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How Difficult is it to Win the World Series of Poker Tournament?

| May 20, 2022 9:16 am PDT
WSOP logo with poker imagery

This one is for you if you have ever wondered how tough it is to win the World Series of Poker (WSOP). 

A bit of background before we start — a question was posed to me recently by someone who wanted to know how to win the World Series of Poker. They wanted to know what it would take for an amateur to do it, and whether you would need a phenomenal skillset or just a lot of luck.

If you have ever found yourself wondering how hard it is to win the WSOP, I will attempt to answer that question for you today. I’ll be looking to establish how to get to the World Series of Poker and, more importantly, how to walk away as a champion in the main event.

Today, I’m going to do things slightly differently. We’re going to launch from the final stage and work our way back to the very start. So, the first thing we will cover is how to be a WSOP champion.

In the words of Chief Wiggum, let’s roll.

How to Win the WSOP – What it Takes to Be a Champion

Phil Hellmuth

You’ve been crushing it on the best online poker sites and making decent money from your skills. Now, you want to test yourself against the big dogs.

Of course, the kennels don’t get much bigger than the World Series of Poker. Just ask guys like all-time WSOP bracelet record holder Phil Hellmuth or all-time great Daniel Negreanu.

Regardless, that fire in your belly burns. But you want to know how to reach the WSOP final table for a shot at ultimate glory before you jump in. Why? Because you don’t just want to be there; you want to be crowned the champion and take all that comes with it. 

And let’s be honest. The glory of the bracelet might be for some, but the money is for everyone. As much as some of us are reluctant to admit it, the thought of bagging these live-changing sums alone is enough to make even the stiffest knees buckle.

Biggest World Series of Poker Prizes
Tournament Champion Prize Pool Winner’s Prize
2006 WSOP Main Event Jamie Gold $82,512,162 $12,000,000
2019 WSOP Main Event Hossein Ensan $80,548,600 $10,000,000
2018 WSOP Main Event John Cynn $74,015,600 $8,800,000
2010 WSOP Main Event Jonathan Duhamel $68,799,059 $8,944,310
2017 WSOP Main Event Scott Blumstein $67,877,400 $8,150,000

The names you see above are just a small number of champions. 

If you asked them how hard it is to win the World Series of Poker, I would assume that the unanimous answer would be “tough.” But that’s not exactly a specific one. And nor should it be. After all, these guys all come from different backgrounds and achieved glory in their specific ways. 

But the one thing they have in common is that they are winners. 

What Makes a WSOP Winner?

Regardless of what obstacles were put in front of them or the quality of their opposition, they beat the odds to take the win. And now, they are — unless they have been jaw-droppingly profligate with their prize money — filthy rich.

As you can probably imagine, these players did not just rock up with empty pockets to the table. I mean, to win what is effectively the Super Bowl of poker is going to take a lot of skill, extreme luck, and a big bankroll. 

Ha. You forgot about that one, right? Yeah. Those “get rich quick” schemes don’t belong in poker. There is a process, which is very arduous, and very few will make it to the end. Even some of the most famous poker players of all time have failed in their efforts to hit the final table. 

Tip

Although there are tips for winning the World Series of Poker, none are guaranteed to work. Remember, psychology is a huge part of this game. Everyone has their eyes on the final stages, but many forget that the early stages count most.

How to Get to the World Series of Poker Final Table

What does it take to win the WSOP? Go ahead and ask armchair Joe down at the bar for his thoughts. Or, if you have a little gray matter occupying the space upstairs, consider what previous champions and legends of the series have to say. 

“It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is more important to survive the early stages than it is to accumulate chips. You can’t win the tournament on day one, but you can lose it.”Daniel Negreanu

With six World Series of Poker bracelets under his name, the words of the legendary Negreanu should be treated like gold. As per the quote above, Negreanu stresses the importance of surviving those early stages, not slaying them and just surviving them. 

Now, that’s the mindset of a champion, right there. But of course, there is more to just adopting what is fundamental advice when your money is on the line. It will take more than that to get past the initial barriers that present themselves.

But how do you prepare for those hurdles when you don’t know what they might be? For Negreanu, of course, his challenges differ greatly from most others. Given his greatest hands are plastered all over the internet, we know more about him than he would about us. 

Even if you know your enemy, another will follow. So, there is no one way of doing things right. If there were, everyone could potentially be a champion. Hypothetically speaking, of course. 

Are There Simple Tips for Winning the WSOP?

Many of us want to know how to win the World Series of Poker. But it’s just not that simple.

It’s like asking how to become NBA champions or fishing for tips on winning the FIFA World Cup. There are so many different factors at play that it requires a great deal of understanding, strategy, and adaptability to feel moderately prepared.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume that you have at least done your homework on this tournament. If not, our World Series of Poker guide will go through everything you need to know about the world’s foremost card tournament.

One thing that separates the best poker players of all time from those you have never heard of is their ability to read a tournament. Every single tournament will be different from the other. The players you face will pose unique puzzles that must be cracked.

But perhaps the most crucial thing to remember when asking how to get to the World Series of Poker, at least where the majors are concerned, is being adaptable.

