With the incredibly popular $560 buy-in, $2 million guaranteed opening event of the 2017 Borgata Winter Poker Open upon us, I figured now would be a good time to give the readers of the Borgata Blog a few pointers on how to approach tournaments with fields so large they almost seem insurmountable. You’ll frequently hear players refer to big field tournaments as lotteries, luck fests, and other names that imply that skill somehow isn’t a factor like it is in tournaments with smaller fields.
I’ve made six final tables in major live events with fields of over 1,000 players: three at the World Series of Poker, one World Poker Tour main event, and two on my home court of Borgata in their 2015 opening events. After falling just short with a 15th place finish out of 4,179 in the 2016 Borgata Winter Poker Open last January, I came back with a vengeance and chopped both the Borgata Spring Poker Open (April) and Borgata Fall Poker Open (November) opening events three ways, which had fields of 2,408 and 1,757 respectively, for $141k and $103k. The first chop in April for $141k was made all the more memorable since I’d won that seat in a $60 online satellite on BorgataPoker.com and chopped it with two of my buddies, Asher Conniff and Carlos Alvarado.
Obviously luck was on my side in some spots and I won a race or two, but I also approach these events with a mentality and strategy that helps me get a leg up on the competition before the cards are even in the air.
Here are four things to keep in mind when you enter a tournament with a gigantic field:
Focus on What You Can Control
This is good poker (and life) advice in general, but especially when it comes to big field tournaments. A lot of players waste their energy focusing on how many people they still need to get through, how poor their table draw is, who has the chip lead in the room, and a host of other things that they can’t control and will rarely have a positive impact on their performance. Energy and mental focus are finite resources and you’re going to need plenty of them for a plethora of other tasks.
Take It One Table at a Time
You may have to outlast thousands of players to final table one of Borgata’s opening events, but I PROMISE YOU they will never make you play against more than nine of those players at a time. That is an irrefutable, scientific fact. It’s true, Google it! If you take some of the wasted energy from tip #1 above and apply it to paying attention to those fine folks — rather than hundreds or thousands you’ll likely never face during the tournament — you’ll be much better off and be able to make better decisions when you find yourself in tricky spots in hands against them.
Be Ready to Reload
Although I don’t think all tournaments should be re-entries, I do love how events like these give you the opportunity to come loaded for bear and keep buying in day after day, flight after flight until you find a way to put some chips in a bag and head to day 2. After all, who could resist firing that third bullet when you can turn $560 into $300k+?
You should be a little more willing to gamble early than you would be in a freeze out tournament when the prize pool is so large and you can re-enter. Suddenly tournament life isn’t such a big consideration and you can play it more like a cash game by accepting a lot more variance and volatility.
Don’t Pressure Yourself to Accumulate Too Quickly
While I’m willing to gamble more during re-entry period, I often see players take unnecessary risks in huge field tournaments after re-entries that I don’t think they wouldn’t take in a smaller field events. While you do want to keep the average stack in mind, you should also remember that the average stack is typically somewhere around the 30th percentile in chips, so the median stack is always significantly less than average. Don’t forget that tournaments are all about survival, so don’t be like Ricky Bobby with the “IF YOU AIN’T FIRST, YOU’RE LAST!” mentality!