The World Series of Poker is the Holy Grail for poker players both professional and amateur alike and Lee Davy gives the virgins 22 pieces of advice to take heed of during their first foray into the poker section of their bucket list.
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. It’s pitch side seats at the World Cup Final. It’s an orgy. It’s a duet with Rihanna. It’s my wife’s gluten free pancakes.
Everyone who knows anything about poker wants to be there. Not everyone is fortunate enough to make the trip. If you love poker, you need to make the effort. It’s an experience you will never forget. It’s a bucket list item that’s more doable than rolling around with George Clooney in a bathtub full of cold baked beans.
With that in mind, here are 22 tips for the virgins who will venture into the desert hoping that they return home without an STD, money in their wallet, and a bad beat story to tell.
1# Find a Tribe
Las Vegas is no fun on your lonesome, even in the midst of the greatest poker tournament in the world. If you love your poker, the chances are you belong to a tribe who loves the game as much as you do.
A few members of my tribe used to come out every year to spend time with me. We played in some WSOP events but mainly spent our time playing cash games in Bally’s and Planet Hollywood. My best WSOP stories never took place in the Rio.
The WSOP is a magical place.
There is even more fairy dust when you experience it with those you grind with on a weekly basis.
2# Choosing an Event
When I first appeared at the WSOP, the smallest buy-in was $1,000. I will always remember the day I asked my friend to lend me the money to play. He flicked a single chip into the air. I caught it. It was a month’s rent. To the pros, a $1,000 buy-in event is chicken feed. To the rest of us, it’s a steak.
These days the buy-in is smaller. The $565 buy-in for The Colossus is still a lot of money to invest in a game, but it’s the one event I would advise newcomers to compete in. It’s an incredible feeling to compete in a World Record event. The energy is palpable.
If you are competing in more than one event, then stick with the gimmicks. The $888 buy-in event, and Millionaire Maker, and the Little One for One Drop all draw huge fields, life-changing money, and a story to tell your friends.
If you are with a tribe, then organise satellites with a winner takes all prize of a buy-in for a WSOP event. Even if your tribe doesn’t follow you to the desert, you can still organise these back home. It’s a great way to qualify for WSOP events because you know the skill level of your competitors better than anyone else.
There are also satellites at the Rio and the other casinos on The Strip. These are also worth a shot, but they won’t be as easy to win as the ones you invent in your own home game.
4# Sell Pieces
Don’t let greed get the better of you. When someone wants a piece of your buy-in and you start thinking of splitting that million, think again. The odds of you winning are astronomical.
If money is tight, it’s always better to sell pieces so you can play in more events than to have 100% of your action in your only rodeo. For the beginners, the experience is what counts. The WSOP draws you back year after year. Stretch that dollar as far as you can.
And you will be surprised who will buy a piece of your action. It’s no small feat to have a horse in a race with a million bucks for first. One year, I asked my Twitter followers to back me. Phil Galfond had a piece. I didn’t cash. I felt embarrassed asking him for the money. He shook my hand and thanked me for the sweat.
5# Register Well in Advance
I can’t dress this up any other way. Registering for a WSOP event is a fucking nightmare. Fortunately, I live in the UK and am part of the National Health Service (NHS) so I am used to standing in line for hours on end hoping someone finally gives a fuck.
To be fair to the WSOP, it’s not all their fault. You can blame the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC). It seems someone locked them in a room back in the 1940s and had never let them out.
This year, there are more ways to register in advance than ever before. I strongly suggest you do your homework before you start flicking olives out of those dry martinis. Click on this link and follow the instructions. Do not turn up at the Rio with minutes to spare hoping to get a seat because you will be sorely disappointed.
6# Get a Caesars Total Rewards Card
Around the WSOP, this piece of plastic is like gold dust. Cherish it with your life. You won’t play a single WSOP event without one. Once again you can apply for one in advance, and then pick it up at a Caesars-owned casino when you arrive. Once again I strongly suggest you do this in advance.
7# Carry ID at All Times
You will not be able to register without photo identification. I always carry my passport with me. A driver’s license will also work. You will need it to register and the dealer will also want to see it when you take your seat.
8# It’s Boiling
Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert.
Need I say more.
It’s the hottest place in the world.
9# It’s Freezing
The Rio is freezing.
You get all dressed up for the desert and then walk into an ice truck.
Always make sure you take a backpack with you that contains something to keep you warm because you will need it.
