5 Things You MUST Do to Prepare for the WSOP

5 Things You MUST Do to Prepare for the WSOP

In this post, I’m going to share with you the top 5 ways to prepare for the World Series of Poker and poker tournaments in general.

I’ve been fortunate to play in the World Series of Poker many times throughout my 15-year poker career, and each time it’s a new challenge.

The days are long and arduous, and the pressure, especially if you’re fortunate to make the final table, is incredible.

One wrong decision and all your hard work goes down the drain.
One mistake could cost you six figures in prize money.
One poor choice could mean your tournament life.

That’s why it’s my hope that this blog on how to prepare for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) will give you the tools and resources you’ll need to become a crusher.

So here are my 5 best tips to help you prepare for the 2019 WSOP:

Tip #5: Have a Plan

If you don’t know where you’re headed, how can you ever expect to get there? What you’ll notice is if you observe top professionals, they outline the events they want to play before the World Series of Poker even starts.

That means they’re planning their commitments months in advance. During my first few summers at the World Series, I took a lackluster approach and tried to play every event. The result is that by the time the Main Event came around I was burnt out and didn’t feel like playing.

Also, going back and forth between cash games and tournaments can be difficult for some players as each format requires its own unique strategy.

I made a bad, unnecessary bluff and went broke on Day 1, so I’ve learned the hard way that having a plan for the summer helps you navigate the World Series and prepare for each event in the best way possible.

If I know, for example, I have an event in a few days that’s important to me, I can stay away from cash games and get the proper rest and study that’s required.

Knowing two weeks or more in advance helps me utilize my time in Vegas the best way possible—juggling all the obligations I have while balancing that with having a good time. In short, planning ahead allows you to optimize your time and schedule.

While I’m all for making a real time audible, if you’re not feeling great or just need a break, I’ve personally found that taking a look at the WSOP Schedule ahead of time and putting on the calendar the events which you want to play is an important step to preparing mentally for the battle ahead.

A good place to start is to ask yourself, ‘what is my priority’? For most people who want to know how to prepare for the WSOP, it’s going to be tournaments. Yet I know some of you are also looking to play cash games on the side to help pay for the trip, so you can ‘freeroll’ the poker tournaments.

Having a solid understanding of which tournaments, you want to play and how many hours on the cash felt you’re aiming for will help you better plan your schedule. In addition, add some purely fun things to the calendar while in Vegas as well.

It’s good to live a little: see a show, head out for a night on the town, or enjoy one of the many incredible restaurants.

In short, the more you plan, the easier it will be to ensure you make time for everything that matters to you.

How to Prepare for the WSOP

Tip #4: Manage Your Bankroll

Now that you have a clear focus for the summer, it’s time to get your bankroll in order. It’s no secret that tournaments have a ton of variance, so you want to make sure you’re only risking a small portion of your bankroll in any one event.

Ideally, you’d have your bankroll divided between cash games and tournaments, essentially treating them as separate entities. Third, you’ll have a different account for expenses as well.

This will help you better determine which tournaments and cash games you can afford to play while ensuring you have money to pay for the trip and cover your costs.

Let’s say, for example, your poker bankroll is $50,000, and your main focus is cash games.

You may choose to divide your bankroll in the following way:
Cash Games: $35,000
Tournaments: $10,000
Expenses: $5,000

While you may opt to play as high as $10/$20 NL cash games or $1,000 tournaments with a $50,000 bankroll, things change when you realize how you’ve broken down your bankroll into three categories.

In the example above, you’d be much better off sticking to $5/$10 NL on the cash side, and $500 tournaments (or selling action if you’re playing higher) to reduce variance and make sure you don’t risk going broke.

If your main focus were tournaments, you may have the opposite breakdown:
Tournaments: $35,000
Cash Games: $10,000
Expenses: $5,000

In this case, I’d say you could have an aggressive strategy and play $1,000 tournaments, but in cash games, you’d want to stick to $1/$3 NL.

Ask any top professional and they will tell you arguably the most important skillset a poker player can have is bankroll management. You can be the best player in the world, but if you don’t manage your money correctly, you will end up broke.

And as you can see using the example above, having a plan and then engineering your bankroll to best help you achieve your goals is integral if you want to know how to prepare for the WSOP.

How to Prepare for the WSOP Alec Torelli

Tip #3: Make Health a Top Priority

For me personally, when it comes to how to prepare for the WSOP, I start with ensuring I’m in the best physical, mental, and emotional shape that I can be.

It’s no secret that playing your best starts with feeling your best, which is why health should be one of your top priorities during the World Series of Poker.

