Vegas baby, yeah!

I’ve spent the last 5-6 months honing my tournament game.  This wasn’t because I’m going to play in a baby $1,000 event this week.  I’m always studying poker, and I treat tournament skill like a muscle, you’ve got to use it and exercise it to improve it. 

At the same time I didn’t want to waste my time and money.  The time is the important part.  I’m going to be away from Sarah and Moishe for 6 days since neither Sarah nor I could think of a way to bring them to Vegas and not make them miserable.  So I’d really like to feel like I played my best game.

My preparation has included:

  1. playing lots and lots of 180-person Sit ‘n Go tournaments on Pokerstars;
  2. scouring Dan Harrington’s tournament poker series; and
  3. simulating my World Series event through the Poker Academy software tournament simulator.

If you’re not familiar with Poker Academy, it’s an excellent trainer and the tool I’ve spent the most time with.  You can configure a wide variety of extremely savvy and crafty players.  You can also completely configure a tournament template to be exactly like any tournament you might play live.  Months ago I downloaded the tournament configuration from the World Series website for my event and set up the hardest set of computer players I could find. 

Then in every spare moment I played the tournament over and over again.  When I’d played it dozens of times and never even made it to the money, I knew it was finally hard enough to be a good trainer.   I even spent one weekend getting up at 10am when my real live tournament starts and playing as if I was in the real tournament. 

What’s the point of that?  Live poker is kind of slow, and you get impatient sitting there for hours on end.  Eventually you make a mistake.  I wanted to train myself to get used to that tedium in real time and not have it affect my judgement.

I’m also intentionally playing a tournament where the buyin is low enough that if I get knocked out in the first hour I’m not going to be bothered by the money.  While $1,000 is a lot of money, I’m at the point in my life where I can take $1,000 out of my disposable income and not miss a mortgage payment.  Why all this emphasis on not being bothered by the money?   

Because the key to winning no limit hold’em tournaments is chip accumulation through naked aggression.  Every successful player talks about getting a big stack by playing aggressively.  This is an entirely different style than my cash game style, which is to only put my money in with the best hand.  In a tournament you’ve got play aggressively, without worrying about the cards.  Does the player already in the pot look weak?  Are his action weak given the cards he could be holding?  Then you’re going to raise him out.  Oh, you don’t have cards?  It’s ok, you don’t have to have good cards every time you bet into a pot in a tournament.

This is a tournament style that should either a) knock you out in the first hour or two or get you a big stack to take you deep into the tournament.  But you can only play that game if you can make the money not matter to you.  The money doesn’t matter (so much) to me, so I think I’ve picked the right one.


So off I go.  Katie said she’d come along and liveblog my tournament on Thursday, so if I last more than an hour or two, look for updates here.  Either way I’m taking her and whatever’s left of my posse out to Red Square on a thank you dinner on Friday.

See you when I get back.