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The Anatomy of a WSOP

Editor's Note: The following guest editorial is from FOWCP Jeff Sealey. Jeff was the fifth place finisher at the 2006 Aussie Millions and one of our 2006 WSOP sweats.

Sealey2_1 What does it take to win the World Series of Poker’s Main Event? I wouldn’t know. You're asking the wrong guy. But what I do know is that it’s different from any other major event I have participated in, which have been a bunch.

The first difference is the sheer fucking size of the field. Obviously, all you can do is beat your table. I truly had the mindset going in that this was “just another tournament.” But it's not. The difference between this and other tournaments is that the number of players that need to be accommodated forces the play into flights (four to be exact). Throw in nearly two-hour blinds levels and you are in for a loooooooooonnnnnnnnnng tournament.

So, what's it like playing in your first WSOP? First, in my case at least, you arrive in Vegas on Wednesday night. Then you find out that you don't play until Saturday. Then you play for fifteen hours on Saturday and make it through to the next day…which isn't until Tuesday. You play for fifteen hours on Tuesday (technically, I was KO'd on Day 2a) and make it through to Day Three…which isn't until Friday. Now you have been in Vegas for 9 days and you’ve played twice.

You’ve had seven non-poker nights, and we all know that “Vegas is really cheap.” So you knock down a few hundred-dollar meals, hit the clubs for a night or two, play a little on the tables, etc. You’ve spent hours swinging from the rafters in Bodog’s sweet VIP lounge with the Wicked Chops crew. At this point you had better hope you make some money in the main event, because you’re going to have to just to make up for the coin you dropped shooting dice, eating at Emeril’s, and the money you put on the Cardinals to win the World Series. The days you play are brutal and the sheer time in Vegas is enormous, all due to the size of the field. This, in and of itself, takes away from your focus tremendously, if you let it.

But let's get back on track...

The next factor in the tournament is the table that you draw. If you are fortunate enough to draw a table with a low table number (meaning that your table is less likely to get broken up the first day), then you have a distinct advantage. If you play with the same people from the beginning of the tournament on, you should have a great read on them. When a newcomer shows up at your table, not only does he have to figure out the whole table…you just have to figure him out too. His tendancies and tells.

Sealey1_1If you happen to draw say, David Williams (who I use as an example because he amassed a tremendous amount of chips in Day One), who plays extremely aggressively, the majority of your table will probably cower and let him take a bulk of the pots, unless they have the nuts. The last thing you want to have happen is to have a great player amass a ton of chips. This means you’re going to have to take chips from him if you want to survive (which one of my friends from the Aussie Millions made a point of doing), but there are easier ways to make a living.

Speaking of table draws, let’s refer to my WSOP experience, or as I like to call it, the “perfect storm.” I had a picture perfect example of what you don’t want to have happen. After battling through a table—on Day 1—that at one point had Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Annie Duke, Brent Carter (2 WSOP bracelets), and Jason Lester and leaving the table second in chips with over 22K, I was moved to a table with not a single face that I recognized.

The first thing I did was count the shirts from Poker Stars/Party/Bodog/Paradise, etc. to figure out how many guys won a seat online, and how many actually bought in or won via a live satellite. There were 5 online poker sites represented at my table, but what I thought might have been an easy table turned into a nightmare when I looked at the chip stacks. There were two people with over 50K in chips, one guy with over 40K in chips, and the rest of the table had less than 10K. I was, in a word, trapped. If I opened with say, KcQc, someone would shove all in and I would be forced to fold (which happened repeatedly). I never thought I would actually wish that I could have my table with a million WSOP bracelets on it back, but after about a half hour at my new table I was longing for it. Table draw is crucial.

But believe it or not, the biggest factor in winning the WSOP is…lucky cards. Period. I’m going to use Shannon Shorr as an example here because Shannon shares some of his hands in the WSOP on his blog, and he’s a friend of mine from the Aussie Millions. He was in the top 100 in chips with over a thousand people left, but he had 66 beat an over pair when he flopped a set, and he won a 150K pot with AK vs. KK, spiking an ace. Now it sounds like I’m calling him a total luckbox, but it’s quite the contrary, Shannon is a great player (just check the cardplayer.com Player of the Year rankings). This just illustrates my point that even the great players have to come from behind and get lucky sometimes.

Another guy I play with a lot in Indianapolis finished in the top 200. I know this guy’s game very well…he’s about as tight as they get. If you’re going to play tight, you have to bet your big hands heavy when you get them, and then get action on those hands when you play. That my friends, requires luck. You absolutely have to have cards to win the WSOP. Otherwise, the pros would win every time.

Playing good poker helps, but that goes without saying. So, you want to be the next Gold/Hachem/Raymer?

Block out about three weeks in your life where you have nothing at home that could possibly distract you from your task at hand, winning the tournament?

Pay whoever is putting the tables together to put you at Table #1 so that you never get moved?

Win fifteen “coin flip” situations in a row, and come from way behind a few times and you too could be the next Robert Varkonyi?

Bitter about my WSOP experience? Me? Noooooooo. Ok, maybe a little. Next year, I’ll be ready. I’m having special boxers made out of four leaf clovers and a hat made of rabbit’s feet.

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Mark Boxberger

Great perspective - was it worth the effort? Hope you picked up a few bucks in the cash games. (BTW, You need to play more golf!)
Mark B.

Lacey J

Great blog, loved it.

Lacey J

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