Saturday, 2nd March 2024 11:02
Home / Features / Got EPT envy? Here’s your guide to playing more live tournaments in 2023

Sometimes you need to be reminded of just how much you enjoy something. Take tennis, for example. In an average week, you might drive past a tennis club and see mostly empty courts. But whenever a prestigious event like Wimbledon is on TV, tennis clubs around the world are suddenly jam-packed.

The same goes for poker. When there’s an event streaming on YouTube and Twitch, the live poker bug begins to crawl and local cardrooms fill up with people trying to scratch that itch.

You might have noticed the bug in yourself this week. Perhaps you’ve been watching live coverage of the European Poker Tour (EPT) and now you’re thinking: “I want to play more live poker in 2023”.

The poker bug was alive and well in Prague

If that’s the case, PokerStars has got you covered. Just check the live schedule here.

But if you’re going to start travelling more for live poker next year, we’d recommend reading through this guide first.

A pro’s advice

At EPT Prague, we asked seasoned tournament pro David Docherty what advice he would give to anyone hoping to take the game more seriously and play more live poker in 2023.

He kindly offered us some wise words, but they come with a prerequisite: “You could follow all three of these tips and it still might not work out,” he says. “There’s no hard and fast answer to being successful in poker.”

They might not guarantee you’ll get results at your next event, but these tips will certainly hold you in good stead throughout the year.

1 – Get consistent advice

Don’t be the person who wins one tournament at their local cardroom and thinks they’ve got poker sussed.

Whether it’s hiring a private coach, joining a poker Discord study group, or just talking hands with a friend who’s on the same page as you, Docherty believes you need someone who can give you consistent advice and feedback on your game, and who you can bounce your poker ideas off.

“It helps you interpret information when you study,” he says. “If you interpret solver solutions wrong, there’s no point.”

Getting regular feedback on your game will help you improve quicker than going alone. “If you’re brand new to poker or you’re coming into poker at an early age, that’s great as you have a clean slate,” says Docherty. “You don’t want to develop bad habits.”

Docherty has been a successful poker pro since 2009 – listen to his advice!

2 – Put in volume

If you’re going to travel to a poker event, try not to put all of your eggs into one tournament basket. Maximise each trip you take by playing as much as you can while you’re there.

“I play everything at a poker festival,” says Docherty. “That’s partly me trying to stay grounded a little bit, but I also know that if I don’t play them, my volume will go down. Smaller buy-in tournaments often provide some of the biggest ROI you can get.”

3 – Work on your mental resilience

Docherty can’t stress enough the importance of being mentally resilient when live poker isn’t going your way.

“Poker and variance can do things to you that you just don’t think are possible, and sometimes it can go on and on and on,” he says.

“A common trait among young players is to tell bad beat stories. You’ve got to realise that’s happening all over the world on different tours to different people every single day. It might sound harsh, but no one really cares. And I say this as someone who used to be like that.

“You have to detach yourself from that and accept that you can’t control what happened and move on to the next one.”

Start grinding satellites

There’s no getting around the fact that travelling for live poker can get expensive. First, you’ve got your travel, then you’ve got your accommodation, and that’s all before you’ve even stepped foot in a tournament registration line.

But there’s a way to have all of that taken care of for you.

Satellites are simply a great way to keep costs down while also giving you an opportunity to play events that might be too big for your bankroll.

For big events like the EPT, online satellites run for months on the PokerStars client, giving you the chance to win a full package covering your Main Event buy-in, hotel for the duration, and spending money to help cover your travel.

Find out what happens when you win an online package here.

Even high-stakes pros like Andras “probirs” Nemeth qualify for the EPT through online satellites

That makes satellites the ideal way for less-experienced players to play more live poker. But don’t be surprised to see poker pros attempting to win their way to events for cheap either. At EPT Prague this week we had a total of 111 online qualifiers ranging from seasoned pros to some playing their maiden live tournament.

Remember: not all tournaments go on for days

Oh sure, at an EPT you might play all week to reach a final table. But not all tournaments take that long to find a winner.

At PokerStars festivals, tournament schedules are designed so that players have the maximum amount of options. Bust the Main Event? Don’t worry, here’s a juicy Mystery Bounty tournament you can play. Bust that? No sweat, here’s a two-day deep stack. There are tournaments at multiple buy-in levels with varying formats and lengths.

Then as the festival enters its final few days, tournaments with fast structures become more prevalent as they need to be done and dusted by certain times. For this reason, live turbo tournaments are a popular choice for those in town for just a few days.

To give you an idea of what an EPT schedule looks like for those without Super High Roller bankrolls, these were the tournaments starting on the penultimate day of a recent EPT festival:

1pm – €2,200 Deep Stack: two-day event, 30-min levels
5pm – €330 Deep Stack: two-day event, 20-min levels
8pm – €1,050 Hyper Turbo Freezeout: one-day event, 10-min levels

If you bust an event, there’s often another just around the corner.

And these were the tournaments beginning and ending on the final day:

11am – €220 NLHE unlimited re-entry: 15-min levels
1pm – €2,200 6-Max unlimited re-entry: 15-min levels
7pm – €1,050 Super Hyper Turbo Freezeout: 5-min levels

As Jennifer Shahade once said, “Nobody runs turbo tournaments like PokerStars.”

“The dealers are so fast. You just can’t have a turbo without having a really good structure and really good dealers, because if the dealer isn’t very good, you’ll only get three hands per level. But with a good dealer, the level might only be ten minutes but it feels like you get more than that and that’s really critical.”

Shahade is a big fan of turbo tournaments

Shahade, a Woman Grandmaster in chess, compares the structures in PokerStars live turbos to that of a rapid chess game. “The structures are great because even though they can be fast, you still get an opening game, a middle game and an end game.”

Advice for those hoping to turn pro

A lot of you reading this will wish you could play more live poker without harbouring a desire to become a poker pro. But there will also be some hoping to start playing poker professionally in 2023.

So before we let him go, we asked David Docherty for some specific advice aimed at those hoping to turn poker from a hobby into their profession next year.

After some consideration, he was reminded of Randy Pausch, a computer science professor who, when diagnosed with terminal cancer, recorded “The Last Lecture” to teach his children.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever watched,” Docherty says. “Pausch says that life puts a lot of brick walls in front of you. You don’t necessarily have to pound through those brick walls. You can go around them. You can get a ladder over them. You can find a way to get past them.”

Docherty says that while there are plenty of brick walls in the way for aspiring poker pros, the way to get past them isn’t to see them as obstacles, but rather as necessities.

“If there are 10 brick walls between a recreational player becoming a professional player, then all 10 are just things you need to do,” he says.

“You can’t be discouraged by not getting past the first one or the fifth one, or finding the seventh one really difficult. They’re just things you must do. You must get from point A to point B and if it’s tough, it’s supposed to be tough.

“Lots of people are dropping out at each of those walls. Only the people who get to the end are going to hang in there.”

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