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Surviving WPT Boot Camp
The idea of a boot camp didn't appeal to me. The prospect of grunting and sweating while being yelled at by a drill sergeant was low on my to-do list. But when they threw in the word poker, my ears perked up.
Poker was part of my life a long time ago, playing with my high school friends every weekend, drinking beer and just having a good time. It hadn't escaped my attention, being an editor of gaming publications, that poker had taken the country by storm. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call to see if I wanted to mosey on down to Foxwoods for a weekend-long WPT Poker Boot Camp.
This was my first time at Foxwoods, too. My family oohed and aahed when we came upon this Emerald City in a sea of trees. The soaring hotel towers with their green-colored glass features made quite an impression. As we burrowed floor after floor into the self-park garage, we got a sense of how popular the casino was.
After being checked in by a friendly and efficient staff, we went up to our room. The rooms in the Grand Pequot tower are excellent with beautiful furniture and a great view of the surrounding trees. It's a much different experience than Las Vegas, where you need to close your room curtains to get a good night's sleep.
The next morning I went down to the Convention Center where the Boot Camp was being held. I signed in and mentally prepared myself for the non-stop poker I was going to experience for at least the next 8 hours. As a novice, I didn't know what to expect from my Boot Camp experience.
The Boot Camp is limited in size to ensure a good instructor to player ratio, so I knew I wasn't going to get lost in the crowd, but I was curious as to what the level of knowledge you needed to keep up.
The enthusiasm the instructors have for the game was evident from the moment they started. This wasn't a by-the-numbers presentation. It was filled with rapid-fire information and anecdotes that kept me engaged from the get-go. The basics were taken care of in the first fifteen minutes. If you plan on attending, you should know the rules and how the game works, the blinds, and basic things like the order of winning hands. Other than that, everything is covered. Strategies are explained in detail like proper raising and reraising formulas, when to call, opening hands by position, technical aspects such as real and implied pot odds, tournament strategy, table image, and tells.
During both days, we had labs after instruction sections. Labs gave us a chance to try out what we learned in real poker action with feedback from the pros on how we did. The group was split into a few tables, with some students playing and others observing. Hands were dealt and we were on our own as to what to do. Once we played our hands out, everyone flipped over their cards (we put them on the rail instead of mucking) and the poker pros analyzed what we had done. This was not only a great tool for learning and discussion, but quite entertaining too. It was during the labs that I got a sense of how complicated a game poker can be. Our play was critiqued and we could see what was missed and what was right on.
The two days of instruction went by quickly for me, and I absorbed a lot of useful information about poker strategies and techniques. At the end of the second day it was time to put my knowledge to the test in a No-Limit Texas Hold'em tournament for all of the students. Even with all I learned in the two days, it was a rookie mistake that knocked me out pretty early. I'll just say that if your opponent is betting all-in on a hand early on, he's usually going to have a great hand. Trust me on that.
The kicker of the weekend was that the winner of the Boot Camp's tournament was a poker newbie. Pat Ferrucci, who took all the lessons he learned to heart and played brilliantly for over seven hours.
If you're looking to improve your game and learn from some of the best pros in the poker world, I'd highly recommend the WPT Poker Boot Camp.