The Rec’s guide to the WSOP with Jim Reid: Part One

Poker player Jim Reid at the 2023 WSOP
Jim Reid
Posted on: March 20, 2024 13:17 PDT

Jim Reid is a longtime lover of poker, a member of the  PokerOrg Player Advisory Board, and host of the popular RecPoker podcast.

In part one of this two-part series, Jim shares some advice for recreational players looking to get the most out of this summer’s World Series of Poker - specifically those hoping to play tournaments towards the lower end of the buy-in scale. Check out Part 2 here.

I’m a huge fan of Matt Berkey; I have deep respect for his insights and tireless advocacy around the game, but I do take issue with a point he made last month.

On the Only Friends podcast, he advocated for doing away with all WSOP tournaments under $1,000. For context, and so as not to put words in his mouth, here is the whole conversation.

Matt makes some excellent arguments about the effects of inflation on tournament entry value, the challenges that massive fields contribute to the overall playing experience, and how the higher rake at lower buy-in events will negatively affect the players. But despite all that, in my opinion the low buy-in WSOP tournaments remain crucial to building the game.

The essence of the WSOP, for many, lies in the experience itself. While I grant that Matt is advocating for a better experience, it is also a less accessible one. Fundamentally I believe our poker community is strongest when our doors are open the widest. It isn’t ‘summer camp’ if it isn’t a time for camaraderie, hope, community and challenge.

Playing for fun… seriously

The WSOP Main Event bracelet 2023

A player of Berkey’s experience and stature may no longer remember the thrill of planning your first World Series, but I get really excited when they drop the WSOP schedule. It signals the one time of year that I know I’ll be down in Las Vegas meeting up with old poker pals, playing cash games until the wee hours, taking shots in big tourneys, making new friends and meeting my heroes.

Like a lot of you, I’m a recreational player. That means I don’t play for a living, I play for fun, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s more fun when you win! So I take it seriously: I study, I coach, I manage my bankroll, I game-select as well as I can, and since I don’t get to travel to play live events very often, I really try to get the most out of those experiences.

This is true of so many recreational players I talk to. Every year, many of us travel to Vegas for the first time to take our shot. It is a right of passage; one made with an equal eye on valuing the experience and trying to do our best. Playing in Vegas isn’t just about the buy-in, it’s about the overpriced food, the resort fees, and all the other tricks to shake down a wallet. For many first-timers, that first time experience is only possible when the tournament buy-in is under $1k.

Poker player David Williams at the 2023 WSOP David Williams Jamie Thomson

But once they have a taste, they come back year after year. A little bit more seasoned, a little bit wiser, and maybe now they can take that step into a $1k or higher. This is true for me, and I’d be really saddened for our poker ecosystem if those entry-level tournaments went away.

So with all that in mind, I’m here to share some lessons I’ve learned so recreational players can get the most out of an extended trip to Las Vegas this summer. In part two I’ll be looking at how you can find great value when it comes to things like food and accommodation, but first let’s look at the biggest reason many of us get excited about the WSOP: the tournaments themselves.

Set your budget and build your schedule

As soon as the schedule comes out I focus on NLHE events, and I base my playing schedule around one primary tournament or flight each day. The first thing to do is set your budget. If you’re just dipping your toe in and playing one tournament, great! Go for it and you know your budget right off the bat. But if you are planning an extended stay across multiple tournaments, it gets more complicated.

I now feel more comfortable playing up to $1,500, so I look for tournaments in that price range - ideally where even if I max-fire every entry and rebuy that day, I still won’t have to lay out more than $1,500-$2,000 in a given day.

Playing in my comfort zone really helps me when I’m at the table; I feel like I can pull the trigger every time it’s called for, and I don’t have to play as ‘scared money.’ This year I was able to put a slate of eight bracelet events together over two weeks, all with tournaments that cost $1k or less to enter, from the $600 Deepstack on Tuesday June 25 through to the $1,000 NLHE Freezeout a couple weekends later on July 6-7.

Faraz Jaka shows off his WSOP bracelet, 2023 Faraz Jaka Jamie Thomson

Below is my overview of all eight of these bracelet events: if you fired one bullet at each tournament, you would pay a total of $5,400 in tournament entries. If you fired one bullet on each flight, it would be an even $7,000. And if you had to fire every possible rebuy on every flight, even with these lower buy-in tournaments it would come to a whopping $11,500. That’s 115% of the price of entering the Main Event itself!

Date Event # Name One Bullet Today Max Total Today Starting Stack Late Reg Ends
June 25 62 PokerNews Deepstack $600 $1,200 30k 9
June 26 64 Deep Stack $600 $1,200 30k 12
June 27 67 Salute to Warriors $500 $1,000 50k 9
June 28 70a Colossus 1A $400 $800 40k 12
June 29 70b Colossus 1B $400 $800 40k 12
June 30 70c Colossus 1C $400 $800 40k 12
July 1 75 Tag Team $500 $500 20k 8
July 2 78 Mini-Main $1,000 $1,000 60k 12
July 3 80a Independence Day 1A $800 $1,600 40k 12
July 4 80b Independence Day 1B $800 $1,600 40k 12
July 6 82 NLHE Freeezeout $1,000 $1,000 20k 8

Many of these tournaments fall on consecutive days, making it impossible to play them all if you ever advance to a day 2. And while you shouldn’t expect to have to max-fire every event, you also shouldn’t expect to get through on one bullet every time.

As you budget, you should expect your actual outlay will likely be somewhere in between all those numbers listed above. The best way to manage your bankroll investment in a schedule like this is to be disciplined when it comes to rebuys.

Now that you know what tournaments you’d like to play, it’s time to pick your dates, accommodation, travel and other activities. So join me for part two next week and I’ll cut you in on the best places to stay, eat and catch your breath during the most exciting time in the poker year.