Go Fish

Ramblings of a Mostly Sane WSOP Veteran

I’m in Vegas … again. This year marks a decade of having played in the World Series of Poker. No summer vacays, family reunions, or any of those other adorably (and foreign) cliché summer activities, which the all-American families spread throughout the pages of a magazine look so elated to be doing. When May, June and July roll around its just seven weeks of poker, poker, poker, for me.

In 10 years some things haven’t changed. Here at the ole WSOP, the Amazon room is still f*cking freezing, the Vegas temperatures are still f*cking scorching, and I have yet to win a f*cking WSOP bracelet. (Language quota for this article … reached!) These things aside, as I embark on this year’s WSOP I feel happier, healthier, wiser and overall more calm and balanced than ever before. Balance, I’ve discovered, is key to a poker-playing lifestyle, and namely a contributing factor to finding success at the WSOP.

Maria HoI feel like my game has significantly improved, especially from having spent most of this last year grinding online in Vancouver. My recent online poker immersion sent me down the Matrix-esque red pill “rabbit hole” of poker strategy and concepts. I’m always amazed that even with a decade of experience under my belt, there is still so much more to learn about this game.

Poker, and its players, are ever changing and evolving. Strategies that worked for me five years ago aren’t as effective. Players are more educated these days. They have access to endless resources online, in print and through training sites, which means that if everyone else around me is getting better, so must I. Playing extensively online has helped me adapt to the ever-evolving player trends and strategies out there. The game theory lobe of my brain has significantly expanded. I’m playing smarter, more intentionally, and with consistent results.

Coming into this year’s WSOP, I feel confident with my game, and I feel like I have a pulse on the current tactics and strategies that players are implementing at the tables. I’m onto these kids and I plan to fish a few out this summer! Heerree fishy, fishy, fishy …

If 10 years of visits to the WSOP have taught me anything, it’s that the WSOP is a marathon and not a sprint … and that you better find a way to keep yourself sane when opting to play seven weeks of big field, high variance poker tournaments — in Sin City, nonetheless. Also, bring sunblock. Free tip.

You hear players say, “it’s a marathon …” all the time, but might not know exactly what it means until you’ve spent an entire summer in Vegas, then in a blink of an eye the WSOP is over and all you have to show for it is a stack of WSOP entry receipts, a liver full of vodka, a couple $1 and $5 chips on your nightstand (from like 12 different casinos), and a failed relationship with a stripper named Destiny, who you honestly thought you had a shot with. I’m talking to you, gentlemen! (No offense to any girls out there named “Destiny.”)

If you try to cram in every single tournament, say yes to every fun party or social outing, and opt to spend the wee morning hours at the blackjack tables or in da’club (because, I can just late reg tomorrow), you’ll probably find yourself spouting “shoulda,” “woulda,” “couldas,” as you wave goodbye to Vegas in your rear view, at the end of the summer. Not like I’m speaking from experience or anything. I bring so much crap with me to Vegas that I actually can’t even see out of my rear view mirror ;)

At year 10, I feel like maybe I’ve finally got a handle on this thing. Maybe. I’m less concerned with partying and the fun factor. Although scheduling days off for a fun, brainless, out-of-the-casino activities has been pertinent to maintaining my sanity, when playing poker for an exorbitant amount of time in Vegas.

I’ve started planning my summer ahead of time and actually making a schedule for myself, which I highly recommend! Poker is such a roller coaster and so unpredictable that I’ve discovered one must create that sense predictability. Creating a schedule and/or a routine helps reintroduce a sense of consistency, which poker severely lacks. Trust me on this one.

I’ve found that diet, exercise, a healthy sleep schedule (all of which Vegas is the antithesis of) and even whom I chose to live with during my seven-week stint, have become correlating factors to my performance and ability to focus in WSOP tournaments. (Not gonna lie, coming home to Vanessa Selbst and Tiffany Michelle’s furry family members: Indie, Papi and Moxie — collectively nicknamed “anti-tilt,” is medicinal.)

Maybe some of you wise owls had this figured out year one of coming to the WSOP, but within the past two or three summers the necessity of these decisions and routines have really sunk in for me.

Just like any top artist or athlete, sacrifices have to be made in order to obtain ultimate success. Albeit a foreign concept for some grinders, a sacrifice of this kind might even look like actually skipping a tournament (GASP. Oh no she di’int), so as to put oneself in better headspace for the next tournament. We’re all in such a rush to win a bracelet and rack up numerous WSOP cashes and final tables that we “push through” exhaustion and try to tackle an unhealthy volume of tournaments — when our brains and bodies aren’t in prime performance condition. For a group of individuals who make a living at good-decision making, it’s amazing how we don’t carry that skill from the poker tables over into our lifestyle surrounding the game.

Giving myself day off from poker at the WSOP, when needed, allows me to recharge, and I’ve found that it generally equates more deep runs and cashes by summer’s end. And you can take that to the bank!

But what do I know. These are just the ramblings of a crazy ole WSOP vet ;)

Happy fishing, my friends.

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July 2014