The 2003 WSOP’s Main Event was undoubtedly one of the greatest moments in the history of the game. A true turning point, Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 win sparked the online poker crazy and pretty much single handedly turned poker into the global industry we know today.
Besides Moneymaker, there were other players at that 2003 final table too though, and while finishing at the final table didn’t quite mean as much financially as it does today, the rewards were still nice and many of the players involved went on to continue their careers as top-class professional players.
Eliminated in 9th place, and rewarded with $120k for his efforts, David Singer would probably be extremely disappointed with that haul by today’s standards, back then however, it turned out to be a driving force for him, as he started spending more and more time playing in online and live poker tournaments. One thing led to another for this talented player and following his WSOP final table presence, he amassed close to $4 million in tournament winnings. He made no fewer than 5 more WSOP final tables and won a bracelet in the $1,500 PLH event in 2008.
David Grey was the one sent packing in 8th place. His reward was slightly better: he picked up $160k, still rather unimpressive by the standards set by subsequent Big Dances. Unlike Singer, Grey had already had a WSOP bracelet before his 2003 final table presence. In its wake though, he too ramped up his tournament schedule and sure enough, he scored a second bracelet in 2005 in the $5,000 NL Deuce to Seven Draw side-event. Grey had been a relatively steady tournament earner before his 2003 Main Event sting, and he became even more prolific afterwards: he added another $886k to his already impressive tournament tally.
Young Pak finished 7th back in 2003 and since then, he’s pretty much disappeared off the map of prestigious live poker events. His tournament winnings had been relatively modest before his final table presence too at $34k, and they haven’t exactly turned northward afterwards either. He only managed to add $47k more, and his best post-2003-final table performance was a 246th place in the Big Dance in 2005.
Of all 2003 final table participants, Amir Vahedi was the one who faired the worst. He took down a quarter million dollars then, and he followed it all up with $2.2 million in additional tournament winnings after the 2003 Big Dance, but unfortunately he passed away in January 2010 due to diabetes complications. Right before his death though, he was regarded one of the friendliest and most beloved faces the game of poker had ever had.
Tomer Benvenisti, the 5th place finisher, had not been playing professionally before the 2003 WSOP. He had had no official tournament earnings and he didn’t really become successful after his $320k WSOP feat either.
Jason Lester, bounced in 4th place, was a high stakes cash game player. Just like Singer and Grey, he started playing in more tournaments after his final table stint. In 2010, Lester has been on something of a roll, finishing deep in several high stakes live events.
Dan Harrington, 3rd place man in the 2003 Big Dance, needs no introduction. For a player who has never been a full time pro, Harrington has done extremely well. The very next year (2004) he finished 4th in the Main Event. He also has several WPT final table finishes to his name. Most importantly, he is the author of some of the most popular poker theories and books.
Sam Farha (2003 runner-up), is also an established poker pro. A millionaire businessman, Farha has no fewer than 3 WSOP bracelets to his name, two of which came after his 2003 final table stint. At the time, he had already had a bracelet.
Chris Moneymaker, the winner, is one of PokerStars’ in-house pros today. Though many have doubted his skills over the years, he has proved his worth in several live and online events since. Though he hadn’t had a single cent in tournament winnings before 2003, he’s amassed more than 500k afterwards.
The World Series of Poker 2010′s Main Event has come to an end (or at least to a break before the 9 remaining players jump at each others’ throats again in November to decide the winner). The time to reflect on what’s been done and to look back at the accomplishments and disappointments is here. The story of the Mizrachi brothers would definitely have to go into the “accomplishments” column. The three of them embarked on a veritable invasion of the Main Event, and for a while there, it seemed like there was nothing that could stand in their way. Two of them did hit the rail following the bursting of the money bubble though. Michael, the oldest, the winner of the $50k Players Championship Event, did make it to the November Nine though, albeit on a short-ish stack. The fact that he’s a NL Holdem specialist though certainly makes him one of the favorites. The Mizrachi story is only one speck of color on the canvas of a Main Event which has apparently been about business only more than ever before.
