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Practical Preparation for a WCOOP Event
With the PokerStars WCOOP around the corner, it is sensible to prepare in three main ways. Technical preparation covers anything strategic such as learning solid push or fold strategy or working on how to handle different board textures after opening a pot. The mental game is the second area of preparation and it will be useful to outline your most common causes of emotional interference (tilt); we shall deal with these in a separate article. Today's topic is the third sort of planning that you will want to have covered before signing up for a WCOOP tournament: practical preparation.

Practical preparation concerns your physical playing environment, taking care of your body and brain, and ensuring that you are in the best shape possible to concentrate and perform to your maximum potential for an extended period of time. Here are my top 4 tips for getting the most out of your practical preparation this year.

1. Sleep = Performance

WCOOP events are set on a worldwide stage and consequently do not fit with the natural sleep schedule of every participant. Assuming that you are taking some time away from work, family, and social commitments to play some WCOOP events, it should be possible to adapt your own sleep pattern in advance in order to start and finish the event in that non-sleep-deprived state that is so essential for your chances of playing your best game.

Let's say that an event begins at 4pm local time for you on a Saturday. Your normal Saturday routine is to wake up around 9am, go shopping, do some housework, watch the game and then play some poker for a few hours before dinner. Thoughtlessly going through this standard routine for the $530+R NLHE $500K Gtd on Saturday 8th September is certainly a huge blunder. When play starts, you will already have the mental energy of the late stages of a working day. If you go deep in the tournament, you will be mentally frazzled at the point where you need to make the most important decisions of all.

Instead, do your shopping and housework on the Friday; stay up late on the Friday night, throwing in some extra technical and mental preparation. Go to bed at 3-4am and wake up around 12pm on the Saturday. Have an easy-going afternoon, splitting the four hours before the tournament between some light poker revision and general relaxation. When play starts you will be ready for some prolonged intense mental battling. EV is not just maximised on the felt! Sleep is your friend.

2. Eat Little and Often

There are two ways in which I commonly see players go majorly wrong when it comes to eating during a big event. These are:
  • Not eating enough.
  • Eating too much all at once.
Concerning the first, it is an easy trap to fall into. There is no time to cook a nice roast dinner and the game can be so engrossing that a player simply forgets to eat sometimes. Six hours into the tournament, tilted thoughts are emerging over the pettiest little things, the thought process has become erratic and partially emotionally motivated, and the player seems to intrinsically care less about preserving chips and maximising EV. This is the body's way of complaining that it is lacking the required energy to function in a composed and focused manner. It is time for an emergency fridge raid but this involves missing an orbit – a very -EV thing to do.

The solution is to have a constant supply of healthy snacks on hand that will release energy gradually so as to avoid highs and crashes. Fruit, nuts, beans etc. are great for this purpose. Moreover, the poker player needs access to a couple of larger, but still light meals during the tournament to be spaced out in a planned way. These should be easy to digest and full of slow energy releasing foods. Eggs, sweet potato and spinach are some examples of such foods.

During the digestion of a large meal, general brain and body function is reduced. Avoid overeating during breaks and especially avoid foods that are difficult to digest such as red meat or excessive in carbohydrates (sorry, this means no takeaway pizza during the tournament!) It is incredibly difficult to think after a large meal. At the beginning of my poker career, I would often eat a big dinner and then fire up a long poker session ten minutes later. This invariably led to a sloppy careless performance for the first part of the session. Eat light and eat frequently to maintain a constant stream of balanced energy at the poker table.

3. Peace and Quiet

If there is one thing in the world that sends a player from A game to C game in five minutes, it's constant interruptions. We play online poker in the home and the home is a place full of dogs, spouses, children, phone calls, emails, Facebook and countless other distractions. Whether the interruption comes in the form of a vibration in your pocket, a flashing onscreen notification, or a partner with six questions that could wait until after the tournament, it's destructive and highly preventable with a little foresight.

Explain to your family or flat-mates that it is very important to your tournament prospects if you are left undisturbed for the duration of the event. Make sure to give them plenty of notice and stress this a few times in the days leading up to the event so that it truly sinks in. I used to sit in the same office as my girlfriend at the time and play poker for hours on end. My tilt issues were terrible in those days due to being asked a question every two seconds or leaning over and giving her advice on a hand while timing out on my own tables. Even just listening to her thinking out loud made it very difficult to concentrate.

Have the kids watched by family, close the gate so the dogs can't get upstairs, and turn your phone off. Log out of Facebook and email and disable Skype notifications. Peace and quiet allows your mind to focus and play its best poker.

4. Comfort Within Reason

On the one hand we would not like to play a poker tournament on a treadmill. One the other hand, being slumped in a heap on the sofa is not going to put us in the correct focused state of mind. Your poker environment for a WCOOP event should be comfortable yet professional. Avoid laptops, beds, living rooms and iPads at all costs, but make sure that your chair is comfortable, you are near a bathroom for break times, and that you use a headset to blank out external noise.

Moreover, your mouse should be comfortably curved and weighted enough to use easily. The sensitivity should be just right so that it requires neither effort nor finesse to move it over to the fold button. The keyboard should feel natural to use and should not hurt your wrists as you key in your bet size. Being able to sit back in a nice office or gaming chair during downtime is healthy and helps your endurance high. Try to find the right balance between a serious work posture and a fully relaxed one. Slightly forward in the chair, but still supported is about right.


I find it amazing how talented players fail to prepare practically for big events. Being a strong player is not to guarantee a high standard of play in a tournament, the external details must also be right.
Did you find these tips good? Comment below with any other tips and advice you have for playing big poker tournaments.
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