Thursday, September 04, 2008

Heads Up!

You know, something I overlooked while I was posting yesterday was that there was a span of a couple days where 2 or 3 of my favorite bloggers really raved about HU SNGs and how profitable they were, so back around the beginning of August I decided to check out the scene, and ended up pretty happy with the results.

The thing about these is that I really feel like I should win every one, so when I lose it really bugs me. Some might argue that heads up isn't necessarily so much about beating the player, but moreso about the point at which you both make a hand worthy of getting it in the middle, and seeing who comes out with the best of it, and who ends up feeling cold-decked. And I think that's fair.

But, of course, some of us would like to think there is a lot more to it. Its about building your stack so you can put pressure on your opponent and withstand an all-in if you have to. Or its about building a table image and then when you know they're onto you, switching it up. Or its about relentless aggression. Or its about playing so passively you let your opponent run over you, only to trap them so hard they never saw it coming. Or some combination of all of these.

So even though a fair share of these will end up being a lottery, the ones that start to go a few hands certainly get a little more interesting as things progress.

Anyway, I played 5 of them on 8/4 and 8/5, and managed to cash in three. When I won my first one in 14 hands, I was like "wow, these really are *that* easy". Only to get into my 2nd one and end up defeated in 81 grueling hands. But then there was the third, which I won in exactly 3 hands. So day 1 of this experiment was from one extreme to the other. The next day I split another pair of them in what I suspect is a relatively average...maybe a *little* high...45 and 66 hands, and then I haven't been back since. But I definitely see sprinkling some of these when I'm short on time and/or don't necessarily feel like exerting enough poker prowess to take on 9 or more opponents.

As far as the value, I guess you can't really argue with it. You essentially double your money, which is just a little better than finishing 3rd place in a 9 player SNG. The number of hands is around the same as finishing 3rd in a SNG, but of course a majority of the hands are significantly faster, so if you could be successful as a heads up SNG player, I would think the value is pretty high. Might be a decent little bankroll builder for some "back to basics" poker if you're running bad or something.

Anyway, I thought that was worth mentioning. Just incase there's anyone out there like me who hasn't been to that arena and was looking for a little insight.

As far as my heads up game in general, I go back and forth on it. Sometimes I feel like I'm a heads up donkey, and sometimes I feel like I've assembled a nice little strategy. So at this point I guess I'll just say "I'm working on it".

Two posts in two days? I'm on fire!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Hey all. Time for my much overdue check-in yet again. I'll try and keep things brief.

Looks like my last "real" post was 7/25, so let me check my logs and see what significant has happened since then...

Looks like things have been pretty standard as far as SNGs go. I've played about 40 since 7/25, and my overall win rate (for the year) is a relatively pathetic, but very much black, $60. I've been playing more of the multitable SNGs, but haven't had a lot of success in much of anything other than 18 players. It seems I can only dodge so many bullets, and the 27 and 45 player games just fire too many at me to survive. Random notes from the 27 and 45 player SNGs see me getting in w/2 pair vs. set, 60/40 & 70/30 and lose, KK < 66 (4-flushed), and AA < K10 (villian boated). As a matter of fact, that's all my 27 and 45 man SNGs since my last post, so I've been cold-decked or bad beat out of every single one. But I've had a handfull of 1st and 2nds in 18 players, so that always helps pull in a little more SNG value. The 9-max have been pretty standard. I'm managing to stay a little ahead, but just have some really sick shit happening in pretty disgusting spots. In the last one I played I bubbled when I got all my money in for a significant chip lead w/top 2, aces and 9s, vs A10, turn comes A, river 10. Dead to runner runner and he hits. Either something like that happens, or I storm to a strong finish. Cest la vie.

As far as MTTs, I had hit the skids again for a while and was approaching heading into the red on them, and then on 8/18 I made a fairly decent run in a Stars tourney. Instead of trying to detail it again, I'll just copy and paste the email I sent a couple buddies the next morning.

Man, I thought last night was gonna be the one. I got into the $3.30+rebuys ($40k Guaranteed) last night on Stars at 7:00. 3700 runners, and I proceeded to run like God for about 2 1/2 hours and led the thing during the 3rd hour w/5x the average and almost 200 big blinds, then cooled off late and grinded my way to a 66th place finish at about 1 AM. I rebought once stacking off w/88 vs 99 on a 7-high flop and did the add-on at the end of the first hour and cashed for about $60 profit. First place paid $5600. But I doubled my Stars bankroll, so I can't complain about that.

I got to learn a lot about late stage tourney play, which I haven't had much opportunity to do up to this point, and with any luck I'll get to use more often.