In previous editions, tomfoolery was right at home in the main event venue. Folks dressed up in various costumes on account of having lost a prop bet, or just to shock. Who could forget Tom Dwan’s antics, or various folks dressing up in diapers, togas and who knows what else. This year, there was only one batman costume, and by Day 3, none of the non-poker celebrities were present at the tables anymore. Those who were left weren’t keen on fooling around, and thus the whole thing seemed a lot more sober than usually. The new “serious” image created by this year’s event was considered a plus by many of the experts though. With legal online poker looking more likely than ever during the past few years, poker needs this type of image, if it’s ever to pass as a sport rather than a game.
What poker does not need though, is the influx of playmates and porn-starlets used by various sites to push their brand. Women who played in past Main Events hadn’t exactly been looked at as top-notch competition either, but this year, the bar has been lowered to new lows and I’m not sure how well that bodes for the image of serious female poker players.
This year, the ladies made up only a meager 3%, down from last year’s 5%, and no woman made it to Day 7. The tough pros we all know and respect were there, and some of them did indeed manage to build monster stacks in the early going, but luck did not side with them, and by the time the field had whittled down to 270, only 2 women were left in contention. The last woman standing this year was Breeze Zuckerman and she was eventually eliminated in 121st place.
Another thing that poker probably doesn’t need is the bounty hunt that commences as soon as the field thins down a little. Agents of various online and offline poker interests descend upon the tables, making it quite impossible for the remaining participants to partake in a decent bathroom break. Such agents have been a nuisance in the past, but the situation appears to grow from bad to worse each year.
The attempts of the Harrah’s staff to announce the names and hometowns of each player as they busted out (after the field had been reduced to a set number), were quite obviously a feat well worthy of an achievement column somewhere too. Given the amount of trouble writing down some of the name of the players gives me, I can honestly say I feel for those guys.
This year, an interesting trend has surfaced at the WSOP. Unlike in past editions, instead of letting the field play down to the final table on Day 2 of most events, the organizers have decided for some reason to call off the action with several tablefuls of players remaining. The survivors would then return to action on day 3 and play down to a winner, which means that under these circumstances, the final table is barely recognized as a noteworthy milestone in the poker tournament. How exactly does that impact the overall show-value of the tournament? In years past, a select group of players would go to bed on Day 2 knowing that they’ve made a WSOP final table, an achievement the importance of which couldn’t possibly be downplayed. Making a final table at the World’s most prestigious poker series used to be reason to celebrate. People would make calls to friends, they would fly them in to assemble a noisy throng of supporters on the rail the following day. They would dress up, and generally instill a festive atmosphere on the final day of the event. All that is now gone…
How could one be expected to fly in relatives and friends with 20-30 players remaining in contention? It would be the ultimate cooler to leave the tourney in 30th place with all those people cheering on the rail. Looking sharper than usual at the final table is also a thing of the past. No longer will Gavin Smith show up wearing a suit and a hat to the final table. Worn-out jeans coupled with a T-shirt or a hoodie is all one will see at the final table these days. The moment has pretty much lost all significance as players are moved to the final table not even being able to give it a second thought.
Exactly what was it that made organizers introduce these changes? Could it be something linked to poker strategy? In years past, players could use the break before the final table to plot a strategy-approach. Over the course of the seconds day of action, and right before the final table was reached, players would develop a history with one another. Using that data, a skilled poker player could always make adjustments for the final stretch, that could mean quite a lot in the overall economy of the tournament.
Was it the organizers’ intention to disrupt such efforts and to deny skilled players the advantage they could grab this way? If that was indeed their intention, they’ve certainly overshot the mark on this one. Not only have they made it impossible for players to prepare for the final table, they’ve made it quite a bit tougher for them to play their regular A-game too. Day 3 usually kicks off at around 3 PM. That means the heads-up stage will usually commence at around 5-6 in the morning. Regardless of the number of breaks inserted in-between, this stretch is just way too much for a poker player to cope with. These guys need to focus on a level you and I may never have experienced. Imagine them doing that while overwhelmed with fatigue, dreaming about a cozy bed and pillow. That goes a long way towards explaining why there seem to be so many mistakes made by these otherwise more than capable players towards the final stages of tournaments.
