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On Poker: WSOP first-timer? Take these tips for beginners

July 1, 2017 GMT

The 2017 World Series of Poker is in full swing in Las Vegas, and with it comes throngs of new players who are taking their first crack at the big tournament scene.

Walking through the doors of the Amazon Room or the Brasilia Ballroom at the Rio for the very first time is an intimidating and exciting moment. Here are some things to keep in perspective, if you are entering your first WSOP event:

The buy-in: With minimum costs of about $565 or more, the price you paid for a seat in a WSOP event probably is a high-water moment for your bankroll. Provided you aren’t putting the mortgage or grocery money on the line to enter, consider that money as nothing more than a luxurious entertainment expense. The good news, though, is that unlike paying that much for a fancy ticket to a football game, here there’s a chance to get that money back -- and a lot more.

Nerves: Even the most experienced poker pros will admit that they get a little nervous when the first cards of any event are dealt. It’s completely normal to feel that way, and a small level of terror will enter your thinking process when you choose to see that first flop. You will settle down after a few hands, though, and it won’t take long before the men and women who surround you at that opening table will start to resemble those at your traditional poker games. Also, remember that you are participating in one of the most well-organized events in poker: There are hundreds of personnel on the scene who can answer any and all questions.

Skill: Since it is the WSOP, there is the thought that everybody around you is a very skilled tournament player. This a myth. You will see the same dumb mistakes that you witness in a free bar tournament-poker league at the Rio. True story: I once sat at a table where a lady had to have the dealer explain the hand rankings. Her husband had entered her into the $1,500-buy-in event “just for fun.”

The opening levels: The WSOP does a great job of starting everybody off with plenty of chips (at least 100 big blinds), and blinds traditionally go up in 60-minute increments, with a few exceptions. There isn’t a lot of pressure to make any big moves during those first few hours of tournament play, and you shouldn’t be risking your stack unless you are at least 90 percent confident that you have the best of it. If you are moving all-in for $5,000 chips with A-K when the blinds are $25-$50, you are doing it wrong.

Chips on the table: The dealer and tournament staff probably will sternly remind you of this, but never take your chips off the table during a break. Nobody is going to steal them from your stack. This rule is in place to prevent players from passing big chips off to another player in an attempt to “pad their stack” and give them a better chance at getting deep into the money. Unfortunately, it’s still a more common cheat than most tournament officials would care to admit, because it’s so hard to catch the culprits.

Gauging success: There are multiple display areas throughout the tournament floor that advertise how much time remains in the level, the number of players still in the field, and the “average stack” for players who remain. Don’t pay attention to that average. Where your chip stack sits in relation to the number of big blinds you have in it is much more important: If you have 100 or more, you are doing awesome. With 50, there’s still no reason to sweat, and you can go all the way down to 30 without doing anything crazy. If you get below that, you need to amp up that aggression, because you are officially “short-stacked” with 15 or less.