’ll need a reservation, so call ahead. If it’s a last-minute decision, you can check out its sister property, Cleaver, which is brand new, has the same menu, and not as many people know about it, so usually you can get a table right away. From the Strip you’ll have to take a short Uber or taxi ride to either place but it’s well worth it. The restaurants are a little on the pricey side, so be sure to go during happy hour when most of the steaks are half off.
Brad is a professional cash game player and poker vlogger currently living in Las Vegas. His videos can be watched here. Just a couple weeks ago, he won the Global Poker Award for Poker Personality of 2018.
Tim “TheTrooper97” Watts
My first tip is very, very simple: Get the Bravo Poker Live app. The app gets it’s live, up-to-the-minute information from the Bravo system, which almost every Las Vegas poker room uses to run its list and it’s seat and table management inside the poker room. For each Poker Room, listed on Bravo are bits of information about the room including the cash games they offer, tournament schedule, and current promotions. You will also find a list of currently running games, number of those games, number of names on the waiting list, as well as interest list information. This information is especially helpful when deciding where to play. Don’t forget that when you decide that you want to go to a certain casino to play, the phone number will be listed on Bravo and you can call directly to the poker room and add yourself to a waiting list. This can lead to shorter wait times once you arrive. For tournament information, I would also recommend pokeratlas.com. this site offers more detailed information about tournaments, including structures, even getting into the breakdown of the entry fee, including how much money goes to the house and so forth.
My second bit of advice would be to familiarize yourself with the players cards for each casino. Caesars Entertainment owns several casinos in Las Vegas, including the Rio where the World Series of Poker is held. It’s free to sign up for a card, and you can earn comps for hours played in the casinos. Different poker rooms, even within one company, offer different comp rates. Some casinos offer $1 per hour, some offer $1.50 per hour, and others $2 per hour. Be aware though, sometimes casinos that offer higher comps also have more expensive restaurants, etc.
My third bit of advice would be that if you’re in Las Vegas to play cash game poker on weekends that the WSOP is holding massive tournaments, such as the Colossus, go to the cash games early! On these weekends, finding a seat can be quite difficult as the day gets later. I’ve seen Saturday’s where every poker room has dozens of names on every single list with every table full. Many poker rooms add additional tables during the WSOP, and even so, every seat will be full on these weekends. During the WSOP, the games are good round the clock. So start early!
Did you enjoy this panel discussion? Have you got any burning poker questions you’d like answered by some of the game’s top coaches, players, media personalities, tournament directors, or industry experts?
Send an email to [email protected] and yours might be the next question featured in our Ask the Poker Experts series.