Apparently though the explanation behind the weird shift in the schedule is a simple one: while the tournament structures have stayed the same as in past editions, the number of registrants has increased, thus the field is no longer able to slim down enough by the end of day 2.
With the WSOP Main Event drawing near, it’s becoming more and more obvious which the most memorable moments of the series will be. Such “landmark” moments happen in high stakes poker tournaments all the time, but some of them are just a notch above the rest.
Take Men Nguyen’s bubble exit in the $5,000 PLO event. That’s definitely quite a moment, well worthy of the “most dramatic WSOP 2010 bubble” title. There were 46 players left in the game, and Nguyen had been feuding with Ryan D’Angelo for a while. He had a rather decent stack as he’d done pretty well up until that moment. After a preflop give and take, which cost Nguyen more than half his stack, the flop fell Qs,Jd,9s. Feeling pot-committed and trying to appear as menacing as possible, The Master shoved all-in. Holding As,Ah,9h,5h in his pocket, D’Angelo was faced with a really tough decision. After some time spent in the tank, he decided to make the call though and sure enough, it proved to be the right decision. The dealer spread The Master’s cards over the table, to reveal a stunning Ad,8d,4d,3c. Embarrassed as he was to be caught red handed on such an obvious bluff, Nguyen had nothing further to add.
As far as bad beats go, Danny Wong’s, in the $25k 6-max may not have been the most outstanding one, but it was certainly up there with the best of them. In less than an hour, Danny went from hero (chip leader) to zero (railbird), but it wasn’t like he could do anything about it. At dinner break, he was among those with large stacks, and less then an hour later, he was out, wondering how his top set could betray him in such an utterly unlikely manner. When Danny got all his chips into the middle, holding pocket 8s on a board of 8,7,3,9, everything looked perfect. Life was fine and the sun was shining as his opponent tabled pocket 3s for a dominated bottom set. The 3 on the river was like a nasty military-issue boot stomping onto a child’s sand-castle city. If that doesn’t hurt and make you want to cry foul, I don’t know what does.
Phil Hellmuth’s final table in the $1,500 PLO 8 or better event was certainly one of the milestones of this year’s Series too. It’s no secret that Hellmuth hasn’t really been at the forefront of the high stakes tournament (or cash game) action lately. The Ultimate Bet pro seemed to finally get things going in the above said event, but he eventually withered away, bounced in 8th place. His 12th poker bracelet once again drifting away in the mist of uncertainty, the poker world took little notice of the sorrow of a player whose fan-base is increasingly looking like a one-man operation.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Allan Kessler. The outspoken tournament structure critic has finished in the money in no fewer than 8 events this year, an achievement which turned him into one of the most successful WSOP 2010 players, and a serious candidate for the Player of the Year title. Kessler’s highest finish was 2nd place in the $10,000 7-Card Stud 8 or better World Championship event, which earned him a $276,000 reward. With all the trash talkers and the controversial personalities taking up most of the spotlight, it is sometimes refreshing to see one of the good-guys score a few for the home team too.
The Tournament of Champions is back on the WSOP schedule. After the first couple of days of action, Mike Matusow leads the field, and even though it would probably be a long-shot to include him in the “good guys” category mentioned above, I’d still like to see him walk away with the gold for some reason.
Phil Ivey has apparently set himself a rather ambitious goal as far as WSOP bracelets are concerned. The Full Tilt Poker pro has said shortly after he pocketed his 8th gold bracelet the other day that he would aim to win 30 such pieces of jewelry in his poker career. The statement was a rather shocking one, in light of the fact that the person with the most WSOP bracelets is currently Phil Hellmuth, who’s won 11 thus far. Considering that it’s coming from Phil Ivey though, a player well known for his cool headedness and for his abilities at the green felt (many consider him the best pound for pound poker player in the world today), there may be some weight behind it.
