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What I Learned Cashing In The WSOP Main Event

by Alex Fitzgerald |  Published: Sep 06, 2023


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I recently got back from playing the largest WSOP main event in history. I was lucky enough to cash, although not much went right after I made the money.

During the event, I learned a great deal about tournament poker in 2023. These were my discoveries.

1. Solid Poker Can Still Get You Far

I was amazed at how tight I sometimes had to play in this event.

My first table featured a number of tough players. Four-bets and five-bets were flying around. Yuck.

Once I found out our table would be breaking, I decided to try nothing fancy.

There were multiple spots like this in the main event. My table draw wouldn’t be the best. I’d stick to solid poker. I’d then be surprised by how well it was working.

Napoleon’s definition of a military genius was, “a man who can do the average thing when everyone else around him is losing their mind.” That quote rang true throughout the main event.

I watched many talented players self-destruct for no good reason. They ran bluffs that were unnecessary and ill advised. They even lamented to me later that they punted.

If you were playing solid poker and paying attention, you had the time in this tournament to wait for one of these punts. The grueling part was staying patient.

2. Value Bet Thinner

The most common donation I saw was an unnecessary river call.

Many players in the main event are not capable of a triple barrel bluff, but that didn’t stop people from calling down three streets without much of anything.

When you’re a tough, experienced player, you are capable of running huge bluffs. The downside of this is you start projecting how you play onto other people. You start seeing bluffs everywhere because if you were in another player’s shoes, you’d be capable of bluffing.

Unfortunately, most weekend warriors who won their seat into the main event are not able to bluff their chips off. Versus them, if they suddenly wake up and start firing chips into the pot, the proper play is to fold.

I was worried when I first started playing this tournament that I would get no action on my thin value bets. I was playing like such a nit! Who the hell was going to pay me off?

It didn’t matter though. Most people still wouldn’t fold their mediocre hands to triple barrels. I built my chip stack up thinly value betting top pairs for three streets. I got called down constantly in spots where I didn’t believe I earned a river call.

I was able to make the money with less variance than I expected by simply value betting thin once every few levels.

The hardest part of this system was how much patience it required. I started to understand why so many players wanted to force hands. It becomes extremely difficult to stay patient for multiple ten-hour days.

3. Hydrate More Than Normal

A friend of mine told me to try those electrolyte drink mix powders while I was out in Vegas. I didn’t like the sugar content in some of the more popular brands, but I was willing to try anything. I always struggle with staying hydrated out in Vegas. It seems like I can down water all day and it won’t make a difference.

To my surprise, the electrolyte drink powders did help me when I was in the desert. I would have moments during the main event where I felt exhausted and downtrodden. When I made myself drink some of these electrolyte solutions, my focus and optimism would immediately return.

It could be a placebo impact. I won’t ignore that possibility. However, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t bring up this tip. I felt my performance and patience were improved dramatically by how much better I felt throughout the trip.

There was one specific moment during the main event where I was tilted. I easily could have justified a reckless bluff that was offered to me. However, I felt calmer compared to years prior due to being well hydrated and sleeping well. I felt like I had more time to work because my health was right. I was able to avoid punting in that hand. Later, I picked up some chips in a much better spot.

4. You Can Move Up In Position

I was amazed by how often I could move up in position.

My cards would get dealt to me in the hijack. The players ahead of me would fold. I’d then look at my cards, but out of the corner of my eye I would watch what the cutoff or button player were doing.

To my amazement, many times they’d be holding their cards ready to fold them! They would hold their hand differently when they were planning to play the hand.

I only got to use these reads a few times, but they were immensely powerful. Getting multiple buttons per orbit is a massive edge.

Take your time in these large field events before you act. It only takes a couple of seconds.

You can even grip your cards before you do anything. The few times I did that a player behind me would start getting their cards ready to fold because they expected me to pitch my cards into the muck.

5. Make Yourself Pay Attention

My attention span is as bad as anyone’s, but during the main event I tried to work around it.

What I made myself do in every hand was watch the action. I’d physically move my head so at the very least I was watching the players play.

Did I catch every detail? Absolutely not. I missed things constantly. But I gave myself the opportunity to catch details.

That process of attempting to pay attention to every hand paid off later in the tournament. There were multiple situations where a player would open and it would hit me like a rock, “he hasn’t opened from early position all day!”

I would look down at a solid hand I’d normally three-bet, but versus this specific tight player I would decide to flat. We’d play a smaller pot. Sure enough, at the end of the hand I’d see their opening range was wildly strong. Taking a flop helped me realize my equity. If I had three-bet there would have been a good chance I’d have been four-bet off the hand. ♠

Learn how to play A-K when it misses the flop!

Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT and EPT final tablist, and has WCOOP and SCOOP wins online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on ACR Poker. He currently enjoys blasting bums away in Ignition tournaments while he listens to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at