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Going Off To Camp
What do you get when you bring in some of the top professional poker players in the game and mix them with four dozen poker players that are sponges for information and give them two days in a casino? It is a fantastic and educational mix called the World Poker Tour Boot Camp!
The WPT Boot Camp is designed to give something to players to improve their game. "What we try to do is bring the knowledge of some of the greatest minds in the game to the player whose goal is to become a better player," Ron Rubens, Director of Sales, said to me before things got started early on a Saturday morning. "By using some of the best professionals in the game as well as the background and tools from the WPT, we think we are doing that."
When I asked him what set the WPT Boot Camp apart from other camps that are offered, Ron quickly fired back his response. "I think one thing that makes up special is that we limit the size of the camps. Some of the others have two, three hundred participants. My experience in corporate America told me that no one learns much when you are sitting in a large conference room or hall, listening to people drone on and on about things. By keeping classes small, there is an intimacy to it. You can concentrate on what the Pros are saying and you don't get bored." When you add in the quality of the instructors, the intensity of the courseware, the hands-on labs and the tournament that we play, a student at the Boot Camp is definitely on the fast track to the final table!
For anyone who has wondered if such an experience would be good for them, the answer would be a resounding "YES!" The course starts bright and early at ten in the morning on Saturday. Before the class, many of the participants show up early (myself included) and introduce themselves to each other. People talk about anything, but of course most of the conversations revolve around poker. I was already excited, but these talks fuel me up for the day of training even more! And before I know it, it's off to the tables to start learning more about the game of poker.
One of the most interesting moments came at this beginning time when our instructors asked, "What is your purpose in poker?" Many of us mumbled out differing responses from "enjoying myself" to "making money" to "beating the other player". We were then told: "Your purpose in the game of poker should be to make the correct decisions! Do that, and everything else you said will take care of itself." This was a pretty startling revelation for all of us campers and really started the course out on the right foot.
The beginning of the course is a basic overview of the game. While more advanced players might find something like this boring, you would be amiss not to pay attention and take notes even during this phase of the Camp. Even the best professionals have to constantly execute the fundamentals. You have to have the basics down cold, otherwise you have nothing to build upon.
The gears really change after this beginning. There are intense labs that are conducted, which put some of the philosophies that are taught into physical reality for the players. They actually sit at a poker table, against other campers, and play out hands. There is emphasis placed on many aspects of the game, from knowing your own style of play to recognizing that of your opponents.
Mathematics played a part in the camp as everyone learned a foundation of poker math, such as calculating outs, pot odds, implied odds and other matters. This is important because, if you don't know what your chances are, then you do not have the knowledge of whether it is correct to bet or call in certain situations. You will avoid many things if you know where you are math-wise and, by knowing this, will be able to make the correct decision.
Other aspects looked at throughout the two-day camp were the "small edges" that many do not examine. There is a tremendous emphasis placed on putting opponents on a range of hands, something that many players don't even look at. Bluffing, staying away from traps, and controlling the information that you give other players through both talking and betting were just a few of the things that were examined in great detail.
The courseware is wrapped up through a solid look at tournament play and an overview of online play. These were advanced principles that were looked at, as they gave a great strategy overview and also examined what reactions a player should have after suffering that inevitable "bad beat" that everyone has at one point or another in a tournament.
What was a great part of the camp was the actual practice and execution of this glut of information during the sit-and-go tournament that everyone participated in. Our group was excellent (OK, I'm biased!) when it came to executing the philosophies that we had been given and everyone, whether they won or lost, came away from these events with more knowledge than what they had when they started.
It did not seem possible that two days had gone so quickly! Late in the afternoon on Sunday, we were all brought together for final photos, last discussions with the Pros and final goodbyes and exchanges of e-mail addresses between the campers (believe me, I made some great acquaintances there who will be great people to be able to discuss the game with!). In many ways, as we all lingered around, no one wanted it to end.
I again saw Ron Rubens, packing up equipment and I approached him to thank him for selling me the camp and to tell him how much I got out of it. "As long as you learned things here that improve your game, that is the goal," Ron smiled and said. Indeed, it was one of the things that the Pros emphasized throughout the two days is that, in reality and whether a professional or someone who wants to be, we are all students and constantly learning in the game.
With the all too short two days wrapped up, I finally left the room and outside in the hallway I found many of my fellow classmates, still not quite ready to leave. We lingered around the hall, soaking in the final moments of two days of training and exchanging our thoughts on it. It was a resounding 100% of the class who felt that they walked away from the weekend a better poker player than when they came in.
I caught up with our other set of brothers, 27-year-old Jeff and 31-year-old Jason Gombard of Chicago, IL, who were reflecting on the trip. "It was well worth the time and money," Jeff remarked and his brother agreed. "I read a lot of the forums online and, while they help, this will help my game out more than I can imagine."
If you are considering a poker camp to attend, the WPT Boot Camp should not be missed. It would be a weekend well-spent should you decide to go. The small class size of students attending the course, the excellent material provided from the WPT and, without a doubt, the knowledge and experience provided by all the Pro instructors was an indispensable part of the experience. I walked away from the Camp on Sunday night with a newfound confidence in my game. When they say it is "the fast track to the final table", the WPT Boot Camp is telling it like it is!