It’s poker tournament travel time and, with COVID concerns dying out, many of us are planning on heading off to tournaments in the months to come. The World Series of Poker in Las Vegas will be starting in May, and there are lots of other tournament destination events for anyone who’s willing to travel. With that in mind, here’s a checklist of things to bring with you to the table in your next poker tournament.
I developed the following list after nearly 30 years of casino experience, and in conversation with dozens of other poker players. Of course, your specific needs may vary, so don’t hesitate to add or remove items as you see fit.
- Phone: You’re surely going to want yours for communication while you’re playing a poker tournament, but also for taking notes on interesting hands, keeping track of people you meet, and for searching the web, accessing music, listening to podcasts, and playing games.
- Power cord/charger/battery pack: If you do well, your poker tournament session will be extremely long. Many tournament tables lack docking ports for charging your phone. Plan on having enough backup power to keep your phone working.
- Food: Most poker tournament venues have snack bars, cafeterias, or restaurants, and some even have tableside food delivery options. But, they’re often very expensive, may require you to stand in line, and aren’t always available. Plan on bringing some easy-to-eat food with you, whether it’s chopped-up vegetables, beef jerky, cheese sticks, energy bars, nuts, dried fruit, or any of a host of other items.
- Hand wipes: They’re light, self-contained, and prove useful for cleaning you and your poker table area. They’re also nice to use right before you grab some of that finger food after having handled cards and chips.
- Tissues/napkins/paper towels: You may sneeze, cough, or otherwise want for a quick way to clean up while you’re playing a poker tournament. These items have proven invaluable to me and to many others I surveyed.
- Eyewear/eyeglass cleaner/contact lens solution: If you wear contacts, glasses, or sunglasses at the poker table, you’ll of course want them with you. But you also want to make sure to bring what you need to keep them clean, as you won’t typically have time to go back to your room to get lens solution, lens cleaner, or your favorite eyeglass cleaning cloth.
- Eye drops: Eyes can get sore and itchy from the dry airconditioned air and from indoor allergens like dust, mold, and even pollen. Over-the-counter eye drops, like Murine or its generic equivalent, can offer much-appreciated relief during a long playing session.
- Hat: Many wear hats at the poker table to shield their eyes, to keep their head warm, or just to go with the cool poker-player image they’re trying to create. Make sure to bring it to the table, and make sure to take it with you when you leave.
- Jacket/sweater: It may be hot as Hell outside, but air conditioning can turn a poker tournament room into a refrigerator. A lightweight jacket can really help keep you comfortable when the temperature at the table is too low.
- Money: It may seem obvious, but you’ll want cash in addition to your tournament buy-in for any of a number of sundries you might desire while playing. I recommend some small denomination bills for tipping as well.
- Water: Many big poker tournaments are in Las Vegas or other very arid environments, which means it’s easy to get dehydrated. You can get water from servers cruising the room, and from vendors that surround it, but during the tournament, you will sometimes find those sources inconvenient. Bring at least a few bottles of water with you to the table so you can hydrate yourself regularly. It’s also considerably cheaper to buy the water outside of the casino.
- Analgesic: Long poker sessions can be a pain, literally. Headaches, neck pain, back pain, and even leg and arm pain can be a source of annoying distraction while you play. Bring some aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or other painkillers, just in case.
- Aromatics: I don’t use these, but many other poker players I surveyed recommended them for helping with concentration, memory, and focus during play.
- Gum/candy/cough drops: Your mouth can get dried out in the arid environment of a desert poker room. These may help keep your throat and mouth lubricated.
- Lip balm: This ultra-light addition to your tournament arsenal can really help you protect your lips from the dry indoor air.
- Medication: Tournaments can go late into the evening and into the following morning. You’ll want to have all of your medications on hand in case your play takes you beyond the time when you’re supposed to take them.
- Headphones/earbuds: Many players rely on music to keep themselves in the right state of mind.
- Card protector: This is useful not just to keep your hand from being killed by an inattentive dealer. It also helps those of us who need something to fuss with while we’re thinking or bored.
- Support crew: This isn’t important for small tournaments, but if you’re in a major event, it can be essential, especially as you earn your way toward the final table. You won’t literally bring people to the table, but it’s good to have at least a couple of folks who are available virtually to check on the playing records of players at your table (especially if you make it deep), and people who are available personally if you need to get something you forgot to bring.
- Best game: It’s easy to lose track of exactly why you’re traveling to a tournament to begin with. Make sure you leave time enough for proper sleep and for getting to the game. You want to be rested, unrushed, and in your best state of mind when you play.
I suggest you have a small shoulder bag or backpack to carry all of these items (except the money – that you should keep on your person). While you may not need everything on the list, you’ll be better able to focus on your play, with these items close at hand.