Poker Night in AmericaThis Saturday 888 Poker New Jersey ( is hosting a Poker Night in America cash game qualifier, where participants in the tournament can win a $6,000 prize package that includes a $5,000 buy-in for the Poker Night in America cash game and $1,000 to pay for your travel expenses.

The promotion is dubbed, California Dreaming, an ode to the Mamas and Papas as well as the location of the next Poker Night stop. The PNiA cash game will take place from January 29-31 at the Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, California, alongside a $1,650 buy-in Poker Night the Tour tournament.

The qualifier at 888 Poker New Jersey will be held at 8:05 PM EST, Saturday, January 23, and costs $150 to enter – satellites to the qualifier are also available.

My own experience

As a former participant on Poker Night in America, I have a somewhat unique perspective on playing as a qualifier for the show. So, I’ve cobbled together some advice for anyone who finds themselves on PNiA and playing way over their head like I was:

  • Find out who’s playing and watch the hours upon hours of live stream footage from previous PNiA episodes. If the other players consistently appear on the show you’ll get some valuable information on how they play, particularly if you can see how they deal with unknown amateur players.
  • If you’re not well versed in NLHE cash games get yourself a copy of Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams eBook Modern Small Stakes. Despite the stakes (PNiA is a $25/$50 NLHE game), the game plays a lot like the low stakes games Williams discusses, and this book really helped me formulate some strategies.
  • I don’t recommend straddling, but, I straddled my first opportunity, then I never did again. My straddle (especially when Shaun Deeb pointed it out and called everyone else cheap) caused other people to straddle, and since I planned to play tight early and adjust as the game wore on, straddling gave off the opposite impression.
  • Continuing on the straddle point, part of my strategy to play tight and make the stacks as shallow as possible, which isn’t a bad idea if you think you’re outmatched.
  • Furthermore, be very aware of your table image because this is what they’re basing your play off of, and if it supports the image you’re portraying, go ahead and give away some information, showing a hand or two isn’t going to hurt your long-term EV in this game since there is no long-term in this game.
  • And to finish this train of thought, if you are card dead and fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, for 45 minutes, you can find a good spot to simply attack a pot with some dead money. I did this at the 1:22:00 minute mark in the video below, and pretty much everyone will give your first raise way too much respect… easy way to add a few hundred to your stack, which is several rounds of blinds.
  • Several little things you might fret about, but shouldn’t:
    • Tipping dealers: $50 is paid at the start of each dealer rotation and who pays it is randomly determined by the first card on the first flop with A-9 representing seat positions.
    • Running it twice: As an amateur player, virtually every player will run it twice for you, assuming it’s allowed, so consider that when making a tough decision. When I played, Shaun Deeb even offered to sell insurance if the casino didn’t allow multiple runs – they did.
    • Basically, don’t sweat any of the small stuff; they’ll explain everything before the show (how to show your cards to the camera, etc.), and if you have any questions whatsoever just talk to Chris Capra of 888, who’ll set you up with the 888 patches (let Chris decide where to put them) and such beforehand.
    • They put a mic on you, but, and this is important, it’s live all the time unless you turn it off. So, if you need to go to the bathroom, or if you need to talk to your spouse on the phone, REMEMBER TO TURN YOUR MIC OFF!
    • You’re going to want to update your friends and family, so get your social media accounts in order before the show. You can tweet and post during the show, so get that all sorted beforehand (including the appropriate #hashtags) so you’re not frantically trying to let people know you’ll be updating here or there.
    • They do an intro interview, where they’ll ask you questions like, “how do you feel playing against these big names?” and “what’s your poker background?”
    • You’ll be more nervous in the hours before you play than you will be while playing. Well, at least I was. As soon as you sit down they’re just chips, and for the most part, you forget about the monetary value – unless you nearly play a $22,000 pot like I almost did.
    • Whatever you do, don’t “lock it up.” Meaning, don’t go on a heater and then turn into a rock who’s unwilling to put chips in the pot. As I’ll explain in a moment, your table persona is as important as your chip count when it comes to who stays and plays and who gets the hook.
    • Most importantly, have fun. Not only are you playing with house money, but the more fun you have the more TV time you’ll get. If you’re a quiet nit you’ll be replaced after the first break, but if you mix it up a little and join in the table banter they’ll want you to stick around.