First of all, compared to most other professional sports, poker offers an overwhelmingly high number of chances for players to grab a WSOP bracelet each year. Both in Golf and in Tennis, there a lot fewer such opportunities, yet the top players have managed to accumulate around 20 titles without problems. I know what you’ll say: in none of those sports is the outcome as dependent on luck as it is in poker. While there are a massive 60 bracelet opportunities each year, the luck factor means that one person will find it extremely difficult to constantly walk away with the gold. The skill factor certainly means that a player with Ivey’s skills will consistently go deep in various events, but the luck factor is potent enough to deny the win nonetheless. Event with luck factored in though, Ivey stands a pretty good chance to walk away with at least a bracelet each year. As long as he keeps making final tables, it’s just a question of enough shots given for him to make it all the way.
The other variable in the equation is the number of years that Ivey’s poker career will span. Unlike most professional sports though, age is not really a factor in poker. A certain amount of mental decline is inevitable with age, but that has not been known to affect players’ poker performances significantly. One should only look at Doyle Brunson for inspiration in this respect, but the Legend himself is just one of many who play well into their seventies. The record breaking starting field at the seniors’ event has certainly proved that rather than the exception, Tex Dolly is actually the rule.
Holdem still seems to be the most popular poker variant at the WSOP and it keeps attracting the biggest starting fields. For a Holdem specialist, it’s obviously pretty tough to wade through all the competition on the way to a title. Ivey however, is quite adept at PLO and mixed games as well. These poker variants, when combined with high buy-ins, create perfect opportunities for Ivey and for other players like him to make deep runs.
One might ask if he’s indeed that capable of scoring bracelets, why is it that he’s only scored 8 so far? The reason is simple: a few years ago, players like Ivey had little to no motivation when it came to fighting for bracelets. These days though, thanks to the side bets which have upped the stakes on bracelets considerably for these guys, most of the top online and live poker players are back in WSOP action.
Last but certainly not least, we mustn’t forget that it’s Phil Ivey we’re talking about. If this guy sets his sight on something, chances are he won’t stop until he achieves what he wants.
Having reached the half-way point of the 2010 WSOP, I reckon it’s about time we turned around and took a look at the stories yielded by the Series so far, because they have been plenty and plenty diverse too.
First on the order of the day is the British invasion. It’s not a secret that the Brits are generally good poker players, but this year, their contingent has pretty much surpassed all expectations so far. No fewer than 3 Englishmen walked away with WSOP bracelets, and that fact alone doesn’t even begin to describe their dominance. Praz Bansi, James Dempsey and Richard Ashby were the ones who grabbed bracelets during the first half of the Series. Dempsey is one of the prime candidates for the WSOP Player of the Year title, having won a bracelet and having come pretty darn close to winning a second one too.
Praz Bansi was the one who started the “invasion”. He won his bracelet in the $1,500 NL Holdem event. Dempsey followed him with his bracelet win, then Ashby captured the title in the $1,500 7-Card Stud event, proving that NL Holdem was not the only game in which the Brits excelled.
The other big story of the 2010 Series was – and I probably should’ve put this one first – Michael Mizrachi. There’s no doubting the fact that Mizrachi was one of the hottest up and coming young players a few years ago. It’s also no secret that his subsequent evolution as a poker player was quite a disappointment. Not content with heading back down the path to anonymity like so many before him, Mizrachi made a stellar comeback in the 2010 Series. His win in the $50k Players’ Championship event was an awesome one, but he did not rest on his laurels in the wake of that achievement either. He followed it up with a 6th place finish in the 7-Card Stud World Championship event and a few more deep runs in other – smaller buy-in – events.
When it comes to individual performance, we just have to talk about Vladimir Schmelev. A virtual unknown before the 2010 WSOP, Schmelev burst onto the scene in a more than spectacular fashion, surviving all the way to 2nd place in the Players’ World Championship, which Mizrachi eventually won.
He made his second final table in the $10k 7-Card Stud World Championship, and eventually finished in 7th place. He appeared near the top of the ranks in pretty much every World Championship event in the Series so far.
Though he seems like he’s been in a rut lately, the Russian may yet have a few tricks up his sleeve in the remaining 20 or so events.
