Don't Wait at the World Series of Poker!
It's that time of year again!
The highly anticipated seven summer weeks that all poker players have been eagerly awaiting since their elimination from their last World Series of Poker bracelet event.
This year, the 49th annual edition of this poker summer extravaganza began Wednesday, May 30, and concludes on Tuesday, July 17 with the final table of the $1 Million The Big One for One Drop, the last of a record 78 bracelets being awarded this summer.
But for many of you, 2018 may be your first time playing in the WSOP, held once again at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. Or you may have attended the WSOP sporadically a few times before and have not recognized some subtleties that may make your visit easier.
In any event, here is my advice for WSOP novices.
Let me preface this column with the fact that I HATE TO WAIT, especially in lines! I'm the type of person who would rather drive a longer distance than wait in traffic. If you are similar to me, you will find much of my advice to your liking.
Avoid Registration Lines
The WSOP officially opened its doors on Tuesday, May 29 and is open 24 hours a day. With this in mind, I never understand why do so many players come down to register right before the morning tournament begins (often 10 a.m. for weekend events and 11 a.m. for weekday events)? Then, I often hear these same individuals, who inevitably come to the tables after the start of the tournament, complain about the long registration lines and having to miss the start of the event.
There is someone that these players can blame for their plight — THEMSELVES!
Buy In Well Before Play Starts
Why do these players wait until the last minute? Why don't they just register early, especially during off hours? Remember, the poker cages are open 24 hours a day during the WSOP. If you know you are going to play a certain event, just buy-in whenever there is no line.
I often register right before I head up to my room or leave the Rio (if I'm staying at another hotel). For me, the best time to register is late night usually after midnight. There is often no line and you just zip right through registration. Afterward, I go the sleep without the stress of long registration lines in the morning.
Additionally, I sometimes buy in for a few events that I will play over the next several days and if I am fortunate to get deep in an event that overlaps with another one tournament, I will happily unregister.
Note: There are other bad times to avoid registration as well, such as the start of the Daily Deep Stack events (1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m.), afternoon bracelet events (often 3 p.m.), and satellites (9 a.m. and 8 p.m.). Always check the full schedule(PDF) to see what times to avoid.
Buy In Via Bravo
However, sometimes you just can't avoid the line. For example, you just busted and want to re-enter into one of the few events that has a re-entry such as the Colossus. Or, you want to late register for an event. Or you are just lazy or forgot to register earlier.
This year, the WSOP has set up a tournament buy-in credit system.
Well, fear not WSOP novice. In these cases, my solution is the Bravo Online Registration System. Prior to this year, you were able to register via this system, but only using a credit card, which incurred a 2.9 percent processing fee (3.9 percent if American Express Card).
Although it can become fairly pricey, I have felt that it was worth the additional cost, especially for a lower buy-in event (remember, I mentioned that I hate to wait in lines). Also, if it is a re-entry event, the clock is ticking away and with every level, I will become shorter stacked.
This year, the WSOP has set up a tournament buy-in credit system, where you can fund your account with cash, casino chips, cashier's check, or wire transfer and you can buy into a future event using the Bravo System. Each transaction has a nominal $3 fee which would definitely be worthwhile for all the last-minute registration players.
So if you need to re-enter an event, late register, or you just forgot to register early and don't want to stand in line, this system is an excellent way for you to avoid the long lines for a small $3 fee.
Manage the Restroom Lines
If you are a female WSOP participant, you can probably skip this section. Usually, at huge public gatherings such as sporting events, women are relegated to standing in massive lines. However, at the WSOP, women get their revenge since they are usually only around 5 percent of all entrants (in 2017 the fields were 5.4 percent women).
However, for males, restroom lines during breaks are one of the worst things about the WSOP. The lines are never-ending and there is no way to avoid them during the breaks, especially during events with enormous fields such as Colossus, Millionaire Maker, and the Seniors Event.
So, here is what I do during the WSOP.
First, all entrants will play for two hours before they get a 20-minute break. During the first hour, try to not drink any liquids. If you must drink something in the first hour, you will probably need to go to the restroom before the break (I speak from experience). Of course, if you are okay with missing several hands, then do not stress and drink away. However, most players do not want to skip any hands.
