The #1 Poker Success Secret of WSOP Champions

#1 Poker Success Secret of WSOP Champions
Have you ever dreamed about playing at the final table of the WSOP (World Series of Poker)?

Do you want to become a famous poker millionaire with all the gold and diamond bracelets to prove it? Maybe you have watched Rounders 87 times like me?

I think we all have these poker dreams at some point.

But the reality is that some people actually make them happen. You know the names of the famous pros, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey and so on.

Phil Hellmuth in particular currently has 15 WSOP bracelets which is by far the most in history.

Sure, people love to rag on him for his outbursts at the poker table but his results simply do not lie. And believe me, it isn't that he is just more "lucky" than everybody else either.

In this article I am going to reveal the #1 poker success secret that these millionaire WSOP champions don't want you to know.

#1 Poker Success Secret of WSOP Champions - Survive

Yes, you heard that right. The #1 poker success secret of millionaire World Series of Poker champions is to simply survive.

Let me explain.

We often see massive fields at the WSOP these days. In fact the Main Event often draws as many as 8,000 entrants or more.
Now even though the vast majority of these entrants were amateurs, there is no way to navigate through a minefield like this without getting lucky again and again.

But in order to put yourself in a position to get lucky, you have to be in the tournament!

One of the biggest mistakes that many poker amateurs make in a massive tournament fields like this is trying to gamble it up big time on the first day.

This is the completely wrong approach.

World champion tournament poker pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phill Hellmuth will instead do everything they can to avoid gambling on day 1.

They will play a solid tight and aggressive poker strategy and only put large amounts of their chips in the pot with a very strong hand that has a strong statistical likelihood of winning.

And this is because they understand the crucial importance of simply surviving and making it to day 2 and then beyond.

Poker Skill Always Wins in the End

Why is simply surviving in a big poker tournament like the WSOP so important though?

It is because they know that if they can avoid getting into huge all-in situations on the very first day, they give themselves a much better chance to win the tournament.

Because the thing that you always have to remember about poker tournaments of this size, such as the World Series of Poker Main Event, is that it is a 7 day event (if you want to win it that is).

This year was a bit of an oddity of course with the global pandemic and the entire WSOP being held online for the first time ever. 

But typically, when played in Las Vegas, the biggest tournaments in the WSOP take many days to complete.

Daniel Negreanu World Series of Poker

And world champion poker pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth fully understand that nobody wins the WSOP Main Event on day 1.

In fact, very frequently, the chip-leader after day 1 is nowhere to be found by day 5. They have usually long been eliminated from the tournament.

So this is why it doesn't even matter if you only have a small chip stack going into day 2. The most important goal is just to get there, and avoid gambling it up and taking very small edges against all the crazy amateurs on day 1.

And this is because skill always wins in the end in poker.

By simply making it to day 2, world champion poker pros can take their time and pick their spots as the tournament settles down after all the crazy gamblers get eliminated.

This will allow them to get all their chips in the middle with a much bigger mathematical edge, should they choose to play a big pot.

Also, since the structure of most big WSOP events is extremely good, you don't have to worry about getting blinded out.

So even if you enter day 2 with just your starting stack from day 1, you will still have plenty of room to pick and choose your spots.

By the way, if you currently only play small low buyin tournaments online, make sure you check out my comprehensive guide to the best low limit tournament strategy.

Patience is the Real Poker Success Secret of WSOP Champions

And so the big poker success secret of world champion pros really just boils down to patience.

They have "been there, done that" so many times and they understand, once again, that nobody wins a massive tournament like the WSOP Main Event on day 1.

Here's the real kicker though: 

You absolutely can lose the WSOP on day 1. And that is by gambling it up in extremely high variance coinflip type situations.

The real key to massive tournament poker success is learning how to survive and thrive among massive fields. 

And sometimes this means learning how to remain patient and simply turn down high variance spots to gamble (because your tournament survival is more important).

For example, many world champion poker pros like Daniel Negreanu or Phil Hellmuth will routinely turn down a situation to go all-in preflop with a hand like:

QQ vs AK

And this is because they know that their edge with QQ is only 57% in this spot. That is, they will win the pot 57% of the time.

The #1 Poker Success Secret of WSOP Champions

As a quick aside many people are actually shocked to learn this. They think it is 50/50. But it is not. QQ is 57% to win versus Ace King offsuit all-in preflop.

However, there is still no reason for a world champion poker pro to take such a slight edge for all of their chips on day 1 of the tournament, or even day 2 or day 3 for that matter.


