Everyone can play poker but only a select few become good poker players. If you want to play poker on a professional – or even a high-level amateur – level, either at a brick and mortar casino or at an online casino, you need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally.
If you’re heading to your first poker tournament, read some of the pros’ top tips for getting ready for that first exciting competition.
Just because you’re the king of your local neighborhood poker get-together, you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to do well in a poker tournament. Poker tournaments are for players who have:
- Experience – it’s not an exaggeration to say that, to compete successfully in a poker tournament, you should have thousands of hours of poker experience. Playing either online or in-site will give you the confidence, decision-making ability and techniques needed to be a competent tournament player.
- Desire and willingness to learn – being able to assess what your opponent is doing is an vital skill to develop in poker play. You need to learn new poker strategies and methods and get new ideas for different plays to make in different situations.
- Ability to Level – experience and knowledge even out at some point but the best players know how to out-guest the adjustments that opponents are making and adapt more quickly to opponents’ moves. You need to be very intelligent to level and implement these complicated skills.
- Ability to control emotions – It’s not called a “poker face” for nothing. You need to have a logical, analytical reason for everything that you do when playing a hand of poker. Probability and randomness are two defining elements of poker. You need to control your emotions in order to make the correct logical play each and every time.
- Networking/Social Skills – Being able to network and interact socially is the key to getting into the best games and tournaments. In addition, it paves the way for you to learn from strong players who will help you improve your game.
- Willingness to gamble – If you’re not willing to gamble, you might as well pack up and go home. Poker involves gambling and you have to be willing, and able, to place big stakes, knowing that sometimes, you’re going to lose. Obviously, it’s a bit dangerous too so be sure that whatever you stake can be backed up and doesn’t draw from your living expenses.
To qualify for a poker tournament, you need to:
- Cough up the entry fee. The high cost of entering a major live tournament is significant – anywhere from $8,000 to $50,000. Online poker events are much more friendly to the average player’s wallet and deliver the same element of suspense and excitement.
- Choose your preferred event. There are a wide range of tournament options that range from:
- Full package Satellites where the winner wins a seat to the Main Event, spending money and funds towards accommodations and travel.
- Seat-only Satellites – winners receive a seat to the Main event and nothing else
- Steps Satellites – require a small outlay for the chance to win a comprehensive packages. Usually involve single table tournaments where a winner moves on to the next highest step and continues to step up until the main prize is claimed.
- All-In/Flip Satellites – a low-buy-in tournament where the antes and blinds are placed so high that, at the start of the tournament, everyone is automatically all-in. Players remain all-in until the winner is determined.
Regardless of the type of poker tournament that you want to play, there are some things that you can do to prepare. They include:
Set your Goals
Regardless of the type of tournament, you should set attainable goals. Especially if you’re a newbie, your goal doesn’t need to be “win the entire pot.” Rather, you can attempt to achieve the first break and work toward that goal by being careful that you don’t make any rash decisions during the first levels of the tournament.
After you reach that goal, you can move onto another goal, say aim to reach the next break” or “let’s get to the end of the day.”
As soon as the announcer says “shuffle up and deal,” people get nervous. When you’re nervous, you make mistakes. So stay calm. Just play as you would with your neighborhood buddies and let the chips fall as they may.
This one sounds silly but you’d be surprised at how many people freeze – literally – after hours and hours of sitting in a poker room. Poker rooms tend to be cold and players who are cold may get so stressed that they make silly decisions, just to get the game moving. Bring a sweater, wear shoes and socks, and stuff a few extra t-shirts in your bag so you can put them on if you need them.
Slow and Easy
Once you’ve paid the buy in, you might as well enjoy the experience. Slow down and take your time making your decisions. You’ll play better and have a better experience overall.