Use online poker play to prep for live World Series action

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I primarily play no-limit hold’em, so I thought it’d be a good idea to tell you how I prep for the World Series using online play. These same concepts also can be used for other variations of poker, but I’m not as versed in what buy-in levels will help you prepare the most. I suspect they’re pretty close, though.

When I’m playing online, I tend to play a wide range of buy-in levels. Typically I play from $5 to $1,000. Leading into the Series, I actually try to play more of the smaller buy-in tournaments because I want to be sure I’m not only working on my advanced game. I need to be aware that in a lot of the smaller buy-in WSOP tournaments — though they’re not cheap at $1K to $1,500 — there will be a lot of first-time players, recreational players and those looking to have fun. There will be a higher percentage of players who don’t study and work on their game, and that means I have to be a bit more selective about certain plays and representing hands to try to get them to fold. It becomes a much more straightforward game where you simply bet your big hands strongly to maximize value and you don’t get overzealous with your bluffing.

Here are my recommendations for tournaments to focus on when playing online as you gear up for your trip out west.

ONLINE EVENTS/BUY-IN/TYPE <—> WSOP EVENTS/BUY-IN/TYPE
$5-$50 <—>$1,000-$1,500
$100-$200 <–> $2,000-$3,000
$100-$200 rebuys/1R+1A/$1K <—> $5,000 – $10,000
All buy-in levels <—> $10,000 Main Event
Ring and Heads-up SNGs* <—> Shootouts/Final Tables

* Heads-up SNGs are useful for practicing blind v. blind and obviously for when you get heads-up in a tournament (the biggest pay jump is between first and second!).

Remember, just because you’re playing in a big tournament online or live, that doesn’t mean all of the competition is going to match up with the buy-in. There will be really good players in the smaller buy-ins and really bad players in the big buy-ins. The percentages usually match up pretty well and most players will fall in between somewhere. It’s your job to figure out who’s who and what they’re capable of doing. If you’re playing in the main event this year look out for amateurs wearing online-poker logos at the outer tables (as opposed to feature tables). They are online qualifiers and simply cashing in the main event may be a huge deal for them. … especially if they have a deal like what Full Tilt is offering where they’ll pay your 2011 main event buy-in if you just cash! The bubble may be very profitable for you if you’re fortunate enough to have a few Full Tilt qualifiers who are looking at a much bigger cash bubble than most of the field.

Lastly, remember to enjoy yourself. There’s nothing quite like playing at the WSOP if you’re a diehard poker player. Play with money you can afford to play with so you can play with fearless aggression and play for the win. Don’t play just to cash. Play for the bracelet and the big prize!

Decide to Win!

— Lee Childs is founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker. He also is an instructor with the WPT Boot Camp. Check out his site at
www.acumenpoker.net.