10# Take Food With You
If you are lucky, you will be playing for 10-12 hours. Without food, you will tire and your judgment will lapse. I am not talking about your game here. I’m talking about buying the food at The Rio. It sucks balls. You can buy food from All-American Dave, and even have it delivered to your seat by a beautiful buxom woman rubbing her boobies in your face when all you are interested in is beetroot. He costs a small fortune, though, so skip him, and plan in advance.
Take a trip to Whole Foods or Trader Joes and make a packed lunch. Also, pack a lot of snacks. You will need something in your mouth when the All-American Dave woman arrives at the table to feed a baller – it will stop your saliva dripping on your cards.
11# Take Hygienic Wipes
One year, I was competing in a WSOP event, munching on a carrot, when Kathy Liebert reminded me that handling the cards while eating my carrot was like Ebola or something.
12# Take Water
If money is tight, then bring your own water.
There are drinks dispensers dotted around the poker rooms in the Rio. They are sparse, but they exist.
You will save $10-$20 per day on tips.
13# Bladder Control
Don’t drink the water.
It’s either the nerves or a sign that I am approaching old age but when I compete at the WSOP, I am always busting for a piss. There is nothing more annoying than needing to drain the snake in between hands.
And by the way, don’t go for a piss during the break. The line will be a mile long. Always leave a few minutes before the end. Alternatively, skip the closest bathrooms and take a long walk to find one. I like to walk to the casino as it gives me time to clear my mind and skip the lines.
14# Smell Nice
It’s the nerves again.
Whenever I play at the WSOP, I sweat profusely and smell of weed. One year, I stank. I had no change of clothing. I had no deodorant. I had to pinch a woman’s perfume to spray my pits. It wasn’t the best idea I have ever had.
You have that backpack don’t you?
Put a spare t-shirt in there with some roll-on.
15# Have a Dinner Plan
I have already told you about the toilet lines at the break. The same is true for dinner seats at any of the restaurants in the Rio. Always have a plan for the breaks. If you are with your tribe, then agree in advance where you will meet to save precious time trying to find each other.
You can book seats at certain restaurants in the Rio for dinner. I always have a car and drive out to Spring Mountain. There are some great Asian restaurants and you can be out and back without missing a hand.
You also have your packed lunch.
Go to Starbucks, grab a Chai Tea latte, and eat your fish paste sandwiches.
16# Prepare to be Depressed
The night before my WSOP debut I was sat in a jacuzzi staring into the darkest night I had ever seen. Stars illuminated the painting. A posse of professional poker players punched advice into my prefrontal cortex.
“Take your time.”
I didn’t need to worry about peeing my pants; I didn’t even open my drinks bottle. I was out before the start of the first break.
When you only play one or two WSOP events a year, or perhaps in your life, the exit experience feels like an enormous sycamore tree has fallen on your head.
Prepare for it.
17# Watch That Gamble
When you are out, you want back in.
Back when I acted like a monkey during my WSOP debut, I didn’t have the opportunity to re-enter. Times have changed. There are nine re-entry events at this year’s WSOP and guess what? Most of them are in events that people like you and I compete in.
You will feel like a red headed bearded lady trying to walk away from the travelling circus. The ATM and cage have a magnetic pull. You won’t be able to withstand it.
If you are going to fire more than one bullet, then make sure you have enough bullets. If you are going to play roulette and only load the chamber with the one, you will lose your head.
18# Be On Time
You are playing in the WSOP.
Show some respect.
19# It’s All About Survival
You start The Colossus with 100bb and 30-minute blind levels. You start a $1,000 buy-in event with 100bb and 60-minute blind levels.
Listen to the people in my hot tub.
It’s all about survival.
Then fold some more.
20# Field Sizes Don’t Mean Shit
I played in The Colossus. There were 22,374 entrants. That’s scary shit right there. How are you going to get lucky enough to beat all of those people?
It’s an illusion.
You only have to worry about the 10-players at your table. I am sure you have experience competing against 10-people? Block the rest from your mind. It’s nothing but noise.
21# Get Ready For Short-Handed Action
Did I tell you to be on time?
Not many people will be.
It’s not unusual to play the first level with only three or four people at your table. It will increase your nerves. They will jangle. Prepare for it. You will play a lot of hands very early. You have 100bb. Chill.
About those nerves.
I have seen grown men with muscles the size of monks shaking so much their chips are spilling like fish onto the trawler floor.
It’s all part of the game.
My advice would be to accept it. Don’t be ashamed. You are not alone. But the best cure is to use your mouth. Talk to people. Get to know them. Most of them are as worried as you. Once the tongue starts flapping, the nerves vanish, and if you are like me, all you that remains is a smell of weed seeping out from under your armpits.
So there are my 22 pieces of advice for virgin WSOP players.
What have I missed?