Limit Hol de m Tournament Strategy

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I still 1 ove poker tournaments, even after playing in more than 900 of them in the 1990s alone; I enjoy every one that I play in. The event that really fires me up, t hough, i s t he World Series of Poker ( WSOP). The WSOP is where l egends and champions are made; it i s t he poker world's world championship. (Appendix 2 talks about playing i n a WSOP tournament.)

In golf there are four major t ournaments, but in poker the series of events constituting the WSOP carries s o much prestige that it is in effect the U.S. Open, the Masters, the British Open, and the PGA all r oiled i nto one!

With 643 players putting up $10,000 each for the WSOP championship event of 2002, c reating a prize pool of $6.43 million, the money alone almost matches the prestige of winning the event. The investment banker Robert Varkonyi t ook home the first prize of $2 miilion; the second-place finisher, Julian Gardener, had to settle for only $1 miilion! For a l ot of players, t his is life-changing money, and so it isn't surprising that a lot of poker players covet the money more than the title. I'm not one of them: I love the title more than the money! The title brings with it a lifetime of recognition and prestige. The winner is forever called a world champion of poker, and his or her picture wiil go up on the Wall o f Champions f or ever ( at both of t he Horseshoe Casinos i n Las Vegas and Tunica, Mississippi). You can see the Wall of Champions at

In 1970 Las Vegas Benny Binion started the WSOP, at his Horseshoe Casino, and called it poker's world championships. It has been poker's world championship ever since, and it has grown in stature and popularity each year.

When you win the WSOP, you are no longer j ust a poker player but rather a world champion. This distinction is nice, as my wife found out when she searched for residency programs back in the e arly 1990s. When asked about her husband's occupation, she would say, " He's a world champion of poker." I'm sure that t his s ounded more i ntere sting and prestigious t han, ' ' He's a professional poker player" or "He plays poker for a living!"

Every year i n late April, the best poker players i n the world (and a lot of wannabes) gather at t he Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas for roughly 25 to 33 WSOP events ( the precise number changes from year to year), culminating in the "big one." The "big one" i s t he $10,000 buy-in Championship Event t hat ESPN, the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel, a nd other television networks show up to cover every year. The lowest buy-in event at the WSOP currently is set at $1,500. I f you plan to attend the WSOP and play every event, make sure t hat you bring $100,000 with you! These 30 days ( the "big one" alone i s five days l ong) are undoubtedly the most exciting in poker, every year, and by far t he most l ucrative. For more about t he WSOP and other prestigious poker events, go to Appendix 3.

All champion poker players have to start somewhere, though. Learning to win limit Hold'em poker tournaments was very difficult for me. Even though I was already a world champion of poker and had won many big no-limit Hold'em events by the time I was 26 years old, I stiil hadn't even made my first final table ( which is usually t he final n ine players) in a l imit Hold'em tournament.

If you were a pro and I told you this, you would think it was really odd. How could I win so many no-limit Hold'em events but consistently have trouble making the final nine in limit Hold'em events? After a while, I began to realize that the way I was playing my hands was holding me back, so I did what I had never done before in poker: I studied a couple of other players to see what t hey were doing differently from me. Remember this the next time you start to blame your lack of success on bad luck: even a world champion was wiiling to admit he had things left to learn.

With no-limit, I could see what everyone else was doing wrong in the late 1980s. For some reason, the r ight way to play no-limit j ust s eemed obvious and easy to me. Of course, I also did my fair share of playing no-limit Hold'em badly, but at least I k new when I was playing badly. ( Moreover, t hat had to do with emotional i ssues, which I discuss e lse where i n the book.)

In this chapter you wiil l earn:

z Aggressive play i s right in limit Hold'em tournaments.

z Tight play is right i n limit Hold'em tournaments.

z Stealing blinds helps you survive late in limit Hold'em events.

z To win, s teal more blinds at the money-cutoff l ine.

z Survive and thrive.

z Bring your big guns t o a war!

z How to trap in limit Hold'em tourneys.

z Playing ¬°ateHites improves your game.

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