I have a three pillared approach to help me achieve a peak performance state, which I’m going to share with you today.

The three pillars are: diet, exercise, and meditation.


In my experience with self-experimentation, roughly 80% of how I feel can be traced back to what I eat.

And when it comes to 13-hour poker days, I challenge you to start thinking of food as fuel. Don’t get me wrong, there are times in life when food should be a social experience or purely decadent, but save those moments for big family gatherings and your getaway to Tuscany.

If you have lofty goals like winning a poker tournament, then a prerequisite is maintaining a mental acuity where you can make top-notch-decisions for 36 plus hours in a three day span: you need to be sharp and focused.

I am of the belief that everybody is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.

That said, there are some obvious principles that are part of a common sense diet which I believe apply universally.

Here are 5 that seem to hold true for all of us.

What and Where to Eat During the WSOP

1. Cut out processed and fast food, sugar, soda, and fried food and replace it with healthy fruits, vegetables, fats and lean protein. In short, eat a whole foods diet.

2. Don’t eat too much in any one sitting so your body doesn’t have to work hard to digest food. Overeating will make you tired and hinder your ability to stay focused and make great decisions.

The Japanese have a great Confucian teaching: ‘hara hachi bun me’, which is to stop eating when you’re 80% full. I often fall short but aim to live by that. When I do, I feel great.

3. Eat high quality foods. Quality matters, and this applies across the food spectrum. One simple example are oils. Sure, vegetable oil is cheaper, but it’s trash. Instead opt for a better choice, like extra virgin olive oil.

You can apply this same quality principle to all your food decisions. Choose sustainable, organic and minimally processed foods. In short, get everything as close as you can to how it’s found in nature.

4. Stay hydrated. Drink at least two liters of water a day, and perhaps closer to four if you’re exercising or moving a lot outdoors.

5. Watch your caffeine intake and experiment to understand what is right for your body. For example, I know I do better if I don’t drink caffeine every day of the week. Not only does this prevent dependence, but I actually feel the effects when I partake.

Coffee in small doses does wonders for me, but if I have it every day I feel fatigued long-term. In short, I use caffeine when I want that little extra edge to stay focused.

Also, it’s important to be aware of how caffeine affects your sleep, especially for those who use it as a crux to get through the day. This short-term fix will come back to haunt you long term.

The half-life of coffee, for example, is 5-6 hours, which means you’ll still experience 50% of the stimulant from caffeine after that time. That’s why I aim to shut off all caffeine after lunch.

For a few months during the WSOP, don’t let caffeine interfere with your productivity, or maybe switch to something more stable like green tea (matcha is my favorite).

What to Eat at the WSOP

What and Where to Eat at the WSOP

If you want to know how to prepare for the WSOP, it’s important to plan ahead and bring plenty of healthy foods to fuel you during the day. Find things which will keep your blood sugar stable and keep you full and nourished throughout the day.

Snacks like raw nuts, sugar free power bars—both non-vegan and vegan options—an apple, dark chocolate (aim for 90% or greater), and wild caught canned fish in extra virgin olive oil works wonders for me. You can even bring an avocado and some rice cakes to make yourself a quick sandwich while playing. Throw it all in a backpack and you’re good to go.

If you have to order food at the Rio, fortunately there’s All-American Dave’s food truck that’ll enable you to automate this process. They deliver high quality, macro balanced food directly to your table to keep you fueled all day. Meal plans are also available if you’re going to be there for an extended period of time.

I’ve trained exclusively using Dave’s service and got in excellent shape. I use his food delivery service every summer and believe it’s worth every dollar.

Health and nutrition are some of my top priorities in life, so I’m willing to shell out slightly more per meal for a high-quality product. I can cut spending ruthlessly in other less important areas of life, if necessary, but when it comes to food, I’m all-in.

In short, when it comes to how to prepare for the world series of poker, automating your diet and food choices and ensuring they’re the best possible is one of the most important non poker protocols I follow.

How to Prepare for the WSOP


The second factor when it comes to feeling and performing your best is exercise. I don’t need to lecture you on the benefits of exercise for your overall health. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before.

But what I will say is how I’ve used exercise as a tool to help me prepare for poker tournaments.

In large part, I use exercise as a metaphor for the rest of my life, in particular for how I approach poker. Being capable of pushing myself to the limit at the gym and having the mental strength to keep fighting, even when I don’t want to, is an important skill that translates directly to the poker table.

Here’s how I do it:

Those who know me personally are aware I’m borderline obsessed with efficiency.

