At the 2004 World Series Of Poker Championship event, three times the number of players entered compared to the year 2003. The 2576 players made that edition of the WSOP the largest brick and mortar poker tournament ever held, despite of the $10,000 entry cost. Close to 1000 of these participants won seats into the event via preliminary tournaments at one of the online poker card rooms.
Of course, playing in an event like this one can have a significant positive expectation for the top level players, but sometimes it is like getting 10,000 to one odds on a $100,000,000 lottery drawing. Great odds, a bet that you should definitely make, but after all that it is still very likely to lose — and there is not much you can do about it.
To win a Texas Holdem No Limit Tournament event with over 2500 players, like this one, you need to have played very good and gotten extremely lucky as well, simply because that is the nature of Holdem poker, but also because that is how a whole new generation of players are learning how to play the game – ‘All-in’. Race after race, virtual coin flip after coin flip, and even if you are playing some really outstanding poker, and even if you regularly get significant edges over your opponents, for example every hand you play you are a 2 to 1 favorite, to continually prevent loses requires a huge amount of luck. This is inevitable if your opponents force you to commit all your chips or fold. And you have to agree, folding 2-1 edges is not the road to Oz.
And some previously successful, and very experienced poker players really hate this way to play, this ‘Internet way’ to play. Phil Hellmuth is notorious in the poker world, for not wanting to commit all his chips. Usually he wants to see flops, make reads, and outplay his opponents at the table. That is a great skill he has, but bad news for him, because lots of the new breed of players do not want to let him use his skills. They will very often shove all-in, and if they do not get called they win a smallish pot, and if they do get called, they will take their chances with 50/50 or 60/40 or 30/70 races.
Honestly, maybe No Limit Holdem is just about the worst game to play with huge tournament fields. Skill will contribute to get to the victory, but luck will be the greater influence. But this is the way Holdem is designed, it simply is a game of small edges. Even ‘dominating’ situations like for example, AcKs versus Ah7d are less than 3 to 1. Just imagine playing 3 to 1 situations fifty times for all your chips in your stack. Finally you will lose, unless you get outlandishly lucky. Of course, in the real world most of the times in all-in situations you will have more chips than your opponent, and thus you will not be eliminated when you lose, but still it is a humbling reality to understand that even the greatest poker player will need a colossal amount of luck to win a large Texas Holdem No Limit Tournament event.
Many of the major Texas Holdem No Limit Tournament are becoming like $3/6 Holdem games in Los Angeles, a large chunk of the skill required to win is very basic and simple, but it is absolute, pure skill where you consistently take the best of it into showdown situations and absorb variations when you have bad luck. Some folks have always claimed they can not beat loose LA $3/6 games, and the reason for that simply is they do not adapt and do not play well in that particular game. Some skills that work in tougher games often are useless, and the way to win is fairly mechanical, but over time it is enormously profitable, even if the psychic pain of often losing to fool play is hard for almost everyone to stomach.
The game of Holdem poker is being revolutionized, good play is being rewarded significantly more than two years ago. But in some cases it is not so easy to see, and in fact, in some circumstances you may never see actual positive results of your superior poker game in your lifetime. $10,000 tournaments do not happen very often, but correct play is still simply the best course of action, with the best expectation, and the best chances of winning.
I’m Jason Rockwell. When I’m not winning playing online poker, I enjoy writing about my love of the game. Thanks for visiting!