Tom Dwan has definitely stolen quite a bit of the spotlight this year. He did so not by winning bracelets though, neither by finishing near the top in various events. Rather, the most radical representative of the new nosebleed stakes online poker generation drew attention through the ridiculously large prop bets he made with fellow poker professionals and through his eagerness to play in as many of the small buy-in events as possible. Dwan came tantalizingly close to securing his own piece of WSOP gold in Event #11. He fell just short of the goal though, losing to Simon Watt heads-up, and thus failing to win an untold amount of money in side bets. The Series is still on though, and Dwan still has plenty of opportunities to turn life extremely sour for Daniel Negreanu and Mike Matusow, two of the players who probably have quite of bit of money riding on the said side-bets.
The $1,000 NL Holdem Ladies’ Championship event of the 2010 WSOP may not have been the biggest buy-in one and it may not have attracted the largest starting field either, but it has definitely generated the most buzz of all WSOP events by far. This event is slowly but surely becoming a source of perpetual conflict as more and more people set about creating havoc in it for whatever reason each year. Now, I’ll put this forth from the start: I’m not about to take sides in this conflict, because it’s way too awkward and weird for me to do that.
Here are the facts: several male poker players, including Shaun Deeb and David Sesso, registered to play in the Ladies’ event. One may ask: well, what were these guys doing registering for a ladies’ event? I know…It pretty much left me puzzled as well. Why on earth would any guy want to play in a ladies event of anything? I mean there’s women’s basketball and it would obviously not be proper for a guy to take part in that…Since we all like to consider poker a sport, why would one of us want to participate in the ladies’ event? I know some folks are going to say that gender segregation in this case is bad because it conveys the wrong message. While on the basketball court women may not be able to keep up physically with the male athletes, that is certainly not the case at the poker table, where all one has to do is to sit around and to get a massage every now and then when the going becomes taxing and uncomfortable. Other than that, poker only requires thought and in that respect, women are obviously quite equal to men.
In a statement released on YouTube:
Shaun Deeb says among other things that the very reason they decided to register for the event was to protest gender segregation as a means of belittling women’s intellectual capabilities. While apparently it does make sense, that assertion is a rather leaky one from several angles. I mean if you’re going out there with the risk of making a fool of yourself to show respect for poker playing women, why on earth would you go in drag? I don’t care if Shaun lost a prop bet regarding the drag thing or not, it’s just not done. It smells of mockery and of juvenile hot-headedness. It’s a gesture far more suited for a frat party than for a WSOP event, especially one where the author intends to show respect for women.
Sure, some folks may have supported Deeb and his peers, but the fact that the majority of the women applauded whenever a male player was eliminated says quite a lot about how those players felt about the issue. Deeb says all he did was to engage into friendly table chatter with the women at his table to assure them of his support. Has it ever occurred to him that maybe those women never felt the need for anyone to support them? Maybe they just wanted a friendly game of poker in an all-female environment, without any cross-dressed male supporters cheering them on from across the table. Why on earth would they ever need any kind of support? They are full-fledged and fully capable poker players, aren’t they? Would Shaun Deeb like some guy in drag to continuously assure him of his support from the next seat in the events in which he plays?
Was it right on the part of the security to harass these guys for being there? No. They should never have harassed them. They should never have allowed them to enter the tournament area in the first place since it was obvious they were up to no good. Want to voice your opinion on the matter? Want to protest gender segregation in poker? By all means, do it. Just don’t mess up other people’s game while at it.
Does it feel awkward to have embarrassed yourself in public? It should. Swallow the pill and don’t go on the air depicting yourself as a victim. It’s the only decent thing to do after a stunt like that.
I know poker is not like the NBA or the NFL, in the sense that it’s much more unpredictable, and I also know that there’s not a whole lot of sense in making any kind of picks when it comes to poker, but I’ve got the WSOP fever and it’s all just so much fun, I can’t help myself.
