The World Series of Poker Main Event began July 6, with thousands of players competing for millions of dollars in prize money and the chance for instant fame.
Most of the players in the Main Event have limited experience in live tournaments. Many have played only in local events with a couple hundred opponents at most, and this will be their first time competing in a field with thousands of other players. Players looking for a gold bracelet will need to adjust their strategy in a couple of key areas.
In an event of this size, above all else you must play to win. In a smaller event, where first place is not an enormous payday, simply cashing is a legitimate consideration. But when the top prize is huge in comparison to the buy-in, a minimum payout isn't worth thinking about.
Take advantage of anybody who seems to be sitting tight. While they are waiting for a big hand, you can pick up some easy chips without resistance. Attack with any hand that has the potential to hit big pairs or pick up multiple draws: Ks 4s, Ac 2d, 7c 5c and Ks Jh are good examples. Fight for small pots early on, and focus on winning when nobody else has much of a hand. Don't throw your stack away trying to be a hero, but remember that some aggression is crucial in the early stages of a big poker tournament.
While keeping the pressure on your opponents, think about opportunity costs. If you lose chips unnecessarily at any point, then you just have fewer chips to double up with - or bluff with - later. On the other hand, if you keep trying to double up, you will often bust out instead of picking up some easy pots totally uncontested.
Here are some simple notes about how to adjust your game based on whether you find yourself at a conservative or an aggressive table:
Early on, once you have an idea of how the people at your table are playing, think about how the next two hours will probably go. If your table is tight and patient, don't worry about your cards - 9c 3d is a fine hand when everybody else is going to fold. Focus on stealing the blinds and antes. If you find yourself at an edgy table that is ready to see some all-ins, be patient, but take a good bet to bust somebody whenever you can.
Later on, think short-term, about how the next 20 hands will go. When you're confident that a couple of pots can be won without resistance, stick around to pick them up and don't be too quick to get all-in. But when your chances of picking up easy chips are slim, it's time to gamble it up, and you may find yourself all-in with Jc 10h, As 5c or 9d 8d.
Hit the tables with the attitude that you came to win. The Main Event pays out a ridiculous amount of money. Play for the bracelet, and your slice may not be far away.