A WSOP Veteran's Mindset
I'll be going back to the World Series of Poker in a few days for the eighth year in a row. Man, how time flies. I was a wide-eyed kid in Las Vegas in 2005 just happy to be in the same room as so many of my heroes. Over the years, I got to see my dreams of making deep runs in WSOP tournaments come true on a couple of different occasions. If you can get your hands on the buzz that accompanies progressing into the later stages of a WSOP event, I highly recommend it.
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Ten years after the story of some accountant from Tennessee ignited my passion for poker and the WSOP, the game has changed a lot and so have I. I'm a poker dinosaur now. Twenty-eight might as well be forty-five in this game, especially for an American unable to access the greatest tool for sustaining a current-level poker thought processes: PokerStars.
Poker has always been a young man's game. Now it's a young non-American man's game.
Part of the upside of getting old is that you're more realistic. I know whatever relative advantage I had at the WSOP in 2008, where coasting into the top 200 while slowly accumulating chips and never facing an all-in until this happened, is several degrees of measure less probable.
When I surpassed that 2008 finish in 2011, it was largely due to lady luck; I had just a 2% chance of having had survived all of the all-ins that I did prior to showing up for play on day seven. And the game will be tougher this year than it was in 2011.
A bit older and wiser, a better ability to balance lifestyle during the WSOP as an adult will be closest thing I have to a secret weapon against the field this year. An early bedtime is no replacement for a deep-level of poker understanding. I am doing what I can to compensate for this by setting up strategy discussions with some of the many great young poker players scattered around the globe I have had the privilege of meeting over the years.
I'm proud to have observed the growth some of these individuals who have worked to achieve in order to long-ago surpass my own playing ability. My friend Oliver Gill has been tenacious in his approach to life as a poker tournament pro; from his home in Australia, Oliver's words of insight dispensed to me via Skype have helped to get this American poker player's mental gears dusted off and ready for a week in Vegas. I am lucky to know a few guys such as Oliver who have worked to achieve a handsome edge at the table and are overdue for a great moment.
One is Kevin Schulz whose intense approach is a lesson on the importance of focus at the table. No one should want Kevin at their table. His secret sauce? He pays attention. I'm following Kevin's example this year by neglecting my smartphone between breaks in tournament play. In 2013, that's a big edge that only requires a bit of discipline.
A dedication to keeping my head on straight might be about the only edge I have this year. These guys can play. But someone has to win these things. I want to have the best chance possible. If I'm not in a tournament I'll be in the gym or in my hotel room working on the daily fantasy sports operation that has supplemented the void Black Friday left in my life.
This is life as an old man in poker. It's not all bad. You still get the chip and a chair.