That is arguably the toughest skill to master. Why? Because it has very few tangible qualities and depends on how sufficiently you can read a situation.

Perfecting an Adaptive Style for the WSOP

How hard is it to win the World Series of Poker? As you can tell, it’s extremely tough. How hard is it to win the WSOP without an adaptive style of play? I’d say near impossible.

Instead of simply explaining why that is, allow me to touch on a few points regarding adaptability. First, you need it in poker. The game, the players, and the attitudes are continuously evolving. So much so that it is so easy to get left behind.

Of course, the fundamentals of Texas hold ’em, for example, remain the same. The best hand you can start with is a pair of aces. The worst offsuit hand is a 2 and 7.
Antonio Esfandiari

While you don’t want to go absolutely nuts and deviate from what works at a base level, you do need to prepare to adapt. Anyone asking how to win the WSOP should keep that firmly in mind. 

It doesn’t matter whether you are looking to double your money playing poker at the best online casinos or win a bracelet at the WSOP. If you are incapable of modifying your game depending on the tournament or opponent, you will seldom find success.

So, what does it take to win the WSOP? Again, luck is a major part of it. But being a patient, adaptive player is something you can work at. Fortune is its own entity. Even with Texas Hold’em pre-flop strategies or “super guides” on your side.

Here are four basic things to keep in mind with that. You can call them the four P’s if you like. That sounds a little corny, but it does help with remembering then.

  • Practice Makes Perfect – It does. I don’t give a hoot how trite that sounds. The more you play, the better you become at knowing your own game and being able to read others.
  • Pay Attention to Everything – Just as a boxer’s knockout punch looks “lucky” to the untrained eye, the reality is that they have been monitoring their opponents’ every step. These could be key to your own KO at the table, from unpromoted gestures to lackadaisical errors.
  • Protect Your Stack – Instead of allowing your ego to run away with itself, look to make the most of a big stack in the middle stages. When you enter the bubble stage, you can use your higher value to chip away at low-stacked opponents and adapt your game for those in a similar position to yourself.
  • Pinpoint Your Position – Paying too much attention to what others are doing can lead you to lose track of your own position. This is one of the most fatal yet common pitfalls for players.

Off the back of these basic tips for winning the World Series of Poker, you should also extensively study what the guys at the final table have done in the past.

Remember that not everyone is chasing bracelets. Some will fold just to ensure they get a taste of the pot, while others are most certainly after what money cannot buy. Well, technically. According to some, the cost of a WSOP bracelet is around $500,000. But this has been heavily debated

Anyway, let’s move on to the final section of this piece. This will explain how difficult the World Series of Poker process is, how to buy in, and more.

Can Anyone Enter the World Series of Poker?

WSOP logo

Rather than starting from scratch in this piece, I thought it would be interesting to go the other way.

In doing so, I started with how to win the WSOP before taking a step back. We looked over who to get to the final table in the World Series of Poker before regressing on how to adapt your style to give you the best shot. 

Now it’s time to cover the basics. And for most of you, that means putting the gears in motion. For example, you might have already tried your luck playing poker on the Bovada casino site and now fancy yourself as the next big thing. Or perhaps you are a modest beginner with curiosity on the brain. 

Before you ask how to win the World Series of Poker, you first need to know how to get there. Again, I would refer you to our complete WSOF guide I referenced earlier for the basics to the more comprehensive bits, but I’ll run through some of them here.

  • First, the World Series of Poker encompasses 74 events. The buy-ins and formats differ, with most of the tournaments played in Las Vegas. Some are played online. 
  • Anyone can enter, providing they meet eligibility requirements and can afford the buy-ins. The WSOP registration process covers everything you need to know.
  • There are no handicaps when it comes to tournaments. Regardless of skillsets and experience, all players will start with equal sets of chips.
  • What does it take to win the WSOP? Well, if you’re planning to enter the main event, the buy-in is $10,000. If you have that and can part with it, you can start dreaming.
  • If you don’t have $10,000 to spare, the most cost-effective way to gain entry is through a qualification process and build your way up. Playing at playing online poker sites with satellite tournaments can potentially get you a seat at the final table.

Sounds exciting, right? 

Of course, no one in their right mind will want to put $10k down with little to no experience on the poker tables. So, I’d suggest practicing as though your life depended on it before you even dream of getting your hands on a bracelet.

Why Winning the World Series of Poker is Difficult

Poker imagery graphic

Know you know how to win the World Series of Poker. Or, should I say, what it takes to win.

The competition is so stiff. The chances are that you will be absolutely whaled on, even with luck on your side. So, when anyone asks you how to win the WSOP, remember to tell them everything you have learned here.

Still, even the greats had to start somewhere. I do not doubt that you could be a future WSOP main event winner if you apply yourself. A lot must go in your favor for that to happen, but someone must win, right?

Alright, the same could be said for the best actor award at the Grammys. Or the NFL MVP. But do not let that deter you from the fact that you can certainly give it a shot. 

I want to go out with something punchy and emphatic, but I don’t think that is necessary here. Instead, I will leave you with the following tips to help you get better at poker. Perhaps someday, these will contribute to your glorious run at the World Series of Poker!

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Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

More Posts by Adam Contact Adam

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