I often run to the restroom in the side hallway outside the Brasilia room.
As the break time approaches, I would recommend leaving the table a minute or so early to beat the crowd to the restroom. The perfect scenario would be if you are in middle or early position and at least two players have called, waiting to see a flop. Remember, if you are in early position, your range of hands should be tighter so you would have a low probability to play the hand, anyway.
I would not recommend leaving the table if you are in late position, especially on the button, as these are powerful positional spots and excellent opportunities to pick up the blinds and antes. Leaving early to go to the restroom always works as most players in the tournament will not want to miss any hands.
Another possible solution is to wait until the end of the 20-minute break. Most players are eager to get back to the tables in time, so the restroom line often lightens up. However, I will say that if you employ this strategy, you will probably miss a hand or two (this is from experience, not speculation). Once again, if you prefer this approach, I would suggest you utilize this strategy if you are in middle or early position when you come back from break. I would not recommend waiting until the end of the break time if you are in late position especially on the button after the break ends.
As for which restroom to use during the breaks, I always avoid the restroom in the main hallway, where there is only one men's room. I often run to the restroom in the side hallway outside the Brasilia room. Here, the women's restroom has been converted into a men's restroom in the past. This year, during the WSOP, it has been converted into a neutral gender restroom. Thus, even though the line looks long, it eventually splits into two separate restrooms and usually moves faster than other restrooms.
The other restroom line which moves fairly fast is the men's one located in the rotunda, just outside the Pavilion Room. This restroom is relatively bigger than the others and can accommodate more people.
Maximize Your Dinner Break
During the morning bracelet events, the WSOP gives the players a 75-minute dinner break after the sixth level of play. However, with the hundreds, if not thousands, of players that are going on break at the same time, you will have to battle your way through the crowd and then wait in line for a table or even wait to order a meal to go (and you know what I think about waiting!). I like to relax during my dinner break and this madness does not help me achieve that goal.
Therefore, if any of your non-poker playing friends are available or maybe fellow poker players who unfortunately have already been eliminated, ask them if they could arrive at the chosen restaurant about 10-15 minutes before break to grab a table. If they are able to sit down and even order what you want, you can relax and maximize your dinner break, instead of waiting in line. In the future, you may be asked to do the same thing for your friends, but this teamwork is well worthwhile in the long run.
If you are staying at the Rio, another possible scenario is to just grab something at the food court or ask a friend to get a take-out meal for you and then head back to your room. I have even been known to take a shower to feel rejuvenated before we restart after the dinner break. However, if you do this, remember to leave a little extra time to get back to the tables or you could be late as more people are riding the elevator at the same time as they head back to play (again, this is from personal experience).
Plan on Some Non-Poker Related Activities
Most players fly out to Las Vegas solely focused on the tournament, dreaming of WSOP glory. Unfortunately, if you are one of these type of players, the odds are that you will be disappointed. Not to be a pessimist, but even if you play your absolute best, luck is still a factor. Only 15 percent of the field cashes, while a minuscule percentage makes the final table. If your happiness will be solely based on your result, you will probably not have a pleasant trip.
I would recommend planning other non-poker activities to make sure that you have a memorable experience at the WSOP, regardless of your results on the felt.
Some ideas which I personally have done over the years are:
- Make a reservation at one of the marvelous restaurants in Las Vegas
- See one of the numerous Las Vegas shows
- Visit one of the many nightclubs in Las Vegas
- Take in some sightseeing (e.g., Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, Fremont Street, Bellagio water show)
- Walk on the iconic Las Vegas Strip
- Play some golf (albeit early morning to avoid the heat) or go bowling (lanes across the street at Gold Coast)
- Schedule a spa appointment
- Just go to the pool
Make your trip not only about poker, but also make it about having fun and making positive memories no matter whether you make a final table or not.
As I head out to my 14th consecutive WSOP this summer, I hope that you are able to utilize some of these suggestions and ultimately have a wonderful WSOP. And if you happen to see me in the hallway or, better yet, are sitting at one of my tables during the WSOP, please say hi.
Good luck at the tables everyone and hope to see you at the final table!