WPT Champions Club Guide to Navigating the WSOP Main Event

As the 2024 World Series of Poker Main Event races towards the money bubble on Day 3, several WPT Champions Club members are among the chip leaders. Here’s what they had to say about the value of big event experience and how each of them maneuver through this one-of-a-kind tournament.

Tim Fiorvanti
Jul 9, 2024

The World Series of Poker Main Event is a tournament unlike any other – most notably because of the two-hour levels, the field size, and the two weeks it takes to get down to a champion.

Over the 54 years this tournament has played out, the structure and nature of the event have allowed some of the greatest poker players in history to navigate thousands of entrants to cash in on some of the most lucrative prizes in the game. It should come as no surprise then to know that seven WPT Champions Club members are also WSOP Main Event champions – Doyle Brunson, Dan Harrington, Scotty Nguyen, Carlos Mortensen, Joe Hachem, Ryan Riess and reigning WSOP Main Event champion Daniel Weinman.

Looking at the top of the chip counts on Day 3 of the 2024 WSOP Main Event, it’s hard to scroll very long without seeing a WPT champion. At the dinner break, the money bubble is on the horizon, and once it bursts the tournament starts to get a lot more real for all involved – pros and amateurs alike.

Knowing what to do when the lights get brighter and the pressure grows is an invaluable tool, and those who have been to the mountaintop in a major event are uniquely suited to making the most of the spots that present themselves.

Four WPT Champions Club members took a moment on break during Day 3 of the 2024 WSOP Main Event to offer some insights into how they view their experience edge and opportunities at hand.

Taylor von Kriegenbergh’s first ever cash on the World Poker Tour came back in 2011 when he won the Season IX edition of the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown. He’s also made two major WSOP final tables and several previous runs in the WSOP Main Event, so he

“Most people get super nervous,” said von Kreigenbergh. “And so if you’re used to high-pressure spots, you’re relaxed and you don’t waste a lot of energy. That’s the key thing. It’s such a long tournament. It’s all about energy preservation and being sharp, and if you’re just chill and relaxed, doing the spots like you normally do, it’s easier.”

Jared Jaffee is a two-time winner on the World Poker Tour, most recently taking down WPT Choctaw in Season XXI in 2023, as well as a WSOP bracelet winner in 2014. He points to experience and adaptability as key factors that favor veteran players.

“I mean, you’re gonna have to make a lot of adjustments for a tournament like this,” said Jaffee. “Obviously you’re gonna play with a zillion different people over the course of multiple days. And you’re gonna have to figure out what you’re capable of versus what they’re capable of, and it’s gonna keep changing based on players coming in and out, and your stack size.

“So yeah, it’s a constant evolution.”

David Baker is predominantly known for his prowess in mixed game events, with 3 career WSOP bracelets and 23 career WSOP final table appearances. Back in 2019, he added a WPT title to his lengthy poker resume at the Season XVII edition of the WPT L.A. Poker Classic. He finished 17th in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, and an ability to recognize the moments that can alter a tournament run is something Baker is glad to have in his back pocket.

“That’s definitely an underrated skill,” said Baker. “I mean, you can have all the studying and everything, but when it gets down to navigating through the landmines of long tournaments and a field full of a lot of different types of players, I definitely lean into my experience for sure.”

Brek Schutten showed off his ability to navigate a large field in 2021 when he won the Season XVIII finale at the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, outlasting a field of 2,482. Earlier this year, Schutten added another seven-figure cash when he outlasted a star-studded field (including fourth-place finisher Taylor von Kriegenbergh) in the $25,000 Six Max Championship.

Having been in multiple spots in his career with potential six-figure real money consequences, Schutten points out that certain players without that kind of experience might simply be too risk averse.

“I think it’s huge,” said Schutten. “Everybody busts this tournament except for one person. You’ve got to be able to make the right play at the right time. When you see a field like this, you can see a lot of people aren’t willing to make those plays when they need to make those plays. So just having been under the pressure before, it kind of gets your head in the right spot and gets you ready to make the plays that you need to make.”

Beyond the matter of experience in general, the ability to properly wield a big stack on a stage such as the WSOP Main Event when you get a hold of one is also incredibly valuable.

“I’ve always been a player that plays with a big stack,” said Schutten. “I accumulate chips or bust, typically. Really, for me, that just makes it so that you can weather the storm a little bit more when you’re when you get in those flips and you lose those flips. You can have those chips to be able to build back up afterward, so it just gives you more opportunities to win those big pots and ultimately get to the end.”

Von Kriegenbergh echoed that sentiment and added that a big stack along with previous experience can allow him to make the most of each situation.

“You’ve gotta get lots of chips so you can deal with the volatility of coin flips,” said von Kriegenbergh. “Having run deep in the past has taught me that I just have some ideas on where I can avoid mistakes. I’ve made some blunders in the past deep in a tournament that people will never even make in their life, so I want to outperform that.”

Baker closed by pointing out that the WSOP Main Event is a marathon with many different paths to success, and that one of the few true blunders you can make is to try to force the issue before it’s necessary.

“I think you can succeed in this tournament whether you go gather chips early or if you’re short enough to bide your time,” said Baker. “Obviously, if you have chips you can weather the storm. I’ve had a couple of rough levels today but I’m still totally fine because I built up those chips the other days. I think it’s just important just to stay in the moment and play the stack you have, not the stack you had, whether it’s small or big.

“You can only control what you can control. A lot of cliches out there, but cliches are cliches for a reason.”