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Playing Against Huge Fields With Five-Time Circuit Champ Preston McEwen

by Bernard Lee |  Published: Jul 12, 2023


During the 2022-2023 WSOP Circuit season, there have been few players as hot as Murfreesboro, Tennessee resident Preston McEwen. He has cashed in 20 events, while final tabling 10 and capturing three coveted WSOP Circuit rings to give him five total. The RunGoodGear ambassador has taken home over $500,000 during the last season alone.

Last November, McEwen outlasted a massive field of 3,110 entries in the Cherokee Circuit Monster Stack event, besting Louisiana native Dustin Harrelson heads-up to take home $133,830. Then, just two months later, he banked his fourth ring in the $1,700 WSOP Circuit main event in Tunica, Mississippi for $183,563. Incredibly, just another month later, he would earn his fifth ring in the $2,200 high roller event back at Harrah’s Cherokee for another $71,525.

“The past few months have been kind of crazy,” recalled McEwen. “People don’t see all the losses, so there was certainly a stretch where I was getting my ass kicked. But recently, it seems the good side of variance is just coming my way. I have been playing well, locked in, and running hot. It’s been really wild.”

In addition to his success on the WSOP Circuit, McEwen also made a deep run in the 2021 main event to earn $113,800 and has numerous wins on the Run Good Poker Series.

I spoke with McEwen for my radio show. You can watch the full interview on YouTube (BernardLeePoker) or listen on any podcast app.

Bernard Lee: Congratulations my friend on winning three rings in a matter of a few months. Simply amazing! Although you have been on such a heater during this 2022/2023 WSOP Circuit season, you definitely didn’t have a successful 2022 WSOP in Las Vegas, correct?

Preston McEwen: Yeah, I definitely found the bad side of variance out there. I played six weeks straight, playing every day and in several dozen bracelet events. But, I only cashed in three events for less than $8,000. Needless to say, I did not have a positive summer and went on a tough downswing.

Bernard: How do you get through those difficult downswings?

Preston: Fortunately, I had a couple of decent non-bracelet scores that kept me afloat. With these big field sizes, you are going to go through downswings, so it’s really important to keep your mindset straight and not let it get to you.

I also would talk hand histories with my buddies including my RunGoodGear teammates like yourself, to make sure that I didn’t develop any leaks in my game. This helped me not doubt my abilities and kept me pushing forward. But after the WSOP, I went home and simply took a break. Sometimes, you just got to step away from poker and build your life equity with your family.

Bernard: During this incredible Circuit run, you have captured rings in massive field events such as the Monster Stack event in Cherokee. Any advice on how to navigate through these huge fields? Let’s start with the early stages of the tournament.

Preston: I treat every stage of the tournament differently. As for the early stages, I probably take a higher variance approach as compared to most players. I am definitely more aggressive than most.

I try to incorporate bankroll management as I’m willing to fire multiple bullets, where others may not be willing to risk the money. Although I will get some weird looks from my opponents when I turn over my cards, I’m overall taking as many spots as I can early to build a stack. Then, when the money bubble comes around, I can put more pressure on my opponents if I have a big stack. However, I won’t just play recklessly, I will try to make good folds as I read each situation.

Also, I focus on my table and what I can control. I see some other players so fixated on other players who are the chip leaders, but they are not even at their table. Just focus on your table as they are the only players you can play with at that specific time.

Bernard: But the one thing is that your aggressiveness must be balanced with the fact that it is the early stages of the tournament. Players are deep as the tournament has just begun and also players are usually able to rebuy, so you are often going to have to reveal a hand after the river to win a hand. How does this affect your strategy? Do you try to be more aggressive post-flop?

Preston: Good question. I feel I’m going to have a post-flop edge against most players, so I like to see a lot of flops. Also, my bet sizing post-flop is probably on the smaller size so I don’t have to risk as many chips.

Bernard: Are there any other factors that you highly consider during the early levels?

Preston: Absolutely. I think the two biggest factors are which players you can take advantage of as they will give up on the hand and/or play their hands face up. It is a big factor to see who you may play post-flop while also utilizing position against these players.

Bernard: What stage do you start to put the pedal to the metal? Near the money bubble?

Preston: It depends on the table as you can recognize when the players start to tighten up. Sometimes, they don’t even pay attention and I go out of my way to mention the money bubble is approaching so players slow down and I can take advantage of it.

But if we are still 30 off the money, I definitely try to preserve my big stack for the money bubble as that is where I can take the most advantage of it.

Bernard: As you break the money, how do you navigate down toward the final table?

Preston: It’s based on your stack size. Sometimes you have a shorter stack and you may have to grind for hours. Every chip you put into the pot is meaningful. I often see players try to win too early, but you just can’t rush things.

Bernard: As you approach the final table, when do you decide to become aggressive?

Preston: You have to recognize that this is the second bubble of the tournament and most players respect this bubble way more because of the money at stake. I really pay attention to their styles as some are more focused on making the final table, not the win. Thus, this is when I get the most aggressive.

I’m taking every spot I can to try to build a stack. In general, two or three tables left is when everyone slows down and tightens up, which is the moment we can take advantage of the situation.

Bernard: Talk about final-table play, especially if you have a pretty solid stack.

Preston: I usually give it a couple of orbits to see how everyone is playing. Then, I will determine who is trying to win and who is just laddering up. As for the latter player, I will put maximum pressure on them.

It is very important to understand what your image is to your opponents. If you showed many crazy hands leading up to the final table, try to understand how this might affect your opponent’s decision-making process.

Bernard: What about heads-up or three-handed play?

Preston: Once again, I take a very small ball approach, as truly every chip counts, especially with a big blind ante. I do a lot of limping in heads-up to pot control as much as possible, but try to get as much value as I can when I get a big hand.

Bernard: Any thoughts about preparing to play in a massive field size tournament?

Preston: I have always been able to thrive on only 5 to 6 hours of sleep, but getting enough sleep is key, especially during the 6-7 week grind of the summer. Also, a big part of it for me is avoiding certain foods that will wear you down during these long tournament days. I avoid carbs and sugars where I could crash.

If I wake up and I’m tired, I’m not worried about going back to bed. I’m not afraid to max late regging to preserve my energy for later and prior to bagging time. I really want the most energy toward bagging time.

Finally, there are some events where there are multiple flights on different days. So, if you are fortunate to bag early, I always like to travel with my golf clubs or catch a show in town or go on a hike.

Bernard: Thanks so much for the advice for playing against massive fields.

Preston: Thanks Bernard. ♠

Bernard Lee Bernard Lee broke into the poker world after a deep run in the 2005 WSOP main event. He has two WSOP Circuit rings, and is an author, having written for Card Player, the Boston Herald, Metrowest Daily News, and ESPN, where he was a host of the show The Inside Deal. His radio show and podcast, The Bernard Lee Poker Show, recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, and his latest book, Poker Satellite Success: Turn Affordable Buy-Ins Into Shots At Winning Millions, is now available on Amazon as well as D&B Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @BernardLeePoker or visit his website at or YouTube channel at

*Photos courtesy of WSOP.