Review: WSOP Poker Academy @ Winstar

by , Mar 2, 2009 | 7:37 am

WSOPA Student Interview

Many Dallas Fort Worth poker players can clearly remember when Winstar didn’t give two hoots about Poker. At that same time, the then soon-to-be ‘big games’ were popping up all over North Texas. Many of those have since come and gone as players come to prefer driving an hour north over getting shot to death. But this alone wasn’t going to do the heavy lifting required to further increase the infamous Texas vs. Oklahoma license plate ratio of the Winstar parking lot. It would take a few years, an upstart tournament series and TV show, and finally one damn nice poker room upgrade. It appears now that the players are taking Winstar as a serious poker venue, so are promoters. Most recently, the WSOP.

Last weekend, I was given the opportunity to join a few dozen amateur players for the most recent installment of the WSOP Poker Academy. This event’s focus was near and dear to my heart; Tournament Strategy. Although I get more than my own fair share of top-notch professional tournament wisdom via poker and biz bud, Tom Schneider, I was very much looking forward to the ever present contrast that would be offered by different pros, including Bernard Lee, Michael Gracz, Greg Raymer, and friends. I would not be disappointed.

I arrived late on day-1, during the live hand demonstrations. This fun and intimate portion of the schedule was clearly where student players would get the most bang for their $1,700 bucks. It wouldn’t have taken Joe Navarro to tell me that the leaned-in, uber attentive players agreed. I was actually surprised with the enthusiasm with which the lessons were provided. It was immediately clear that instructors were really enjoying the opportunity for players’ direct interactions and were making the most of each and every mock hand.

Next up to the podium was Mindset Coach, Sam Chauhan. I’ll start off by saying that I am a big fan of such studies and disciplines as hypnosis, NLP, and Subliminal Persuasive Linguistics. However, I never felt like Chauhan really connected with the audience at a subject matter level. You can rest assured that there were plenty of interesting psych-related facts, stories, and antidotes. But a player looking to relate this specifically to poker would likely miss a lot of the lesson while they silently bridged the gaps in their heads. I think some poker-based scenarios would have been an invaluable application of Chauhan’s prowess and something that student players would have been chomping at the bit to implement. None-the-less, this segment was more than adequate for the amateur player pool, and a very welcomed addition to this informative series.

If you were looking for well explained points on tournament strategy, the Class sessions lead by Mr. Raymer, Lee, and Gracz did not disappoint. While their on-stage microphone tug-o-war’s were occasionally distracting and often led to off-topic insider banter and impromptu prop betting, it was soon clear to me that while I might have wanted to call clock more than once, the student-players were totally eating it up. Additionally, their explanations of the finer points and strategy rationale were very well considered and communicated just as clearly. Even from the back of the class, I could see light bulbs over a sea of regularly nodding and attentive heads.

One of the great bonuses of this series is the Day-1 Tournament, where the player-students get to put freshly sharpened pencils to paper in a live tournament featuring all of the professional instructors. For many, playing in an event of this size (super small) with a WSOP Main Event Champ is worth the price of admission alone. But instead, to the winner goes the following spoils: All expense paid trip to Vegas for a pre-Main Event primer and single-table satellite into the big show, and paid entry into the WSOPA Tournament of Champions, Free WSOPA entry for the event of their choice, and a shiny new pair of Oakleys. Not bad!

While I later went on to win the tournament, which was very exciting, it’s certainly the people, camaraderie, and insta-friends that stole the show for me. In fact, I’ve already been in email contact with a few of them who I very much enjoyed meeting and are looking forward to reading this post. As it turns out, all of these events seem to create the same environment, explained a member of the staff.

If that’s true, I’m definitely looking forward to my next WSOP Academy! If you see me there, say Hello. I’ll be the guy at the final table with the Pokerati patch on.

One Comment to “Review: WSOP Poker Academy @ Winstar”

  1. Shirley Avina

    Just looked at this article on the WSOP site. I am the crazy lady who is on the table. sure brought back memories.

    Also, I knew you would be successful. Would love to see you again. Maybe I can behave myself.