On playing to win

The World Series of Poker went fairly well for me. I played a well-paced schedule of tournaments, staying away from the cash games, and ended up cashing in three different events. My best finish was in the 10-game mixed event where I ended up 19th. I have certainly done better before at the WSOP, but it was still a fine summer overall and I enjoyed myself.

Of course, I do remember telling somebody at one point that I was running like a turtle! That was after one hand in which I flopped a set of nines, then somebody paid for a gutshot draw and the turn and filled it to take more than half my stack. I was looking at the rail already after that hand, and pretty soon I was there.

That was in the "Monster Stack" event, which even though they called it a deep-stacked tournament the schedule kind of made it into a turbo. That was an interesting event to play, with nearly 8,000 players. It was like being in the middle of a herd of cows, with a most of us getting ready for the slaughter since only one of us could get out alive.


The 10-game tournament was quite enjoyable, but it could be a little torturous, too, at times. In the draw games, you have to hit. Then in the stud games I would sometimes feel like I was always getting the wrong cards -- high cards in razz, low cards in stud, and so on. But I think just being patient and getting those extra bets in when you make hands can take you a long way in those games, and as I say I made it fairly deep on Day 2 before being eliminated.

In no-limit hold'em, when you're all in before the flop, no matter what two cards you have and what two your opponent has, you still have a chance to win. That's a big reason why no-limit hold'em remains popular. You have to be aggressive to win, but luck plays a big role, too.

Meanwhile in a lot of the mixed games -- I mean the limit games -- the factor of luck is much reduced because of all the decisions that have to be made in each hand. And if you play odds correctly you can have an edge that can withstand the luck of those games.

More than anything, though, the great challenge when playing any mixed game -- especially a 10-game mix -- is to be alert at all times. People sometimes aren't even aware which game is being dealt in a mixed-game tournament, which can be quite humorous sometimes. And bad for that player.

I saw it happen several times in the 10-game, where players would be playing pot-limit Omaha when it was Omaha hi-low, or stud hi-low when it was just stud. They would be on their phone or iPad -- usually playing Chinese Poker, which is so popular now -- and miss that the game had changed, and suddenly they would get into a hand and you could see they weren't aware which game was being played.

I saw somebody in one PLO hand pay off about half his stack, then at the showdown he said "I got low." It was a friend of mine and it was kind of funny, but I felt so sorry for him. We're all human and make mistakes -- I've made them, too. But the more alert we are, the better chance we have to succeed.

It kind of relates back to my moderate approach at the WSOP to scheduling tournaments and avoiding the cash games. I want to be alert whenever I play, and if I'm well rested I have a much better chance of that happening. It's hard to get up from cash games sometimes, especially if you're winning at them. And if you know you'll always go play them when you are in a tournament, that might encourage you to play recklessly and take chances because you know you can jump into the cash game if you bust.

But that's not really playing to win, which is always the best way to play.

Having said that, it's one of the choices you constantly have to make in order to protect and increase your chip stack. So every hand is a pleasure and a danger, and total alertness is a must in order to make the best decision and to have the best result most times.

Getting the luck you need at that moment when you do need it helps us all; but at best you try to play yourself into that position so that you have the best chance of winning it.

Good luck to all who compete again and again and never give up. It is a great journey no matter the initial outcome.

Marcel Luske is a member of Team PokerStars Pro

Marcel Luske
@PokerStars in Marcel Luske