Because they have a 43% chance of being completely eliminated from the tournament! This is still very high. They don't want to take on this much risk, like most amateurs unwittingly will.

They know that a winning poker strategy for tournaments in particular relies on looking for lower variance edges than this (i.e. 70/30, 80/20) in order to risk all of your chips, especially in the early going.

So for example in this particular situation most poker pros will often choose to just flat call preflop with QQ instead of re-raising.

This allows them to keep the pot smaller and see a cheap flop instead of starting a raise and re-raise war that will only end in a high variance slightly better than coinflip for all of their chips.

Instead, they can choose to play a big pot or a small pot depending on the board texture and if their are any over-cards to their pocket queens.

By the way, if you have difficulty playing your pocket QQ, I have already written the most comprehensive guide available online to playing pocket queens optimally.

Back to the main point here though. 

Poker pros will instead let all the amateurs take massive coinflips like this on the first couple days of the tournament and eliminate themselves.

Then the poker pros will slowly grind up a big stack by nickel and diming all the surviving weak amateurs on day 4, 5 and 6.

That is, by slowly exercising their considerable skill advantage to take down all of the small pots when nobody really has anything good.

Because the real "secret" to success to poker is winning more than your fair share of all the little pots that nobody really wants to fight for.

Learn the Proven Basic Poker Strategies Used By The Pros

Are you having trouble beating small stakes poker games online or live in the casino? Do you dream of playing in the WSOP one day but don't know where to start?

Poker tournament success secrets of Phil Hellmuth
That is why I wrote this free little 50 page poker cheat sheet to give you the exact poker strategies to start consistently beating small stakes games right now.

These are the same poker strategies by the way that I have used as a 10+ year poker pro. And I lay them all out for you step by step in this free little guide.

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World Champion Poker Pros Know When to Switch Gears

Knowing when to "switch gears" though is also crucially important if you want to win a big poker tournament like the World Series of Poker.

By around day 3 of a big poker tournament like the WSOP Main Event, world champion millionaire poker pros know that it is time to switch up their strategy a bit.

This means that they will start taking more chances in order to build up a big stack for the final table.

So they will start making more small bluffs in the right spots and taking down as many small pots as possible.

They will still avoid the large all-in preflop coinflips. Instead they will slowly but surely build up a big stack by taking away all of the little pots that the amateurs don't really want to fight for.

This is something that I talk about extensively in The Micro Stakes Playbook for example (and give dozens of example hands).

Because this is one of the absolute biggest differences between the poker pros and everybody else. This is where world champion poker pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth really separate themselves.

They understand that everybody gets dealt the same amount of good hands and bad hands over the long run in poker.

The real difference is who wants all those little pots where nobody really has anything that good (e.g. one guy has bottom pair, the other has a weak gutshot draw, another has just ace high).

By taking down more than their fair share of these pots, world champion poker pros are able to exercise their considerable skill advantage and ultimately get ahead in the long run.

Because this is where the rubber really meets the road in poker. This is the biggest reason why the pros keep winning year after year and all the amateurs continue to blame their "bad luck."

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training. 

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What Are Your Odds of Actually Winning the World Series of Poker Main Event?

Now with all of that said, what are your odds of actually winning a massive tournament like the WSOP Main Event, and the life-changing money that comes along with it?

Well, even if you happen to be a world class poker pro already, I hate to break it to you, your odds are not good.

Poker tournaments are notoriously difficult to win because no matter how well you play, you will have to get lucky again and again over a short period of time.

And it doesn't even matter if you study all of the most advanced poker tournament solver theory available today.

You will still have to get incredibly lucky in order to win. This means that not only do you need to win all of your 80/20's:

For example:

You get all the money in preflop with AA versus JJ

You have roughly 80% equity (odds) to win the pot, your opponent has 20% equity.

But you also need to consistently hit big hands and win more than your fair share of pots where your edge is a lot smaller, like 60/40 for example.

Also, once you get deep in a big poker tournament you will inevitably have to play a big all-in preflop pot at some point as a coinflip.

For example, you are down to 10 big blinds and you get dealt AK on the button.

If the big blind re-raises you with his TT for example, you will have no choice but to go all-in here because your stack is so small.

You are going to have to win this coinflip or you will be eliminated.

This is why it is so crucial that in the middle stages of the tournament you try to win as many small pots as possible to build up your stack, like I just talked about above.

Because if you can keep yourself from getting into the dangerously low zone (10 big blinds or less), then you can afford to lose a coinflip or two like this and still win the tournament.

