So you’ve landed in Las Vegas. You’ve moved in to your new digs and have settled in. Hopefully, you’re well-rested and haven’t yet woken up face-down in a parking lot on Fremont Street. Save that bender for after the World Series of Poker Main Event because the next seven weeks will be a test of stamina, endurance, and mental toughness for every poker player that walks through the door of the Rio Convention Center. The 2010 World Series of Poker is upon us and for many of us at PokerNews HQ, it’s our fourth, fifth, or even sixth summer in Las Vegas. Call us jaded veterans (we prefer “seasoned pros”), but we’ve picked up a few pointers when it comes to getting through the WSOP. Pay attention, kids. Maybe even take a few notes. It’s relentless out here in the desert and only the strong survive.
10. Exercise — it will save your sanity and boost your energy level
The days are long, the grind is exhausting and in a week or two it will be 110 degrees outside, but still, try and find time to get in a little exercise. I’m a caffeine freak just like you, but when you’re about to spend 14 hours inside the Rio, a quick run or some laps in the pool will do more for your stamina than a pot of French Roast. Luckily, Las Vegas is bursting with brand-new, air-conditioned gyms. Staying in a hotel? There’s probably a gym you can use. Living in a high-rise? Odds are there’s gym downstairs. Subletting in a subdivision? The last two I spent the summer in had at least three fitness rooms apiece. If you don’t have access to a gym, there’s one right at the Rio perfect for a quick dinner break workout. Get moving, even if just for a half-hour a day and you’ll thank yourself at the end of the summer.
9. Car + Las Vegas heat = virtual oven
I’ve seen it all — melted iPods, blue ink from a ballpoint pen exploded over leather upholstery, styrofoam cups melted into center consoles. The temperature inside a locked car in the Rio Convention Center parking lot on a June afternoon can easily reach 140 degrees, so be conscious of what you decide to leave inside of it. Never leave items like MP3 players, high-end headphones, batteries, medications, perishable food, chocolate, or energy bars inside your car. You also might want to consider investing in one of those tacky shiny sun shades that cover the front windshield. It still won’t be cool in there when you open the door at the end of the day, but it’s a marked improvement.
8. Register early for events whenever possible
Last year, hundreds of players were shut out of the WSOP Main Event when Day 1D sold out. Why chance it? If you already have the dough for your event buy-in, get yourself to the cage and register. Especially consider doing this if you plan on playing any of the six $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em events. Last year’s “Stimulus Special” drew more than 6,000 players — do you really want to stand around for hours with a bunch of donkeys waiting to plunk down a dime?
7. Play satellites
Single-table satellite action at the WSOP is both plentiful and profitable and an excellent way to get a little action in when you’re short on time or energy. The lowest buy-in for single-table satellites is officially $65 (800 chips to start, 15-minute levels, pays one $500 tournament chip + $80 cash to the winner), but the cheapest ones that regularly run are the $125 and $175 varieties (1,000 chips to start, 15-minute levels, pays either two or three $500 tournament chips + $120 cash). If you’re looking to play a particular satellite, your best bet at finding it without a lengthy wait is in the 24 hours before the tournament for which it awards seats. For example, if you want to play a $125 satellite, you’re going to have more trouble getting a table going at that level if it’s the night before a large-field $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event and most of the satellites running in the room are the $225 buy-in ones that pay out an entry to that particular event. Though they officially pay out only one spot, the vast majority of these ten-handed satellites are chopped two or even three ways. Won a satellite and want to trade those lammers for cash? Hang around the cage and you should find a customer within minutes.
6. Stay within your budget
Las Vegas can suck money out of your wallet with the effortlessness of a ballet dancer executing a pirouette. Whether it’s a blackjack table on the way to dinner, the video poker machine at the bar, or the bank of slot machines next to the restrooms, there is a way to lose money around every corner. Sound bankroll management is crucial when it comes to spending seven straight weeks in Las Vegas. Be mindful of these temptations and plan your personal expenses the same way you’d budget out your tournament buy-ins. If you want to gamble, go ahead and gamble — just keep it separate from your poker bankroll. Nothing’s worse than grinding out a nice profit in an event only to lose it an hour later in the craps pit — just ask T.J. Cloutier.
5. Take extra precautions when carrying large sums of money
Security both inside the Rio and outside in the parking lots has markedly improved over the last few years at the WSOP but this still bears repeating — be extremely careful when carrying around large amounts of cash or casino chips. Thieves know the WSOP is in town and even though the eye in the sky is watching, be extra-vigilant about your surroundings. Travel in groups whenever possible and ladies, especially those of you who enjoy wearing nice jewelry, never walk to your car alone after dark.
4. Get outdoors
Spending the majority of every day inside a casino can suck the very life out of you. However, being outside in the oppressive desert heat isn’t exactly a treat either. The best solution I’ve found is to get outside during the early morning or late night hours. Take some time to unwind and sit in your backyard or on your balcony after coming home from a long night of poker. If you’re an early riser, spend some of those precious A.M. hours by the hotel pool or on the veranda. If golf is your game, squeeze in an early-morning round. You’ll thank yourself at 3 p.m. when you’re sucking down yet another lungful of air-conditioned casino oxygen. If the mercury dips below 100 or you find yourself with a rare day off, consider escaping into a natural setting like Red Rock Canyon, located only 20 miles off the Strip. The serenity and extraordinary beauty of your surroundings will almost make you forget you’re in Las Vegas. And when you are outside? Suncreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!
3. Food is fuel, so plan ahead
For the vast majority of the time this summer, you’ll be eating on the run on your way to or from a tournament. If you don’t consider your options ahead of time you’re far more likely to grab that greasy burger or slice of pizza that will leave you crashing midway through the afternoon. Every player, staff member, dealer, and media rep will find themselves eating in the “Poker Kitchen” from time to time and the good news is that there are some pretty healthy meals available there including salads, sushi, fruit, and grilled chicken. However, for your own sanity, get out of the Rio on dinner break whenever you can. If it’s a 60-minute dinner break you’ll be confined to the immediate area, but if it’s a 90-minute break you have plenty of time for restaurant dining “off-campus.” Another great option is to bring in your own food. A quick and easy option is to hit up a market like Whole Foods on the drive in and pick up some items from the prepared foods section. Also keep a couple of energy bars or a piece of fruit on hand just in case your night at the tables lasts longer than expected.
Try to get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. It won’t happen every night if you’re playing a full schedule, but do what you can. It can be more difficult to fall asleep at night during the WSOP for a variety of reasons — you’re on an adrenaline rush from a great session, you’ve just made it to Day 2 and hands are running nonstop through your head, or you’re stuck so much money you don’t know how you’ll ever clear the make-up to your backer. If you do have trouble sleeping, cut back on those coffees and Red Bulls and try a little of tip #10 in the mornings — you’ll surely sleep more soundly at night.
1. Pace yourself
The WSOP is a 51-day marathon, so don’t try and sprint right out of the gate. Spend your first few days warming up and getting your bearings. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Try to get into a routine. Don’t run out and party the first three nights in a row — you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Once you understand your limitations, you can push them but if you go full throttle right out of the gate, you may never make it to the Main Event, or will be much worse for wear if you do. Players, if you don’t feel like grinding yet another $1,500 donkament for the 15th day in a row, don’t do it. There will always be another tournament. Play some golf, sit by the pool or take in a movie instead. Creating more balance in your lifestyle will only pay positive dividends at the tables.
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