10 Do’s And Don’ts For World Series of Poker First-Timers

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Ari Engel and Brandon Shack Harris shared some of their tips for WSOP first-timers.

The 2021 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas is here and that means there’s simply no time to waste. So, without further ado, let’s get star—

DON’T GO OUT THE NIGHT BEFORE YOUR FIRST TOURNAMENT AND PLAY BEER PONG AT O’SHEA’S WHILE DRINKING SIX IRISH CAR BOMBS THEN THINK IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO STAY UP UNTIL 7 AM AND LOSE 10 BUY-INS ON A $1/$2 TABLE AT THE FLAMINGO.

Go out, by all means. Just don’t do that. Have you ever been so hungover that you completely forget what it’s like to not be hungover? Over-partying is easily done in Las Vegas, but a throbbing head and overwhelming nausea is the last thing you want when you’re heading to the Rio to play your first ever WSOP event.

Save that for your final night in town.

DO GET EXCITED.

You’re at the WSOP! You made it! Don’t let some moaning, jaded veteran at your table dampen your spirits.

If you feel anxious beforehand, that’s completely normal. Playing for a bracelet is a big deal and you don’t know what will happen. But while anxiety suggests you should fear the uncertainty, excitement views the uncertainly as something to look forward to.

So, get excited and enjoy the action.

DON’T OVERLOAD ON CAFFEINE.

Any anxiety you do feel pre-tournament will only be made worse if you chug four coffees before making your way to the Rio. Instead, find different ways to wake yourself up and save the healing power of coffee for later in the day, like bracelet winner and former #1-ranked online pro Ari Engel does.

“I try and go to the gym most mornings and limit caffeine in the morning so it’s more effective in the evening when I’m playing tournaments,” says Engel.

DO REGISTER THE NIGHT BEFORE.

On the night before your first event, why not stop by the Rio before heading out for dinner? That way, not only will you know what to expect, you can also take care of something that first-timers often overlook:

“Make sure you register the day before the tournament, especially if it’s a big weekend event,” says WSOP czar Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers. “No one wants to be stuck in a long line when the tournament starts.”

Registration is available 24/7.

DON’T STRESS YOURSELF OUT.

Keep your mornings stress-free by limiting your obligations to others and planning your food/travel the night before. That way you can just relax pre-poker.

“I like to give myself time before I go play so that my brain is actually awake and functioning,” says three-time WSOP bracelet winner Benny “RunGodlike” Glaser. “I’ll meditate a bit if I have time, so my mind isn’t cluttered with unnecessary things. I also try not to eat huge meals that will slow me down mentally or give me an insulin crash after.”

To help matters further when playing, Mathers suggests downloading the Bravo Poker Live app on your phone. “It shows you when tournament breaks are coming, the status of the dinner break, and how close you are to reaching the money.”

At the Rio the food options can be limited and expensive, so Kevmath also suggests packing snacks and drinks in your bag, along with other items you consider essential.

DO WEAR LAYERS.

“The Rio is notorious for keeping the tournament rooms cooler than you’re used to,” says Kevmath. “Be sure to bring a hoodie or wear layers that you can add or remove as needed.”

And if you have to wear something warm, why not have some fun with it?

“When people see me in a stupid bear suit, it’s not just because the Rio is an ice cube,” says two-time bracelet winner Brandon Shack-Harris. “I’m from Chicago, so what do I care? I do it because there’s a point in the Series where I’ve bricked infinite tournaments and I’m too mentally fried to read enough Stoic Philosophies to get through tomorrow’s $1,500 Limit Hold ‘Em Event.”

DON’T RUSH.

Break times in big WSOP tournaments can get hectic. Don’t feel obliged to rush. Remember, there are two outcomes when you’re sprinting back to the table trying not to miss a hand:

1. You’re going to be flustered and your heart racing, so chances you probably won’t play the hand to the best of your ability anyway.

2. You’re probably going to be dealt seven-deuce-offsuit.

“I try not to race back to the table,” says Shack-Harris. “If I miss a hand, that’s fine. Unless running is going to make me happy for some reason, I’m walking, and I’ll get there when I get there.”

DO AVOID BAD BEAT STORIES.

Talk strategy with friends on breaks, sure, but if you catch yourself beginning to tell a bad beat story–or being forced to listen to one–get out of there.

“Forget about beats,” says Shack-Harris. “While it’s important to acknowledge hands you could’ve played better, do it once and let them go.”

Instead, on breaks, Shack-Harris likes to get outside and find some peace. “I find it helpful to shut my brain off, so I don’t bother looking at my phone,” he says. “Find a quiet spot and think about adjustments you’ll make in the next level.

“There have been times where I’ve grabbed my skateboard mid-tournament and taken it outside for 10 minutes to calm my brain down and get some air. Sometimes you’ve got to leave the table and reset!”

DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP OVER BUSTING.

OK, so you busted the tournament. That sucks. But you know what? You’re still in Las Vegas.

“I care less about busting tournaments in Vegas than I do other places because there are so many things to do there,” says Glaser. “There are lots of good bars and clubs, shows, and restaurants to choose from. Or you can even get away from the strip and see some nature, maybe go on a hike somewhere like Red Rock. It can be really nice for resetting and calming the mind.”

Just do what your body and mind want to do. “It’s such an intense grind and it’s so cognitively taxing that it’s important to give yourself a rest sometimes,” says Glaser.

DO BE KIND TO YOURSELF.

Playing at the WSOP is special, whether you’re ticking it off the bucket list or back for the tenth time. But it can be a long grind, so whatever happens, be gentle with yourself.

“Throughout the Series, there are ebbs and flows and I’ll make adjustments to stay sane,” says Shack-Harris. “It’s important to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to eat shit food if it’s going to be convenient or if it will bring your spirits up. Just be aware that you might have to bail in the middle of Level 9 to handle some…extra business.”

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