Early Friday morning, maybe 20 minutes after the 743 players still in the 2014 World Series of Poker had bagged and tagged their chips and headed off to bed for the night, Ali Eslami wandered back into the Amazon Room. He asked a security guard if there were any floor staff around. The guard didn’t know so Eslami kept walking towards the middle of the room and eventually made his way into the orange section of tables.
Eslami, who finished Day 3 with 770,000 chips, settled on one seat and put both of his hands on the back of the chair. A few minutes later he was on his way out of the Amazon Room, headed back to the exit. Turns out, Eslami does this all the time and it’s part of his routine.
“It’s always really hectic while the Series is going on, there’s so many people here and so much going on and one year, a few years back I happened to walk through right before the Main Event and it was completely empty,” said Eslami, who finished 49th in the 2004 WSOP Main Event for his first WSOP cash. “It was late at night and I was just looking at the massive expanse of all these tables and everything going on and it just had a kind of epic feeling to it, when it’s empty and there is all this potential.”
That year Eslami finished 49th and busted at the hands of eventual champion Greg Raymer in a massive pot that never made the ESPN broadcast. The process worked for him that year so he’s made a part of his daily routine as long as he’s still in the tournament.
“Ever since then I’ve had this tradition where I’ll come back down after everyone’s gone, sometimes I have to sneak in and just go find my table that I’m going to be at, and my particular seat and go over and touch it and just kind of look what my view is going to be,” said Eslami. “Then I visualize the next day, kind of visualize me being there and how things are going to look and how things are going to feel.”
Visualization has clearly worked well for Eslami. Along with his 49th place finish in 2004, the California resident 420th in 2012 and survived past the bubble on Day 4 Friday.
“With the schedule they have here we don’t have a lot of downtime. Last night we ended early so I had the luxury of coming back when it was completely empty, but you know sometimes I’ll just do it after I’m done playing, I’ll just wait until people clear out and see my table for the next day,” said Eslami.
Of course, there’s another reason Eslami does it. Being late is somewhat standard for poker players so Eslami wants to have another edge should he oversleep or spend too long in line at Starbucks.
“It doesn’t hurt that in case I’m late I know exactly where to run to,” joked Eslami.