While it’s all good and well to sit for hours on end in your boxer shorts, staring at your computer screen and grinding on five, ten, or twenty online tables, there’s nothing like the thrill of live tournament play.
The pace is slower, but there’s a different, more human element to sitting at the tangible felt. Not to mention there are few things in the poker world more exciting than playing 8k/16k blinds while you watch the player count creep closer and closer to the final table.
In spite of the obvious appeals of live tournament play, it is undoubtedly not as realistic for many players because of the costs involved. It helps to think of these costs as added rake, making it even more important you put in solid volume and play well every trip.
Let’s look at just a handful of expenses you’ll be looking at for a single live tournament and some tips to “lower the rake.”
Entry fee: This goes without saying, and can vary so drastically that it’s hard to quantify. Chances are, by the time you head to your live tournament, you’ve already shelled out the money for tournament entry (unless it’s a re entry), so while this expense is something to consider, it won’t necessarily factor into your budget here.
Gas and/or airfare: Depending upon how far you’re planning on going to your live tournament, travel expenses can get pretty pricey. The cheapest way to go is naturally by car, but gas prices these days are no joke, and both legs of your trip could easily cost over $100 and leave you with a massive butt cramp.
As far as airfare goes, nobody needs an explanation on how expensive it is to fly. If you’re headed overseas, you may be looking at upwards of $1000 here. If a flight like that’s in your itinerary, you better be making sure you’re bringing the heat when you get to the tables!
- TIP 1: Chances are, if you’re a live tournament player, you may have a buddy who’s in the tournament himself. There’s no need to travel separately. Pair up, and share the driving duties and expenses.
- TIP 2: If you’re flying, book early, and at the time of the week when rates are the lowest—typically Tuesday mornings. Hey, it’s random, but that’s what studies have shown the best time to snag those tickets is!
Lodging: Again, assuming you don’t live off the Vegas strip and your live tournament isn’t right around the corner from your home, you’re going to have to come off the hip for at least a couple nights at a hotel. Sleep is crucial to your success at a live tournament, so it’s worth it to not skimp on the accommodations. Depending on the location and demand, you could be looking at at least $150 per night. Playing well might mean that you’d need to stay additional nights, but I’ve never heard someone make a final table and complain about their hotel fare.
- TIP 1: Book in advance. Check out travel sites online to find and compare the best deals, and book far enough in advance that you get the best rates.
- TIP 2: Consider rooming with a friend. You’re here to grind, not worry about bringing someone back to your room, so as long as you have adequate space and separate beds, this should be a peachy situation.
Food (and, if it’s your thing, drink): Live tournament play can become grueling, so you’re going to want to make sure you keep your nutrition up and also stay hydrated. Depending on the town the tournament’s held in, cheap grub may not be an option, and it’s doubtful you’ll have the time or means to cook. This means you could be looking at upwards of $25 dinners.
Plus, after a long day on the felt, you and your fellow players may want to go out to blow off some steam and talk some strategy—or some smack. This means you’ll want to set aside some coin for a few beers or mixed drinks. Not too much, though—your wallet won’t be pleased, and your performance may suffer the day after.
- TIP 1: There’s no shame in opting for the salads over the huge entrees. Plus, it’s a more nutritious and lighter choice, which means you’ll be feeling more alert and ready to win big money at the table.
- TIP 2: If you’re heading out for drinks consider soda water as your mixer (as it has no sugar), and follow each drink with a tall glass of water (as it’ll make you feel quite a bit better in the morning).
All in all, we’d estimate that for a three-day tournament, the grand total on your expenses would be, conservatively, around $800, and could certainly exceed that. While that sounds expensive, it’s simply added motivation to focus and play well so that you can recoup the coin you spent just to participate.
Live poker tournaments can be a welcome addition to the online grind, but the expenses must be considered, and accounted for, beforehand.
Read this if you need some motivation for playing tournaments, and get out there and grind!
(If you’re serious about improving your poker game, check out the Upswing Lab! Doug Polk and Ryan Fee collaborated on this A to Z training course and the great reviews keep rolling in! Check out our Upswing Lab testimonials page here)