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Top-10 things to know if you plan to play The Colossus at the WSOP

20 April 2015

It seems like only a few weeks ago Martin Jacobson turned a final table short stack into a World Series of Poker Main Event title, so you can be excused if (like me) it’s hard for you to believe that this year’s WSOP is less than six weeks away.

This year’s series promises to start off with a bang, too, as The Colossus, a $565 no-limit Hold’em re-entry event, will be the first weekend (Day 1s run on May 29 and 30). The event will have a $5 million guarantee, which means WSOP officials are expecting at least 10,000 entries. I won’t be surprised if it gets close to 20,000.

If it’s a success, it’s likely that this event will be on the WSOP schedule every year. But you’ve only got one chance to play in the first one, and if you want to play but have never been to the WSOP before, there are a few things you should know before you go.

Here’s a top-10 list of things you should know if you’re making your first trip out to the WSOP to play in The Colossus.

10. Book a hotel now
If you haven’t made your travel arrangements yet, do it now. With thousands of poker players flocking to Flamingo Road, area hotels are swamped. While there are still rooms available at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, they’ll cost you almost as much as your tournament entry. (The best rate I could find was $351 per night). The Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, a favorite for poker players because of its low rates and its location a short walk from the Rio, is sold out, as is the Extended Stay on South Valley View, where Casino City generally sets up camp during the WSOP. The Palms Casino Resort has some rooms at a reasonable rate (about $150 a night on the weekends, $110 per night during the week), but if you make a long run, you’ll have to move to a new hotel, because they’re sold out on June 2 and 3.

There is plenty of overall hotel inventory in Las Vegas, so you won’t be shut out. Whether you want to stay at a casino or in a more standard hotel is up to you, but outside of the Palms, you’re probably going to have a hard time finding anything within walking distance at this point.

9. Pre-register
Imagine travelling all the way to Las Vegas to play in The Colossus, only to show up and find out that the event has been sold out. WSOP officials are planning to be able to seat approximately 24,000 players, so it seems unlikely that this event will sell out, but you never know what can happen when a WSOP bracelet is on the line. Registering early will help ensure you’re in the field and will save you some headaches when you arrive.

Pre-registration is now open and will remain open until two weeks prior to the start of the event, so get yours in before May 14.

8. Play Day 1A
While pre-registration will get you a seat in the tournament, you will still have to land in Vegas and get your seat assignment. When you do, you’ll get to choose your starting flight. If there are still spots available, play Day 1A.

Players can enter all four starting flights, so long as they don’t finish another flight with chips (and players who don’t like the stack they finish with can forfeit their stack to try to build a bigger one). This means that there will likely be some pros in the Day 1A flight that don’t play any other flights, because they made it through to Day 2. However, the Day 1A flight is likely to have more players who have never played a WSOP event, or perhaps even a poker tournament, than any other.

These are the players that are going to be willing to stand in line for hours to get a seat. These are the players that are going to show up early to play in a flight that starts at 10 a.m. These are the players you want to play against. And the bonus of playing in the Day 1A flight is that if you make it through to Day 2, you’ll be done around 6 p.m. and you’ll be able to go out and have a nice dinner and a few drinks, knowing you won’t have to play for another 40 hours or so.

7. Budget your bladder
The lines for bathrooms at the Rio can be epic during the WSOP. I can’t imagine how ridiculous they're going to be during The Colossus. The starting flights for this event are going to be almost as large as the entire WSOP Main Event field, and all those people will be taking breaks at the same time.

If you’re under the gun plus one and you fold your hand with one minute left before a break, and your bladder is about to burst, just get up and go. Yes, you might miss the next hand, but it’s better to get your body right and miss one hand than miss a half a dozen while waiting in line with hundreds of others when the break ends.

Get to the Rio the day before the tournament and scout out where you’ll be playing and where several nearby restrooms are so you won’t have to sweat those details during the tournament.

6. Plan your meals
If you play in either of the early sessions, you’ll be starting at 10 a.m. and playing until about 6 p.m. on Day 1. You should eat a good breakfast a couple hours before play starts and bring a few snacks with you, because you won’t have time to grab lunch during breaks. If you advance beyond Day 1, you’ll be playing from 1 p.m. until about 1 a.m., with a 60-minute dinner break after level 6. Once again, plan on finishing lunch at least an hour before play begins, so you don’t feel logy while you’re playing. Bring some healthy snacks and eat a small dinner to keep that brain operating at its best.

In terms of places to eat, the Poker Kitchen is an under-rated location for a quick meal during dinner break. There are lots of options for all types of appetites, and while the food is a bit overpriced, it’s incredibly convenient. Other “on campus” options include the All-American Bar and Grille for traditional American fare, Buzio’s for a great seafood feast (just don’t eat any of Nolan Dalla’s Rainbow Trout), or Martorano’s for Italian. But no matter what you do, even if it’s the only location without a line, don’t eat at the Sports Deli by the sportsbook.

5. Bring layers
If you’ve never been to the WSOP before, you could be excused for thinking that playing poker in the desert in the middle of the summer would be a good time to wear a pair of shorts, a short-sleeve shirt and a pair of flip-flops. That assumption, however, will leave you incredibly uncomfortable. The convention space at the Rio is notoriously cold, especially in the late evening/early morning hours, when the room isn’t quite as full as it will be at the start of play each day. Bring a fleece and wear jeans and sneakers; you’ll be glad that you did, especially if you play into the last couple levels of the day.

4. Exercise
If you’ve never played at the WSOP before, you’re going to be pretty excited to play in this event. And you should be. But that doesn’t mean you should be sitting there brooding about it for hours before the event. If you’re a fit person, go out for a run a few hours before the tournament is set to begin. If you’re not particularly fit, go for a long walk. The exercise will do your mind and your body good as you get ready to sit down for (what you hope will be) a marathon poker session.

3. Get some sleep
If this is your first rodeo, you’re going to be excited, and it’s going to be incredibly hard to sleep. But you need to try. If you’re not well rested, you’re going to be prone to making mistakes while you play, especially as it gets later in the day. Have a nice meal the night before you play, watch a movie on Netflix, and call it a night.

If you advance to Day 2, it’s going to be even harder, but hopefully you’ll be so mentally exhausted from making excellent decisions at the poker table all day, you’ll sack out and fall to sleep immediately.

2. Plan for fun time
Whether it’s your first time in Las Vegas, or you’re making an annual trek, you really need to make sure you take the time to have some fun. That could mean playing in some crazy cash games at the Orleans, or heading to a gentlemen’s club for the evening. No matter what happens in the tournament, make sure you remember that you’re there to have fun, even if you bust out the tournament on your first hand.

1. Go with friends
One of the best ways to ensure that you’ll have a good time is to make this trip with some friends. Play in the tournament together, and trade percentages. Hopefully someone from your crew will make a deep run. And even if you don’t, you’ll be making a memory that will last a lifetime.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.