WSOP Main Event – guest entry

This is a guest entry from Ken Adams, who I got to know and like at the WSOP last month.  He was there for about a week, went back home, and now has returned to the Rio to play this summer’s Main Event.  Ken shares his thoughts as poker’s preeminent tournament is right around the corner.

Ken Adams writes:

As Mary Travers sang to us so soulfully 50 years ago, “My bags are packed, I’m ready to go”.   The taxi’s not waiting yet – that happens at 6:30 tomorrow morning, and he’d better not blow his horn or our neighbors will be pretty annoyed.

“I’m leaving on a jet plane.  Don’t know when I’ll be back again.”  Hopefully not as soon as Tuesday.

Zero hour is finally at hand.  The day all tournament poker players anticipate, plan for, fantasize about, and count down to all year long – the World Series main event.

There are tournaments every day of every week of every month all year long, in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and Atlantic City and New Orleans and Paris and London and Aruba and all over the globe.  There are rings and even bracelets to be won, and buckets of prize money.  But none of it holds the allure of the main event.  Only the main event offers the possibility of poker immortality.  It is to a poker player what a World Series ring is to a major league baseball player, or a championship ring is to an NBA star.  Individual honors are nice, but championships are what every player aspires to win.  So it is with tournament poker.  And in the world of tournament poker there is only one championship that really counts when all is said and done.

Tomorrow, roughly 8,000 of us will yield up our hopes and fantasies to the stark reality that between July 5 and 14, all but 9 of us will be eliminated and will have to fly home, only to wait until next year.

Because the number of poker players willing to put up $10,000 to chase this impossible dream has grown beyond all expectations, the Rio (where the tournament has been held for the past 10 years) cannot accommodate the entire starting field on a single day.  Too many tables and dealers to fit in even the largest convention space in Las Vegas.  So they break Day One into three starting “flights.”  Roughly a third of the starting field will start on Sunday, another third on Monday, and the rest on Tuesday.

Those who start on Sunday and Monday and who are not eliminated will return on Wednesday for Day Two.  Those who start on Tuesday will return on Thursday for Day Two.  All the survivors of Day Two will come together on Friday for Day Three, and will then continue daily until all but 9 are eliminated (which is expected to occur on Tuesday, July 14).  Those 9 finalists, each of whom is guaranteed at least $1 million in prize money, will return in November to play before the ESPN cameras until a single winner is determined.

I have elected to start on Monday, as that would give me a day of rest after Day One and after Day Two if I make it that far.  Stamina becomes an important factor as the pressure mounts during the daily twelve and a half hour sessions on Days Three through Seven, and the 20-somethings have a definite edge over us seniors in that department.  So building a schedule with maximum rest in the early stages seems to make sense.

I have done what I can to prepare, reviewing various videos and books I have collected on deep stack play.  But knowing what to do, and doing it under pressure many times a day/night are two distinct skills.

Hopefully the practice time I put in during the preliminary events I played last week will pay off and I will more often make the decisions in the heat of the moment which I know later to be the correct ones.   In the end, as long as I don’t beat myself, my fate will turn on how the cards treat me.  Only the very best players can win chips without the help of the cards.  The rest of us need the cards to work with us.  Last week I got very little help when I needed it.  If I don’t run better on Monday than I did last week, I might be home early.  But if the cards run even (or better), and I play as well as I am capable of playing, I hope to go at least as deep as I did last year when I outlasted more than 85 percent of the field before busting out shortly before the end of Day Three.

One big change has been adopted in this year’s Main Event.  Traditionally the prize money has been divvied up among the top 10% of the field.  In other words, to finish “in the money” you had to outlast 90 percent of the field, which has meant that you had to survive until the middle of Day Four.  This year for the first time they are going to spread the money further, and pay the top 15% of the field.  So we should be “in the money” late on Day Three – around the time I busted out last year.

Of course, the objective isn’t to just squeak into the money for a minimum $15,000 payout – it’s to go deep for a six or seven figure score.  (The lucky soul who goes all the way and wins the championship bracelet will take home about $7.5 million.)

For the moment, all 8,000 of us can still enjoy the fantasy that this is the year.  Over the next 72 hours that fantasy will go up in smoke for about a third of us – hopefully not including me.

Day One will begin for me at noon on Monday (Las Vegas time).  We will all begin with 30,000 chips.  The blinds start at 50 and 100 chips, and increase every two hours.  We will play until about 6:45, break for dinner, then continue until 12:30 am.  Those who still have chips will return at noon on Wednesday.

I will be posting my chip counts every two hours at if you want to follow my progress.  I’d be grateful if you’d cross your fingers, throw salt over your shoulder, stroke your lucky rabbit’s foot, or observe whatever other ritual – pagan or otherwise – is calculated to persuade the poker gods to favor me on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  (They can take the day off on Tuesday and Thursday, no problem.

1 Comment

  1. I’ll be glad to wish Ken the best in a non-pagan kind of way in appreciation for the informative article….Terry

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