Prepping for a big event

women_thumb.jpgEver since my amazing trip to Madrid for the PokerStars Women Live EPT Grand Final, I have been thinking about my next poker journey--the World Series of Poker--and in particular, the Main Event. I played in the WSOP Main Event one time before, in 2009, and the big week in July looms large in my mind.

Tournament players of all stakes will at times find themselves playing for a prize pool that makes them nervous and involved in higher equity decisions than they are used to. Whether it's a satellite into a PokerStars Women Live event, a World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP), or an event like the WSOP, there's a familiar feeling of butterflies and fantasies. I hope some of my pre-Vegas plans will help you the next time you're in preparation mode.

1. Know What Makes You Emo: Generally, I'm pretty good at divorcing emotions and results. However, if there's any time that I'll lose my cool head, it's going to be at a tournament like the Main Event. So I've been reflecting on what I feel most emotional about in poker, and trying to understand how that can aversely affect play. For example, the intense shot of pleasure I feel upon hitting a set causes me to err slightly on the side of set mining. Some players may feel the same way about hitting their draws, and play them overly passively. Others may find such pride and satisfaction from successfully sniffing out bluffs that they hero-call too often. Think about what makes you the happiest and most aggravated in poker and you may be able to discover leaks that creep up during high intensity situations.

2. A Vow of Poker Silence: You can talk to any of my friends, and they will all tell you that I would not make a good monk. But for the Main Event, I'm trying to practice the art of zipping it at the table. I rarely play in tournaments as deep-stacked as the WSOP Main Event and am more likely than usual to be playing with the same villains for a full day. This increases the importance of thinking about my image, limiting the amount of information my opponents know about me and creating strategic plans to pick on certain opponents, and stay away from others. So I'm preparing set responses for questions I fear: "Do you like to play cash games?" (I love Heads-Up Pac-Man.) "Was that a light four-bet?" (When is the next break?) or "How much do you weigh?" (I had queens.)

3. The Night Before: In or Out?: There are some things that I know I shouldn't do, like play lots of poker the night before the Main Event, or go out drinking and clubbing. But some things are less obvious and very individual. Many players prefer to spend time alone the night prior to a big tournament, while that may make others sleepless and antsy. The extraverted Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst wrote on her new blog, that she hasn't spent much time alone since the WSOP aka "summer camp" began. "Whenever I bust out of a poker tournament, I need to be around people--that's where I get my energy from, and socializing always takes my mind off the last tournament." I'm an in-betweener when it comes to the introvert/extravert divide, so I prefer to combine the two approaches on a night before a major event--dinner and a glass of wine with friends followed by a few hours of chilling. Think about what makes you feel most energized and plan the evening of your big event ahead of time.

4. Tweet Nice: Twitter is a very valuable tool for poker. I've added a large roster of pros to my twitter feed, and prior to the main event I plan to add even more. There's a decent chance that one of the pros I follow on twitter will be sitting at one of my Main Event tables. It's amazing what these pros will give away about their holdings and their thoughts on their opponents. For instance I've seen countless pros tweet about "soft" or "dream" table draws or reveal holdings after critical hands, even if they did not show their cards down. Some even get mean-spirited, wondering where people found the money to buy into the event. I find that a large proportion of pros who whine about their soft table draws end up following @badkarma and bust out in short order. If you really must tell the world how awesome you are, how about: "Cool to be at a table with non-pros who have health benefits, diverse expertise and the discretionary income to buy into a WSOP event "

5. Accumulate Chips Not Followers: I know I'm going to write about my experience in the Main Event. Thinking too much about how my dramatic hands will sound on twitter or my blog can affect play in a way that avoids embarrassment rather than maximizes value. My goal is to use the breaks to focus on writing notes or tweeting and discipline myself to focus on poker strategy during the tournament itself. If my table chat comes out in exactly 140 characters, you'll know I'm failing.

Stay tuned to PokerStars Women for an update on my trip to Las Vegas. I'll also be sure to fill you in on triumphs of the fabulous females on Team PokerStars Pro.


Jennifer Shahade
@PokerStars in PS Women