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Preparing For Your First High Roller – Part 2

July 6, 2020
by Dave Roemer

You just won a satellite to a high roller, and have never played in one before. Now what?

In Part 1 we covered what to expect. Here in Part 2, let’s talk about preparation and play.

For starters, this is going to be a very long tournament with deep stacks and slow blind escalation. It will be a multi-day event, with long hours each day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it can catch you off guard if you’re not prepared for this. With that being said, there are some things you can do in preparation to give yourself an edge:

Be well rested. Getting a good night’s sleep each night is important to keep your brain alert and sharp. Playing poker at a high level requires a lot of brain power, and as the long days of the tournament wear on, people will be getting tired physically and mentally towards the end of each day. This leads to more mistakes being made. By being well rested you position yourself to being one of those taking advantage of late day mistakes, rather than one of those making them.

Eat healthy. Hopefully this one makes a lot of sense. You know the old saying “you are what you eat”. Well if you eat junk you will probably feel like junk. If you stuff yourself at the buffet or eat a big greasy burger on the dinner break, you will likely feel lethargic and maybe experience some food coma after returning to the tournament. It will serve you better if your blood is fueling your brain, not rushing to your stomach. Something lighter, like a chicken Caesar salad for example, might be a better choice for the dinner break. Not going out drinking the nights before you have to be up to play is probably a good idea too.

Exercise. This goes hand in hand with getting sleep and eating well. A little exercise each day will help your body stay physically and emotionally balanced, as well as provides extra energy to your system throughout the long day. You don’t want to over tax yourself, but doing something is better than doing nothing. What if you don’t normally exercise, or have physical limitations that make it difficult? Even walking for 15 minutes, or if you can’t walk, doing some deep breathing exercises, will help.

Don’t study. This one may seem a bit counterintuitive… shouldn’t we try to pack in as much knowledge and improvement as we can for our game before going on to the big stage? Before you get there, of course. Once you are there however, it may behoove you to not tinker with your game. Many players experience a learning curve when bringing on new concepts and plays… a bit of a two steps forward one step back process as they get comfortable with implementing the new ideas and sorting through the proper vs. improper ways to use them. Now that your adventure on the big stage has arrived, it’s not the time to rush adjustments… sticking to what you know and are confident in will serve you much better.

Now that we’re prepared by being well rested and energized each day, let’s talk about some tips for the actual play at the tables.

Beginning slow is okay. At the start of the tournament, it’s ok to be extra conservative. Give yourself some time for any butterflies to get settled, get some reads on your opposition, and a feel for how the table is going to play. The pots contested in the first couple levels will largely be small relative to the stacks and depth of money, there’s no pressing need to engage them over actively. So don’t feel like you have to. Don’t worry about looking tight as a result, that’s not the end of the world. If your perceived image is tight, that may help you in some key bluffing spots later in the day.

Be patient. The structure will be very deep stacked, with slow escalation. That provides a lot of room for patience to be rewarded. This doesn’t mean you should sit there folding, waiting for aces or kings. What it does mean, is there will be ample time for you to observe your opponents, gather reads, and find good situations to get involved. When you find yourself in a marginal spot and the words “wait for a better spot” creep into your head… this is a tournament structure where there actually is time for the proverbial better spots to manifest.

Follow a big pot with big hand strategy. The depth of money will be more than you’re probably accustomed to. Losing your entire stack with a strong one pair hand when 150+ big blinds deep is a rookie mistake. If you can get into a preflop raising war that leads to a preflop all in with AA, that’s a great result (always be willing to get all in with the current nuts). But post flop, with a high stack to pot ratio, getting married to AA is a mistake that has cost many players their tournament lives. This doesn’t mean you have to be looking to fold AA post flop per say, but you may also choose a line that doesn’t build a massive pot not worthy of a hand strength that is only one pair.

Don’t be intimidated. You may well find yourself across the felt from some well-known, big name players. Here’s the thing… they get two cards, just like you do. They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you. They’re human, susceptible to the same emotions, perceptions, struggles, etc. that you are. It’s appropriate to respect them, but feelings of intimidation (read: fear) will not help your tournament effort and only serve to increase everyone’s edge against you.

Don’t be afraid to bust. If you think a play is right, have the confidence to pull the trigger. A famous poker pro was once quoted as saying “In order to win a tournament, you can’t be afraid to lose it”. He didn’t mean to go crazy and be reckless with your stack. What he meant was, winning tournament poker involves taking sound, calculated risks at times, and you simply can’t be afraid to take those risks for fear of going broke. Because not taking any risks will result in your stack diminishing relative to the blinds and lead to a lot of middle of the pack bust outs when your chips run out.

Beyond all that, just relax and play your game. You’re here, you earned it. Staying focused and centered on what you know will help minimize the chances of you beating yourself in your quest to beat everyone else and win the tournament.

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