First stop’s first: Phil Ivey. How many bracelets do you reckon he’ll win this year? He may be the best poker player pound for pound, and the interesting thing about him is that unlike some of his high stakes live poker peers (Daniel Negreanu) he’s equally good online. All that does not really guarantee anything though. The WSOP is such a large-scale series of events, featuring such large starting fields that pure skill doesn’t offer any sort of guarantees. Expert opinions run a pretty wide gamut when it comes to predicting the number of bracelets Ivey will pocket. Some say 3, most say 1 and some say none. Just to stay on the safe side, I’ll say one. There are a few high buy-in events to which the access of the public is pretty much restricted by the sums involved. In such events, Ivey may well outshine his peers to score a bracelet. There are several such events which means he gets several shots. I’ll stick with one.
In how many events will Tom Dwan show up? The Full Tilt Poker pro has been at the forefront of the online gambling industry for a couple of years now, although his live poker performance has never quite been on par with his online one. He’s also primarily a cash game player and there’s not much of that at the WSOP. The number of events he’ll play will obviously hinge on way too many variables to accurately predict. If he finds himself a nice cash game which turns out to be profitable for him, he may not show up at the WSOP at all. If he doesn’t find any cash games to capture his interest, he may play in several events. The experts’ opinions are varied on this matter too. Some say he’ll participate in 8 events, other are more cautious with 3. The bottom line is, regardless of how many events he’ll play, Dwan is certainly not among the favorites to walk away with a gold bracelet this year.
Who will be the WSOP player of the year? This guy has to a be a tournament specialist, and a person who knows how to manage his extra curricular activities too, so he’ll be able to come back over and over for more. As far as tournaments runs are concerned, Jason Mercier certainly seems to fit the above description. On second thought, Sorel Mizzi seems to be just as good a pick, too. Mostly known for his online antics in the past, Mizzi seems to have successfully crossed some sort of a line lately, as he’s been winning and cashing deep in one live tournament after the other. He will certainly carry a great deal of momentum into his WSOP run, coming off a few successful European endeavors.
Who will be the biggest disappointment of the series? The queue of likely candidates for this dubious award is longer and more diverse than for any other. Although he said he was a great pick to take down at least a bracelet, Daniel Negreanu may find himself in the squeeze if he fails to deliver in the wake of such a confident statement. The same goes for pretty much any of the greats. Fail to deliver and you’ll find yourself high up on the list of disappointing WSOP performances. Phil Hellmuth is always a ticking time-bomb, and Annie Duke has put herself in a prime spot for failure too, through her reality show presence. The bottom line: if you’re a poker celebrity, you’re walking around with a target on your back. Heavy expectations always carry great potential for failure.
2010 marks the 41st edition of the biggest live poker fiesta on the planet, the World Series of Poker, also known as just WSOP for connoisseurs. The event is set to become bigger and better than ever before, with more side events, more interesting action, more “name” players and much bigger prize-pools. Keen on making last year’s Main Event fiasco forgotten (on the last day 1 flight droves of players had their access denied on account of lack of space), tournament officials have already taken all the steps deemed necessary to prevent another such incident. The competition area inside the Main Event venue has been expanded, ready to accept all comers.
With the first few days of the series already behind us, we’re slowly beginning to settle into the grind. After special events like the $50k Players’ Championship event, the $500 Casino Employees event and the first of a newly introduced string of $1,000 NL Holdem events, regular stuff like the $1,500 NL Holdem event and the $1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo 8 or better event are now unfolding.
The $500 Casino Employees event has been used as the official kick-off tournament of the series for a few years now. This year, it was as successful as ever, once again responsible for the giving out of the first bracelet of the series.
The $50k Players’ Championship event has grown into a true pro-based event, which once again attracted a select field of poker professionals. The large buy-in and the extra deep starting stack structure have made this event a true testing ground for professional players. There aren’t that many people in the world who are willing to cough up $50,000 to buy into a poker event, and the Players’ Championship only wants to see those who are fully capable of just that at its tables. The unique 8-game structure is another hurdle in the path of wealthy amateurs: in order to have any sort of chances for triumph in this event, one needs to be a truly well-rounded poker player. The battle for the Chip Reese memorial trophy features Limit Holdem, Omaha 8, Razz, 2-7 Triple Draw, 7-Card Stud, Stud 8, NL Holdem and PLO. It is apparently an evolved version of the $50k HORSE event of recent years, which was equally selective and equally exhaustive as far as the stretching of the participants’ poker skills were concerned.