The short stacks on the other hand are forced to win every single coinflip.

Staking for Large Field High Buy-In Poker Tournaments

The other thing to note is that most people do not have the bankroll to actually play big buy-in poker tournaments ($10,000+ buy-in), and still have 100% of their own action.

Because due to the nature of variance in large field high buy-in poker tournaments, you will likely need a 7 figure bankroll to comfortably play these on a regular basis.

This is why many poker pros these days, even world champions, often sell a large chunk of their action before the tournament even begins.

This is called "staking" by the way and I actually just published the most comprehensive guide to poker staking ever written a few weeks ago, including how you can get a stake yourself.

So for example, the WSOP Main Event in all normal years when there isn't a global pandemic is a $10,000 buy-in.

Many poker pros for example will raise $5,000 (called a poker stake) from other poker players or investors which are also called "backers." And then they will put up the other $5,000 on their own.

The #1 Poker Success Secret of WSOP Champions

So therefore, in this hypothetical example, this poker pro would need to give away 50% of their winnings to their backers at the conclusion of the tournament.

And honestly these days, most poker pros do not even have 50% of themselves in large buy-in tournaments like this. Often they only have 30% or even less sometimes.

This means that should they run really good and win a tournament, their actual take-home pay is far less than what the advertised payout for first place is. It might be 50% of it, 30% of it or even less.

So this is another factor that you need to consider if your goal is to become a full time professional tournament poker player in high buy-in events.

Because unless you happen to be independently wealthy, you will almost certainly be selling a large chunk of your action, and therefore your winnings won't be nearly as much after you pay your backers.

This unfortunately is just a reality for most professional tournament poker players these days because the variance in large field high buy-in events can be absolutely brutal.

Endorsements, Branding, Exposure for Poker Tournament Pros

However, all of this is offset by the fact that if you can win a high buy-in event with huge exposure like the WSOP, then you will stand to gain a lot in endorsements, book deals, sponsorships and so on.

Many of the top poker champions in the world today make considerable sums of money away from the poker tables due to their name and the brand that is created around them.

Daniel Negreanu for example was signed by the largest online poker site in the world for many years (PokerStars), received numerous book deals, countless paid TV appearances, endorsed several online poker training sites and so on.

#1 Poker Success Secret of WSOP Champions

In fact, just recently Daniel signed up with MasterClass, the leading online teaching platform, to create his own poker course.

I actually reviewed Daniel Negreanu's MasterClass poker course recently right here. 

It is good for poker beginners and novices in particular and focuses on both tournaments and cash games. The stuff on hand reading and understanding physical tells that he teaches you was very helpful for me.

Anyways, all of these endorsements, poker site sponsorships, books/courses and personal branding deals have been worth millions and millions of dollars in Daniel Negreanu's case.

Also, it doesn't hurt that he has over $40 million dollars in life-time poker tournament winnings as well!

So the bottom line is that there is still good money in high buy-in large field poker tournaments if you are among the best. And even for mid level pros, there is a decent amount of money to made.

However, you do need to be aware that the variance in these events is highly volatile. And you should work diligently away from the table as well to create lots of side revenue streams via personal branding deals and sponsorships. 

Final Thoughts

So what is the #1 poker success secret of WSOP champions? 

Well, it really just boils down to patience, discipline and survival in the early going of large field poker tournaments.

This is something I teach in my Elite Poker University, the go-to advanced training platform for serious tournament poker players these days.

This is because world champion poker pros fully understand that you can't win the tournament on day 1, 2 or 3, but you sure as heck can lose it!

The real mark of a true poker pro is being able to last longer than all the amateurs into the deep stages of the tournament.

Because this is when they can start exercising their considerable skill advantage by taking away all the little pots that the amateurs don't really want to fight for.

Now with all of that said, winning a high buy-in large field poker tournament these days is still very difficult, even for a world class poker pro.

The odds are just so heavily stacked against you because you have to run incredibly well (get lucky) over a short period of time.

Also, many top poker pros today are actually partially or even fully staked in these high buy-in large field tournaments.

So this means that even though they "won" $5,000,000, half of that (or more) might be going to their backers when all is said and done.

But there is also considerable money to be made off of the poker tables these days for successful pros through endorsements, personal branding, book/course deals, sponsorships and the like.

Lastly, if you want to learn the complete poker strategy that I have used as a 10+ year small stakes poker pro, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

The #1 Poker Success Secret of WSOP Champions