Last fall I wrote a column titled “Improving Your Game.” That column discussed how long-term players sometimes reach a point where they become less keen on learning and improving their game. Ian Taylor described in The Poker Mindset (which I co-authored) some of the reasons why our desire to learn might start to wane. These include:

Illusions of Mastery
Loss of Enthusiasm

The column went on to describe a lot of the tools we have at our disposal to improve our game: books, magazines, DVDs, poker forums, poker trackers, online videos, poker coaches, simulations, and, finally, experience/self-analysis. In this article, I want to discuss experience in more detail, as I think many players fail in this regard in terms of improving their game. Are you practicing the right things to give you the maximum value out of your experience?


Preparing for the World Series of Poker

Every year at about this time, I am always thinking about what I need to do to better prepare for the World Series of Poker, so I want to look specifically at large multitable tournaments.

People always say that there is no substitute for experience. There is merit to this argument, but experience for the sake of experience will not dramatically improve your game. You need to focus your experience on those things that will have the biggest impact on your results.

Let’s say that you play mostly the large multitable online tournaments with hundreds of entrants. Through experience, you will learn a lot of deep-stack strategy to do quite well in the early stages of the tournament. Obviously, every tournament you play, you will gain some experience in that stage of the tournament, so the more tournaments you play, the more experience and knowledge you gain.

Let’s assume a tournament of 1,000 entrants for the sake of an example. If you are an average player, you will cash about 10 percent of the time. For all of those times that you cash, you will make the final table about 10 percent of the time. For all of those times that you make the final table, you will get heads up about 20 percent of the time.

For 1,000 tournaments, you will make the money in about 100 of them (obviously, the better player you are, the higher these numbers will be). You will gain final-table experience about 10 times, and you will gain heads-up experience twice! You will need to play three tournaments a day for six months in hope of having a single heads-up battle. Will you be prepared for this battle?


Play Different-structured Tournaments

This is one problem for the multitable tournament grinders. They grind away in tournaments, and then when the money really matters, they aren’t quite prepared and don’t have adequate experience to capitalize on the opportunity. There is a big difference between third place and ninth place, and there is a really big difference between first place and third place. Are you prepared?

The best way to prepare for the big multitable tournaments isn’t necessarily to play more of them. In fact, I recommend playing a lot of different-structured tournaments to gain more simulated experience for the later stages of the tournament. Specifically, you should play some smaller-field tournaments, sit-and-gos, and heads-up tournaments.

For example, there are some good little multitable sit-and-gos that you can play online, ranging from 45 to 180 players. If you play the 45-entrant tournaments, you’ll make the “final table” about one in four tournaments. You’ll be able to play heads up about one in 22 tries. These tournaments also don’t take nearly as long to play, so you can play more of them. Even if you play just three a day, you ought to have a heads-up battle once a week. This is a far cry from once every six months. Yes, the experience isn’t exactly the same as a large-field final table, but it is close enough to simulate the experience.


Short-Handed and Heads-Up Experience

The same can be said for regular 10-man sit-and-gos. Of course, the early stages of a sit-and-go are nothing like the final table of a big multi-player tournament, since you are so deep-stacked at the beginning of a sit-and-go. But you do gain a lot of shorthanded experience. You’ll also gain heads-up experience once every five tournaments. Play in five sit-and-gos, and you will get the same amount of heads-up experience that you would get by playing 500 of the big multitable tournaments with 1,000 entrants.

If you really want heads-up experience, just sit down and play a two-man sit-and-go! Rather than wait for six months for that opportunity, start right now and go get that experience!

All of the money and profits to be made in the big tournaments start at the final table. If you are going to play them, you need to be prepared for the different strategies needed to succeed at a final table and in a heads-up battle. Are you prepared?


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Preparing and Training for Poker Tournaments
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