The final table of the event will be a NL Holdem only one, something that some experts think may offer an advantage to day 3 chip leader Michael Mizrachi, who is currently in pursuit of his brother, Robert, the chip leader of the event heading into the final table. Unfortunately for those who were looking for the emergence of the People’s Champion, Phil Ivey, he’s already out, together with a cast of characters no Hollywood movie about poker could ever put together regardless of the size of its budget.
With so many famous faces in the lime-light, this event will be televised and it will be broadcast on ESPN, in the fall.
The other bright spot of the WSOP’s first day was the $1,00 NL Holdem event. As it is constantly evolving, twisting and turning to meet the needs of as wide an audience as possible, the WSOP has come up with the Stimulus Special last year. The event featuring a more than reasonable buy-in for a WSOP event ($1,000) was hugely successful, surpassing even the wildest expectations of the organizers. This year, the Stimulus events are back, a whole bunch of them actually. The first one has already attracted a more than reasonable starting field over its 2 day 1 flights. How the rest of the $1,000 NL Holdem events will fare remains to be seen, but the size of the buy-in represents a virtual guarantee when it comes to registrant numbers.
I know that the WSOP is upon us but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stick to online qualifiers to secure a seat. After all, the Series is long and the Main Event is still quite a bit off, giving you more than enough time to become one of the hundreds of online qualifiers who will belly up to the tables in Las Vegas this summer.
Steps SNGs represent one of the most straightforward ways to play your way to a WSOP seat. For those of you who may not know: Steps SNGs are a string of SNG tournaments you need to climb in order to play for your WSOP prize package. There are usually quite a few SNGs in the Steps ladder. Full Tilt Poker has 7 in each, which means you need to fight your way through 7 SNGs with your eyes on the prize. Each of these SNGs features progressively bigger buy-ins, meaning that you can buy into any step directly, without the need to a actually win your way up. The whole thing only really makes true sense though if you play through all the steps, to finally get your hands on the prized reward for as small a buy-in as possible (a mere few dollars). I know what you’ll say: fighting your way up through 7 steps is quite a long-shot, isn’t it? Well, not quite. You see, it’s not just the winner who advances. As a matter of fact, there’s a lot more to Steps SNGs than to regular ones in the sense that instead of just one money bubble, there are several bubbles in Steps tourneys, each of them with different significance.
Here’s a sample breakdown of one of Full Tilt Poker’s Steps SNGs: first and second place move on up to the next step. 3rd and 4th stay on the current step. 5th and 6th move down one step and the remaining players move all the way down to the first level. As you can see, first you play not to move down to the very bottom, then you play to stay on your current step and then to advance. A Steps SNG is therefore non stop action almost from the get go.
As you probably know, the money bubble is the most delicate part of a SNG strategy wise. Because you’ll have to deal with no fewer than 3 such bubbles in each and every one of the Steps SNGs in which you play, that’s exactly the part of SNG strategy you want to excel at.
When making these recommendations, I’m assuming that you’re 100% in the know as far as regular SNG strategy goes. If you’re not, I’m sorry to break it to you but Steps tourneys are just not for you then.
You should start out your Steps SNGs the regular way: being extra tight in the beginning. This approach is justified and even called for by a whole bunch of factors which I’m not going to detail in this here piece. After the initial warm-up stage though, the Steps SNG turns into an entirely different animal, and aggression becomes the key word. Despite the fact that these tournaments feature several bubbles, you need to focus on surviving the last one, because otherwise you just won’t advance. Bubbles can be played in two different ways: the farmer way and the fox way. The farmer tightens up looking to make it past the bubble with the chips he has. The fox begins stealing blinds, taking advantage of the farmers’ extra tightness to accumulate chips for the later stages. Obviously, you need to be a fox. Aggression can be extremely tricky though, as it’s a volatile weapon that may backfire in any moment. You need to be selective about your aggression by picking your spots properly.