How do I get the best results for the least amount of time?
Put simply: what’s the 80/20 approach toward fitness?

In experimenting with pretty much every workout variation over the years, I’ve found what works best is high intensity cardio, or HIIT training (high intensity interval training).

Essentially, that means you get your heart rate up for a short period of time, and then let it come down. I do this because this intense effort, followed by a brief period of rest, mimics in-game play.

I’m not merely pushing myself through these intervals for the endorphins and health benefits, that’s just scratching the surface. When done properly, workouts can be much more than that.

I use these intervals to prepare mentally as much as I do physically. During the interval, I’m pushing myself hard while simultaneously thinking about how I want to play, perform and act at the table, simulating an in-game experience.

I may even replay a hand I played during the previous session in my mind, correcting any mistakes and visualizing myself playing the hand perfectly.

Then I rest, just like I do when I fold.

While there are countless ways to do interval training, a simple and effective one is walking uphill on a treadmill or sprinting and walking.

Set the incline to 10.0 and walk for 1 minute at 4 mph or 6 km/h, followed by a one-minute rest at 2.5 mph or 4 km/h. Do these ten times, with a 3 minute warm up and a 3 minute cool down. You’ll be done in 25 minutes and left feeling great.

Bonus points if you do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach as it’s the best way to burn extra fat.

If you’re looking for an App to help you get motivated and guide you along, check out Peloton, which has personal trainers in your ear while you do your outdoor runs or treadmill workouts. It’s incredible stuff.

You could do weights as well, which I normally do three times a week, but when it comes to how to prepare for the WSOP, I’ve found that I need to eat and rest more when I lift heavy, both of which make it difficult to play 13 hour days.

The last thing I want is to get tired around 10:00p.m., right when the action is picking up and the decisions are the most important. That’s why I prefer short yet intense cardio sessions to prepare me for the long game days.

How to Prepare for the WSOP


The last pillar of health and peak performance when it comes to how to prepare for the WSOP is mindfulness. There are thousands of articles and scientific studies behind the benefits of meditation, but when applied specifically to poker, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that staying present and training yourself on how to overcome bad beats is a useful tool to have in your arsenal.

But not all meditation and mindfulness is created equal. There are thousands of different Apps and countless techniques you could adopt. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all here, so I encourage you to experiment with what works best for you.

I’ve found that sitting for 10 minutes with my eyes closed and setting an intention for my day and poker session is a simple yet effective practice.

But I’m always looking for that next level to improve my mental game and become impenetrable. Fortunately, I’ve teamed up with Primed Mind, an app dedicated to helping you play your best and achieve a peak performance state at the poker table.

Primed Mind differs from traditional meditation like Vipassanā in that it uses a combination of visualization and hypnotherapy to help you stay focused, relaxed and motivated. It’s powerful stuff.

With meditations, courses and pregame prep by renowned hypnotist, Elliott Roe there’s literally a meditation for every scenario you will encounter. From how to prepare for the WSOP to avoiding tilt, from a winning mindset course to how to dominate a final table, Primed Mind has a meditation for you.

How to Prepare for the WSOP Primed Mind Meditation

Tip #2: Create a Poker Study Group

Many people have asked me if I have ever taken poker coaching. I always tell them, I’ve never had to.

Alan Sass, Tom Dwan and myself in Rome, 2010

With friends like this, who needs a coach?

My point is, having a strong social circle of poker players can help you improve your game dramatically.

And perhaps nowhere is this more important than during the World Series of Poker. It’s a long summer and having a strong support group to motivate you, hold you accountable and help you get better is a great idea.

I recommend creating a group chat via text where you can share hands and discuss strategy. I do this with poker friends all the time and we’re constantly discussing hands and giving each other honest feedback.

I’ve found that simply knowing I’m going to share a hand with a peer whose opinion I respect helps deter me from making bonehead plays or spazzing off chips. Accountability is a huge motivator to influencing behavior.

One word of caution to the wise: make sure your support group isn’t an outlet to vent about bad beats and complain about your luck. I strongly recommend adopting a no bad beat policy and only allow people to share hands that you can actually learn from. This keeps the focus on improving and making the best decisions, which is the only thing that matters.

Second, ensure that radical honesty is encouraged and that nobody takes offense to others constructive criticism. This is essential to the growth and improvement for everyone in the group.

Struggling to find a motivated, like minded group of poker friends who are helping each other to improve? Check out the Conscious Poker Membership where our private Facebook group is moderated by me and a Conscious Poker coach on a daily basis, giving you direct feedback on your game.

