For those of you who already have experience in the major tournament arena, there will be nothing in this article that you don’t already know. However, you may appreciate this article just the same, because, now that I have played some major tournaments, I have seen and felt firsthand the rigors of tournament play.
In sharing these observations with the as yet uninitiated poker player and public, I hope to add a greater sense of legitimacy to those who succeed consistently at tournaments. Nothing has increased my respect for accomplished tournament players then my own foray into the arena. In a word, tournament poker is hard.
First let me share some of my background, so that you know what I had to compare tournament play to. If you have read my other articles then you know I am a board certified OB/GYN. To get to where I am today requires the following. Four years of college, during which you take a test, called the Medical College Acceptance Test (MCAT) which is a six-hour exam. If you are unfortunate like I am and bomb the test, because you play more poker than study chemistry, then you may not get into medical school the first time you apply. In my case I found myself trying dental school, which I hated, except for the poker games. There I re-took the MCAT, reapplied to medical school and finally got excepted.
In medical school we took Part One of the National Medical Board Exam, which was two eight-hour days of tests, with very detailed questions regarding all of the basic medical science. To become licensed to practice general medicine, we also had to complete Part Two of those boards as a senior in medical school, and Part Three during internship. Part Two and Three were shorter exams taking four to six hours, and I passed those easily without even studying.
After medical school comes ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล internship and residency. Medical school is a breeze compared to residency. In residency I learned my specialty of OB/GYN, working over a hundred hours per week, with an average of two days off a month. We took a four-hour test each year to track our progress, which meant we had to study on our own time in addition to the hours that we worked. At the end of our last year we took the written OB/GYN board, which was a four hour exam. The grand finale was the oral board exam, which is a face-to-face examination. This occurs after we have been in practice for two and a half years. We record all of our major cases for one year and the examiners ask questions about our management.
Almost every one walks out feeling like they have failed. Some said to me that they actually vomited after the test, even though they eventually receive a letter congratulating them on the passing of the exam. Actually I am kind of different in that I enjoyed taking the test, always confident that I had passed. The preparation is what I found tiring.
So why this apparently self serving diatribe on how much I went through to get here? I simply want to give you the background against which I contrast tournament play. This past year (2001) I made three final tables at major tournaments. The intensity with which I had to concentrate to get to that point was the most profound I had ever faced. I walked out of the card room nearly trembling. I couldn’t count my chips. I would call out a bet and I would then be unable to put the right amount of chips out in the middle. I was so focused on the game that I had no brainpower left to count or add with. At the end I was in a pure state of exhaustion.
Now I can play in a ring game for fifteen hours and sometimes be sharper at the end than at any time during the day. But in tournaments the constant fear of elimination raises the consequences of the slightest error. I use every bit of my mind to be vigilant against error. After playing all day in a tournament, I simply cannot effectively play in a ring game. I have nothing left.
After taking my Part One national boards, my sixteen hour exam over two days (an exam in which I finished in the top ten percent nationwide) I wasn’t even tired. I went out early in the evening and played some golf. My mind was stimulated by the testing, rather than fatigued. I was ready for more. I felt the same exhilaration after my oral board. When the exam’s end had come I felt like I was just getting warmed up.
So back to the issue of how hard tournament poker is. It is the most mentally draining activity I have ever engaged in. I think that it is an extremely profound statement given the many challenges I have faced to get to where I am professionally. I have definitely faced some grueling intellectual challenges, yet none have been more draining than playing a tournament through to the final table.
Of course most people see us as playing in a game all day. They say, “Why are you so tired all you did is play cards all day!” The next time someone says that to you direct them to this article.
The last thing I want to add is that as much as I enjoy playing poker, I would hate for my livelihood to depend on my tournament play. It is too exhausting a line of work, only to be eliminated without making the money. It’s bad enough to face defeat. It is another thing to face eviction if you do not make the money. Hence, playing tournaments and occasionally beating some of the big name pros has not engendered a “they ain’t so good, I can beat them” attitude.
On the contrary. My attitude is ” Wow! I never realized that this was so hard! You actually make a living doing this?” To me, making a living playing tournament poker is like cleaning minefields or being on the bomb squad. One mistake and poof there goes your bankroll. I salute anyone who can subsist on his/her tournament winnings.