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Vanessa Selbst

World Series Grind

When non-poker playing people find out I spend all summer in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, they always ooh and ahh like they can’t imagine a more relaxing and glamorous way to spend the summer. In truth, WSOP time is 90% work and only 10% play.

It is the most work-oriented, poker-oriented, mission-oriented time of the year for me. It is both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Like, you’ve waited all year for this time to come again, and it holds so much potential and promise that you just want to throw your whole self into it so you can reap the rewards. During the WSOP, I have a one-track mind.

For my family and friends, this time can be hard to understand, especially because I usually try to live a more balanced life. They can’t get me on the phone, it takes weeks to reply to the simplest of e-mails, and everything else falls by the wayside. I have difficulty scheduling appointments or social time, often having to wait until the day before to see what tournaments I’m still in and which ones I think I might play. Having never been to Vegas during WSOP time, it can be hard for them to wrap their minds around the daily schedule of a tourney player. Even the moniker “World Series” is misleading, conjuring visions of seven days of poker, where you hope to win four out of seven tournaments you play. In truth, the World Series of Poker is over sixty events and every time you skip one, you feel guilty–like that could’ve been the one. You play when you feel like it, and sometimes you play when you don’t. Occasionally you take a day off, but for the most part, you’re there–everyone is there; We’re all doing our jobs.

This WSOP has been different for me from years past. During the beginning of my poker career, I generally only came to Vegas for a few weeks a summer because of law school internships and other commitments. I’d fly in, play a few events, see some friends, and then fly back out. 2011 was the first year I was in Vegas full time and then, I was only playing NLHE and PLO events. I’d play a noon tourney, bust around 3PM, and then shoot over to Lake Mead for some wakeboarding, grab some fish tacos on the way home, and finish the night off playing marathon Achtung sessions at a friend’s penthouse suites at Palms Place. Last year, I final tabled my very first event and went on to make two more deep runs, win a bracelet, and make Day 6 of the Main Event. I spent a lot of time at the Rio, but I spent it efficiently and was really thrilled with how the Series went. This is my first year playing all of the limit tournaments and I’m trying to play all of them. This has ripped my WSOP schedule wide open and means I’m grinding a lot of really long days. I’m often at the Rio from noon to two AM, which hasn’t left a whole lot of time for anything.

Right now, we’re about half way through the Series and I’ve played somewhere around fifteen to twenty events. Things haven’t been going as well as I’d hoped, with lots of full days of play and only one cash (60th in Event 17 for 7k). A few times, I’ve made it super late into Day 2 and then busted right at the end of the night, which is probably the most frustrating feeling. For the most part, though, I’m having fun and playing well.

As I mentioned, I’m also playing a variety of games, which keeps it interesting.¬†Getting better at split-pot and other limit games has been a fun learning process. When you’re deep in limit games, the structure changes rapidly. The blinds go up quicker on Day 2 and you get shorter stacked really quickly. If you lose a couple of big pots, you’re toast. For someone used to playing all of the big pots, this has been an adjustment.

There’s a few more busy weeks to go and twenty more chances to chase the coveted Gold Bracelet, including The One Drop and the Poker Players’ Championship, both of which I’m playing for the first time this year. Instead of looking at my Series as half over, I’m focusing on what’s to come, and as my stack of tournament entry receipts grows taller, I’m feeling more persistent than ever.

Hold my calls and mail till August. I’ve got work to do.

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