Ben Adler: 5 pro tips for a great World Series of Poker

Lee Jones poker writer
Lee Jones
Posted on: May 29, 2023 10:56 PDT

We've been following the journey of Las Vegas poker pro Ben Adler for over a year now, starting with his arrival into Sin City, and most recently a meditation on one year of grinding. Ben is now preparing for his second World Series of Poker as a full-time professional player – I wanted to get some tips from him about how to best navigate the WSOP.

For full transparency, Ben is a cash game player, so some of this will be specific to that particular circus tent. But Ben discussed plenty of things that are applicable no matter what form of the game you enjoy. Also, a lot of this will be mostly relevant to folks coming in from out of town. But again, even if you're a Las Vegas local, there are probably some things you should learn (or be reminded of).

I happened to catch Ben when he was out for a lunchtime walk, which segues right into the conversation...

Tip 1 – Have a mission statement for your trip

Lee Jones: So look at you – your second WSOP as a full-time working pro. Now that you're an official expert on this stuff, what's your first tip for a successful WSOP?

Ben Adler: Before the plane even lands at McC... er, Harry Reid, you need a... let's call it a "mission statement" for your trip. Like, when I lived in Chicago, and I'd come out here, yeah, I intended to play poker. But I also wanted to see my friends, have some fun meals, "do the town," as it were. And that's a fine mission statement: "Do the town, see my friends, play some poker."

However, if you're here on a serious poker trip, then you need to be almost 100% focused on that. Your mission statement should be, "Play 4-6 hours of cash games every day," or "These are the six tournaments I want to play, and they're in my phone calendar." So you know that on Wednesday at 7:00pm, you're in the $800 PLO event at Resorts World. Sure, have a drink or two, or go out for noodles with a poker buddy. But if you're crawling out of the Wintergreen Zebra at dawn, you're not going to be on your A-game for the $1,500 bounty event starting at noon.

LJ: Some of the grizzled old pros back in the early days were legendary for burning the candle at both ends, and then playing all day and night. Names like Bill Smith and Mike Laing come to mind. I guess that's just not a thing any more.

BA: I wasn't around for the old days, but I promise you, the people smashing the games these days – both tournament and cash – are not doing that. The competition is so much tougher now. I mean, back in the day, the Doyles, Chips – they could do whatever they wanted. The hometown heroes would come in on the plane, and have basically zero chance against the pros. But now those heroes have access to all the same training, the online sites, live poker all over the United States and the world. You gotta get an edge wherever you can find it – if you've gotten three hours of sleep, the player across the table from you, who got seven hours of sleep, has a huge edge.

Tip 2 – Regulate your schedule

LJ: I note that I caught you on a lunch-time walk. I assume that is a regularly scheduled thing now?

BA: You bet. And that's tip #2. Even if you focus on playing poker, you need to regulate when and how you do it. My schedule these days: I get up not later than 10:00am. I know that sounds awfully late to people who work for the Man, but in the cash poker world, the best games don't start until the evening, after dinner-time.

So I may be playing until late at night, or the wee hours, but I make a cut-off for myself. It's 1:00am, 2:00am – whatever. But then I go home, and get sleep. I get up in the morning, read some emails, and study. Maybe it's hard-core lab time, reviewing a specific spot, or just watching a training video. But it's poker study time. Then there's some food in there somewhere, and definitely exercise. Hey, I'm down 12 pounds from the last time we spoke.

LJ: That's awesome, congratulations – and you were doing this before Shaun Deeb made it famous.

BA: For sure, this schedule regulation is good for my poker, but more importantly, it's good for my whole life. It's a mixed blessing that this town runs 24/7. I can do my grocery shopping at 3:00am, but whatever causes me to do that is not serving me well.

And that's my message to your readers who are coming here for the WSOP. If you're having drinks at 4:00am, or hitting the breakfast buffet at the Bellagio after being up all night, you're not regulated. Make your schedule and stick to it. And by the way, if that means quitting a great $2/5 game when you're stuck heaps, or not signing up for the nightly tournament that's going to run until 2:00am, then that's what you do. Have a plan and stick to it.

Tip 3 – Game select like your bankroll depends on it

LJ: Historically, the cash games during the WSOP were amazing. But the last few years, that's not the intel I'm getting from my friends there.

BA: Part of that is the same thing I was discussing before. It used to be that the tourists getting off the plane were just cannon fodder for the Vegas regulars. So when they came into town for the WSOP, to whatever degree they ended up in cash games, sure, the cash games were great. Now, the "tourists" are listening to Jonathan Little or Bart Hanson on the flight in – it's a different world.

