Poker Room Veteran Shares Poker Tournaments Tips for Newbies

If you’ve ever wanted to enter a poker tournament, this could be the perfect time. Golden Nugget is gearing up for its Grand Poker Series, May 28 to July 8, 2019.

If you’re unfamiliar with poker tournaments, they can be a little daunting, so we sought the advice of a seasoned pro, Andy Rich, Director of Poker Operations at Golden Nugget Las Vegas.

Andy Rich has run poker rooms for more than a dozen years, and touts the Grand Poker Series as a great way for poker tournament beginners to get their feet wet. A key benefit: Low buy-ins (the entrance fee) with the potential of big wins.

Here are some insights from a seasoned poker room director, along with our newbie color commentary, of course.

Q: What’s a great first step for someone who has never taken part in a poker tournament?

A: It can understandably be intimidating if it’s your first time playing in a casino environment. I would recommend playing in some free poker tournaments online to get a feel for when it is your turn to act and how people bet. When you finally dive in you should keep in mind that everyone at the table was a newbie at one point.

[We’d also suggest watching televised poker competitions. Because viewers can see the player’s cards, one can glean some important lessons into tournament strategy.]

Andy Rich Golden Nugget
We’ve got questions, Andy Rich has answers.

Q: What can a newbie expect at their first tournament?

A: Hours of boredom, and brief moments of terror coupled with pure adrenaline surges the first time you get your chips all-in. A common refrain about Texas Hold’em is that it takes minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.

[Fun fact: The quote, “The name of the game is no-limit Texas Hold’em, the game that takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master,” is most-often attributed to Mike Sexton, a professional poker player and commentator.]

Q: What are some of the benefits of entering a tournament at Golden Nugget?

A: We have a highly-trained and famously friendly staff that delivers world-class service and welcomes players of all skill levels. We see people regularly taking their first plunge into a casino run poker tournament. Golden Nugget has very affordable buy-in daily tournaments where a player can earn upwards of 10 times the buy-in and bragging rights after only a few hours of play.

[It should also be mentioned it’s the Golden Nugget, a downtown Las Vegas institution. A big reason to try a poker tournament at Golden Nugget is all the amenities, including a great selection of restaurants. Hey, it’s poker fuel.]

Q: Are there certain games you recommend for first-timers?

A: Texas Hold’em is far and away the most popular game in any card room. There’s two ways you can play. In a limit format, which means the betting is structured, and the ever popular no limit format, which is in my opinion the purest form of poker. Limit is mostly math, while no limit is more akin to art. The majority of poker tournaments are played in the no limit format.

[Here’s a great overview of Texas Hold’em Poker.]

Q: What are some common mistakes made by first-time competitors?

A: It can be overwhelming, but remembering to post your blinds and only act when it’s your turn are two things that will make you look like a seasoned veteran. Also, remember to protect your hand. That is, keep your cards directly in front of you until you’re done with them. If you do have the winning hand make sure you’re awarded the pot by the dealer before relinquishing your cards. As far as strategy goes, position and aggression trump everything else.

[Let us translate! A “blind” is a forced bet. Everyone takes turns making these mandatory contributions to the pot, moving around the table clockwise. There’s a “big blind” and a “small blind.” A marker called the “button” keeps track of whose turn it is for the big and small blinds. Here’s more.]

Q: Is poker mostly skill or mostly luck?

A: If you win it was skill. If you lose it was just bad luck.

[Gold. We’re getting a tattoo with that sentiment.]

Q: How can a green player practice or prepare for a tournament?

A: By visiting us at Golden Nugget and playing in our fun and friendly daily poker tournaments. We have four tournaments every single day.

[Sounds like fun, especially given the low entry cost and limited time commitment. The daily poker tournaments at Golden Nugget take place from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Check out the full schedule on the Golden Nugget Web site.]

Gen Nugget Poker Room
Golden Nugget’s poker room in a state you never actually See it: empty.

Q: How does a tournament strategy compare to a game with friends at home or a typical night in a poker room?

A: They’re really not too different from one another. In either environment you will run into people there for a good time, and people there for no other reason than to win money. Ultimately you need to be willing to check raise your own grandmother to win the bigger buy-in events in casinos or the annual Thanksgiving Dinner Poker Tournament at Nana’s house.

[A “check raise” is, well, Wikipedia’s got this. Basically, it’s a fake-out, sometimes used to intimidate other players. Hey, Nana knew what she was getting into.]

Q: Can or will dealers assist new players in a tournament, or is that off limits?

A: The onus of knowing and understanding the rules of the game will ultimately fall on the player. The dealer will help you understand what your options are; checking, betting, folding or raising. However, the dealer cannot say anything that will impact or affect the action of the game.

[Our two cents: One of the best things in a casino is hearing stories from the dealers. The best dealers are those who can spin a good yarn while keeping the game moving. Just hearing some of their stories is worth the price of admission.]

Q: Can you share some details about the Grand Poker Series coming up at Golden Nugget?

A: We’re very excited about our upcoming Grand Poker Series. We run this event every June in the Grand Ballroom for the entire month where we have 60 poker tables and feature all types of different events. We will be bringing back the extremely popular daily $25,000 guarantee prize pool no limit Hold’em event. It starts at 1:00 p.m. each day and the buy-in is a very affordable $150. The tournament lasts about 12-13 hours and has an average draw of 300 entrants. It has all the feel of a large buy-in tournament at just a fraction of the price. We also offer some bigger guarantee prize pool events, such as our multi-day championship event from June 27-30. That event has a guaranteed $600,000 prize pool with a buy in of $600. Last year we ended up with more than 1,500 players and the prize pool eclipsed $750,000. We expect another huge turnout this summer. For a complete schedule, visit our Web site.

The Grand Poker Series is hosted in the Golden Nugget’s Grand Event Center with more than 90 poker tournaments spread across 42 days. That’s a lot of poker!

Get the full schedule at the Golden Nugget Web site.

If you need a room, Golden Nugget’s got you covered. In fact, players in the Grand Poker Series can also take advantage of a special hotel room rate. Call (800) 634-3454 and mention this code: POKER19.

With a little practice (or maybe a lot), you could be playing head-to-head in a big stakes poker tournament. Golden Nugget is a great place to start.