Our community is awesome, and our members are always striving to be the best versions of themselves.

Conscious Poker Membership

Tip #1: Take Your Game to the Next Level

When it comes to how to prepare for the WSOP, studying is imperative to your success. I think we can all agree that studying poker is beneficial to one’s game, but with so much information available today, I know that many of you are overwhelmed with how to best go about doing it.

While there are many ways to study poker, such as watching YouTube videos, much of the content on the internet has more entertainment value than actually practical use.

When it comes to studying poker, you need to be proactive, not just passively absorbing content. If you’re just starting out, I recommend this simple exercise which you can do in 10 minutes or less; it’s one of the best ways to study poker.

YouTube videos will only take you so far. If you’re really looking for that next level, you know you have to invest in yourself and make improving at poker a long-term commitment. To actually put in the work, run the numbers and do exercises that are engineered to make you a better player.

The World Series of Poker is a great time to take that next step. At Conscious Poker, we’ve developed the ultimate resource for players who are looking to improve their poker game and become the best, most feared player at the table.

It’s called the Conscious Poker Membership, and there’s an entire video library dedicated to every aspect of tournament and cash game poker. From deep stack and early stage strategy to mastering ICM and playing final tables, there’s a unique video dedicated to every poker topic you could possibly want to learn.

Conscious Poker Membership Library

Benefits of the Conscious Poker Membership

✅ Access to 90+ in-depth strategy videos on the most prominent poker topics (live, online, tournaments & cash games).

✅ NEW weekly strategy video lessons, where you can submit hands for Alec to analyze and review.

✅ A MONTHLY, live group coaching-call with Alec Torelli, where you can get feedback and ask questions.

✅ Private CP Facebook group to connect with other members, moderated by Alec and a CP coach. Receive a guaranteed response to your hands and questions.

Conscious Poker Membership Free Trial

And now, for a limited time, you can join with a 14-day free trial. You have absolutely nothing to lose and it’s a total freeroll.

If you’re looking for the best way for how to prepare for the World Series of Poker, take advantage of the techniques that are working in 2019 to gain a competitive edge over your opponents and stay ahead of the curve.

I’ll see you on the inside!

How to Prepare for the WSOP Main Event

While all of the above tactics apply to all poker tournaments and WSOP events, if you want to know specifically how to prepare for the WSOP Main Event, you’ll definitely want to double down on all of these strategies.

The reason being, the event is 10+ days long and it’s truly a marathon, not a sprint. As Freddy Deeb told me during my first live poker tournament in the Bahamas in 2005, ‘there’s always time.’

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than during the WSOP Main Event. With two hour levels and a massive amount of chips, you never have to feel pressure to make a move.

Being extremely patient and waiting for the right spots is essential. That said, you also want to have no regrets. Let’s be honest, everyone except one person is going to eventually bust out. 

The advice I always give first timers is to simply play your game and go out on your own terms. It’s much better to go down swinging than it is to sit back and hope to get on base by walking. Be patient, pick your spots carefully, but when you do, go for it.

You’ll want to mentally prepare yourself ahead of time for 10 grueling days of action. One thing I recommend doing is to play Day 1A. This allows you to have two days off (on Day 1B and Day 1C).

You’ll play again on Day 2A, but get another day off on Day 2B before Day 3. This ensures you get the maximum amount of rest between days before the marathon begins on Day 3 down to the finish.

Had you opted to play Day 2B, you’d have to play immediately again on Day 3. Should you be fortunate enough to make it deep, you’ll be glad you had that extra day off to recover.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when it comes to how to prepare for the WSOP and the Main Event, don’t forget to sit back and take it all in. Enjoy the experience. This is a dream come true.

Each year I think back to the 16 year old who was watching poker on TV, just a kid with a dream. The mere fact I get to even play in the Main Event means I’ve already won. That awareness brings on an immense amount of gratitude which helps keep me in a positive headspace for the entire experience.

The rest is just icing on the cake. 

I hope you enjoyed this in-depth blog post on how to prepare for the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

Which tip was your favorite? What tips do you have to prepare for the WSOP?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.


Alec Torelli
Welcome! I'm Alec Torelli, founder of Conscious Poker, a training site dedicated to transforming good players into great ones by providing the best poker strategy and mindset content. I've been a professional poker player for 15 years and have over $1,500,000 in tournament winnings and millions more in both live and online cash games. On this site, I share the lessons I learned during my poker career to help you crush the games, optimize your bankroll, make winning decisions and achieve your poker goals.

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