During my sick run of cards which lasted about the first 2 1/2 hours, I had AA about 5 times and held, including in a 3-way all-in right after I rebought, KK and QQ about 3 each, and JJ probably 5 also, I *think* winning all, flopped a couple of boats, flopped two or three sets, flopped trips I think twice in a row (in the BB and SB) at one point, three outering and stacking the guy on the 1st one w/K7 vs K10 with the board coming KxKx7 (we got it in on the flop), flopped quad 8s against some guy all-in w/A10 vs. my 88, got QQ and took a decent pot then got KK on the next hand and got some guy to stack off w/33, hit a couple of nut flushes and a couple of straights, 2 pair, etc, etc. Almost every hand I played I just got smacked upside the head w/the deck. Even limping/checking my blinds. And if I didn't stack someone entirely, I got paid off a decent amount pretty much every time. I had 150k while the average was 22k-35k. Man it was fun after perpetually running bad.

So like I mentioned, it was nice to get into that tourney and just run good and have a blast, but part of me wonders if I should have made more out of it and/or if I didn't play the cards so much as they played themselves. Its not often you run that good and get that much action, so I'm wondering if I could have done a little better in the middle/late stages to propel me to a final table. Makes me wonder if Lucko or Hoy or smokkee could have done better given the situation, or if its just that running good late is much more important than running good early. Sure, I had 150k when the average was 30k, but when I busted, $150k was chicken scratch. You have to keep building. But my cards went DEAD. Anyway, I got some later stage MTT experience, so hopefully next time I can learn from it and do better. Fact of the matter is its my deepest MTT run and biggest cash (aside from a turbo sat to a 100k guarantee...but that doesn't really count) of the year. And maybe my deepest non-freeroll run ever.

My next MTT after that was the noon 5.50 tourney that I played on Labor Day, and I microcashed in that in 355th out of 4800 for $12.60. Only ever really had a stack twice in the tourney, and just kinda held on the whole way. But now I'm back to a $75 winner on the year in MTTs, which will buy me into several more of the tourneys in my price range to keep going after that bigger score.

In other tournament news, I decided to venture into the Steps sats for the WCOOP on Monday and things have gone well so far. I immediately moved to Step 2 in my first attempt, only to enter myself into a Limit Step 2 tourney like an idiot and get 7th. So I licked my (self-inflicted for being a moron) wounds and jumped into another Step 1 and advanced, and it'll be on to Step 2 again. My initial hope is to get to a Step 4 and win an entry to one of the $215(?) tourneys, and just cash that out for the W$ and sell it. At this point a tourney like that would be nothing more than "taking a shot", and even the % of cash I could get for the W$ would be immesurably more valuable. Bankroll management, baby. *Maybe* if I can somehow manage to win 2 entries I'd use one. But chances are if I can get to a Step 4 and sell my $215 W$, I'd take my next chance to go for Step 6 and try and get the >$1k W$. THEN maybe try and win an entry to use. But that's all quite wishful thinking from Step 2 at this point. I'm just happy to be 2 for 2 at Step 1. I think I may finally have a little better grasp on these turbos.

As for the last facet of my online game, I've still been working in a session of .05/.10 NL over at Full Tilt from time to time. I'll find its Happy Hour on some weekend day, or I'll go to a wireless hotspot between work and flag football on Wednesdays and get an hour or two in, and my last 4 sessions have been fairly significantly profitable. Throw in rakeback, and I'm making a nice, steady bankroll climb on Tilt.

All of the success I've been having I think has come because of a renewed approach to a well balanced strategy. A mixture of feel, numbers, and less paying off, I've been trying to keep emotion out of it, and looking at plays from a strictly EV perspective. You're all like "duh...that's how you win at poker", but when you tend to run as bad as I do, you fall into this really deep, dark place where you feel like every time you get raised or re-raised they've got what has you beat no matter how unlikely, or you're "only" 60%, or you know you're flipping but you wonder if you'll lose again just like the last 4, and you fold, more and more disgustedly every time, or you payoff when your big hand gets cracked, "just to see it". But lately I've been more apt to play back at aggression when it really just doesn't seem likely they have it, and a LOT more often put pressure on people for *their* stacks and for *them* to have to make a decision. As it turns out, there really are a ton of bad players who will either stack off with garbage or call bets or fire all the way to the river only to fold. And I find myself in a lot more coin flips and 60/40s w/all the money in the middle, hoping the odds shake out the way they're supposed to. When they don't, I bust and move on, and when they do, I find myself in good position to move forward and apply even more pressure to people.

Or, you know, maybe I'm just playing the same and running a little better. Either way, I *feel* better, and the better you feel, the clearer you see and the more naturally your play unfolds at the table. Of course it also helps to have a few more buyins in reserve so the money means less and less.

So that'll be it for now. I've got some Vegas play to report on, but it was pretty typical, so I'll save that for its own quick post somewhere down the line.