Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Questions from the 2013 WSOP

by Bernard Lee |  Published: Sep 01, 2013


Bernard LeeOn May 29, 2013, the 44th annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) got underway, which included over five weeks of play with many days lasting over twelve hours. Finally, after the completion of 61 bracelet events, the WSOP main event began with high hopes for thousands of poker players from all around the world. Now, with the 2013 November Nine set, the WSOP in Las Vegas will go into hibernation for the next three months until the final nine players reassemble once again at the Penn and Teller Theatre at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in early November.

Looking back over the long and arduous summer, I was asked numerous questions by poker fans about the WSOP, including how to play and prepare for the WSOP main event. Here are some I’d like to share with you, as you might also have asked these questions and may find my answers interesting.

While at the airport preparing to return to Las Vegas for the WSOP main event, a couple of Boston area poker players recognized me and began chatting about the main event. After they wished me good luck, I asked if they would be playing in the main event as well. One of the two buddies said that he was playing after he had won a seat in their home game tournament. He was genuinely excited having achieved one of his bucket list items. The other friend was going out to support him, while also trying to qualify for the main event via a satellite. After they both asked me for some advice about what to expect, the player who had qualified asked me the following:

What should I play when I arrive in Las Vegas today? A satellite, a sit-n-go, maybe some cash games? I have been asked this question by numerous players over the past several years and I have answered it the same way every time.

“You should do NOTHING!”

The WSOP main event is the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the Masters of Poker. Would Tom Brady play a flag football game the day before the Super Bowl? Would LeBron James play a pick-up game at the local YMCA the night before Game 7 in the NBA Finals? Would Tiger Woods play nine holes in a twilight league at a local muni on Wednesday before the Masters?

Of course not. Each of these players would rest themselves, preparing mentally and physically for the biggest game of the year…maybe their lives. Therefore, why would you not do the same for the biggest poker tournament of the year. Remember, you can play poker somewhere any day of the year. You may never come back to the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino to play the WSOP main event ever again. So, why not be completely prepared to play?

As I stated in my last column, the WSOP main event is a true spectacle. Many players become overwhelmed in the moment, which affects their overall poker game. Instead of playing, I recommended finding your table and soaking in the unforgettable atmosphere. After watching some hands, I suggested getting a healthy dinner (no alcohol though), going to bed early and possibly working out in the morning.

Finally, enjoy the day. After all, it is the WSOP main event and you will be playing in the one tournament that every poker player dreams of playing in. Good luck!

Another question he asked, which is also a very common one, was:

How many chips should I set as a goal to have at the end of Day 1?

Of course, you want to have as many chips as possible as the chip leader after Day 1 often has around 200,000. However, I told them that I would not worry about the size of your chip stack, but focus on making it through the day. If you have a target chip count in mind, then you may become concerned when your stack is below that number. I often see players pressing the action just to achieve their personal chip stack goal. Remember, last year champion, Greg Merson was down to just a couple of big blinds and still came back to win the WSOP main event.

After reading the bracelet event updates online, many amateur players notice that some of the professional players register late for certain bracelet events. Therefore, many people ask me if they should be registering late as well.

The simple answer is no. In my opinion, I think it is detrimental to not show up right away. Especially for the small buy-in events where your stack size is relatively small to begin with, showing up on time seems like the better option. If you arrive at the end of the registration period (which is often after the fourth level) in a $1,000 or $1,500 event, you only have about 20 big blinds left, which is not much room to play poker. Additionally, during the early levels of tournaments, many inexperienced players are nervous and often make mistakes which you can capitalize on.

As for some of the pros, they do not like playing the early levels, especially for the larger buy-in events, because their stacks are so deep. The pros sometimes get bored in these early levels and see no need to play. Since you get a full stack even if you register late, many players decided to show up later when the blinds are higher.

Every year, several people tell me the following: My number one poker goal is to win a WSOP bracelet. Thus, how do I improve my no-limit hold’em game to give myself the best chance at winning a bracelet?

To be honest, if you really want to win a WSOP bracelet, you should begin to focus on other games besides no-limit hold’em. Unless you had $111,111 spare cash for the One Drop event (which only had 166 players), you will need to navigate fields that consist of thousands of players to win a WSOP no-limit hold’em bracelet.

Therefore, I would highly recommend mastering another game, besides no-limit hold’em or Omaha, as this game has been widely learned by many of the current poker players. These other games have field sizes that are much smaller, usually in the hundreds. I would suggest you look at all the stud game variations (seven-card stud, stud eight-or-better and razz) or deuce-to-seven draw, either no-limit single draw (my personal favorite) or limit triple draw. Whichever mixed game you decide to focus on, try to master the game as it will give you the best chance possible to win a WSOP bracelet. ♠

Bernard Lee is the lead commentator for WSOP Circuit live stream, poker columnist, author of “The Final Table, Volume I and II” and radio host of “The Bernard Lee Poker Show,” which can be found on or via podcast on iTunes. Lee is also a team member of Follow Bernard Lee on Twitter:
@BernardLeePoker or visit him at