What is still true is that there are a bazillion more cash games going on. So a room that normally has one $2/5 game might have three. And, of course, the whole Paris/Horseshoe (né Bally's) convention area – it's like a massive new poker room has been added to the city for 5-6 weeks. But I think the ratio of good games to bad ones is still mostly constant. So if there were four good games in town for every bad one, that's still true – there's just many more of both kinds.

But in either case, you should never feel glued to a seat. I promise you that between the hours of noon and midnight during the WSOP, there will be a dozen good $2/5 games, and 50 good $1/3 games in this town. Your job is simply to keep moving until you find one of them. I've said this before, and it's one of my few key pieces of wisdom: "In the city of Las Vegas, there's no excuse for sitting in a bad poker game."

And here's an extra secret clue: the games at Paris/Horseshoe are the best. They have the most tables there, so the lines aren't as long. Many out-of-towners either don't know about the cash games at the WSOP, or they're just mono-focused on playing at the Bellagio, Aria, Wynn – the legendary places.

I should also mention that the WSOP cash games are the first stop for players who have just busted out of a tournament...

LJ: Ooooh...

BA: Exactly. So if you need an Aria or Bellagio nickel for your chip collection, fine. But I'd put my serious play in right there in the cash game area at the WSOP.

I do want to add that this is all focused on "lower" stakes games, up to $2/5, maybe $5/10. I don't play bigger games, but what I hear from people that do – the big games are just not that good during the WSOP. That's not to say there won't be good ones here and there – there will be. But if you're playing bigger than $5/10, you'll have to be all the more rigorous about game selection.

Tip 4 – Manage your trip bankroll carefully

LJ: You and I have talked about bankroll a lot over the past 15 months (!) since you turned pro. How does this apply to the WSOP?

BA: Look, you're coming into town with $X in your pocket, and you're going to stay for Y days. Or maybe the money isn't physically in your pocket – it's better if it's not – but you have budgeted that much money for the trip.

Las Vegas poker pro Ben Adler

Then you need to parcel it out carefully. If you have budgeted $500 for each day, and you lose $500 the first day of the trip, then quit playinguntil the next day. It seems so easy when I say it here, but we've all blown an entire week's poker budget in the first day or two. Don't be that person. If you bust your playing budget for one day, go to a movie. Go hike around Red Rocks or Mt. Charleston. Have that coffee with somebody you haven't seen since last year. Just don't get dealt into another hand until the next day.

This is all part of this regulation that I'm talking about. If you can be regulated about bankroll management, and not let the lights and buzz get to you, then you're that far ahead of all the other players.

Tip 5 – Enjoy the moment

LJ: What do you want to close with, Ben?

BA: The most important tip of all: enjoy yourself. If you're a poker player, there is nothing – nothing – like being at the World Series of Poker – people call it "summer camp" for a reason. This is our big celebration of the game every year, and you can cut the excitement with a knife.

I mean, I'm sitting there in my $2/5 game, and it's all fine. But 20 feet away, there's a $200/400 game going on. Across the room, there's a $25k high-roller event on and all the best poker players in the world are a one-minute walk across the carpet from me.

You'll recall that the first time I came out here, to start my journey as a pro player, the WSOP was on – it was the autumn version in 2021. I was a wide-eyed kid from Chicago, who couldn't quite believe what was happening – that I was going to be a pro poker player.

But even after a year as a working pro, I'm super excited for the World Series. And I hope your readers will be too. In what other area of sports or recreation do you get to play directly with, or alongside, the biggest names in the game? How often are you out on the golf course, and hey, there's Tiger Woods practicing his putting?

But at the World Series, you're in your $2/3 game, while Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, and Ike Haston are sitting in a chair just like yours, getting dealt two cards, just like you are. If you're a tournament player, you could find yourself sitting at the same table with one of your heroes for a few hours. It's a unique thing about our game, and it's glorious.

Also, (most of) the players are truly approachable. You can walk up, shake their hand, even ask for a selfie.

LJ: Hey, I didn't ask Nate Silver for a selfie, but it was amazing to meet him.

BA: That's the whole point. There are poker legends, and real world legends, all of whom are here for the same reason you are – to play poker. So we all have that shared interest and love in common. I encourage your readers – if you see one of your heroes, go say hi. I mean, I wouldn't catch them right when they busted out of the Main, and definitely don't tell them a bad beat story. But if you engage your hero with class, they will likely respond with class.

Mostly, be in the moment, and enjoy the experience – there's nothing like the World Series of Poker.