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Bumping Heads

Although I'm not posting quite as much as I did a while back, I've actually been playing poker regularly. I've been focusing primarily on heads-up SNGs at the $5 and $10 levels. I also played a short heads-up cash session against two random players last Saturday afternoon. The cash session went pretty well and I'm looking forward to giving it another go this weekend.

For those of you interested in these sorts of things, my current heads-up win/loss records are as follow:

  • $2 buy-in: 8 wins, 4 losses
  • $5 buy-in: 16 wins, 5 losses
  • $10 buy-in: 3 wins, 5 losses
I've been encountering more aggression at the $10 level than at the $5. That's to be expected, I guess. I'm having quite a bit of difficulty playing against opponents happy to shove all-in pre-flop in level 1 of a heads-up SNGs. I've lost three matches in level one because I happened to pick up a good hand and lost 60/40 - 70/30 coin flip. I also pushed all-in against pre-flop against an opponent I believed to be bluffing. He was bluffing but he called off his whole stack anyway. I guess some people just aren't looking to play poker.

Another big problem I have with heads-up SNGs is that I feel somewhat claustrophobic when the effective stacks are 50 BB or less. SNG players seem to undervalue their stacks when sitting on as many as 30 BBs and tend to start pushing all-in early and often. When an opponent decides to push all-in for t1,000 with the blinds at t15/t30, I have no idea what range I should be calling with. I guess Poker Stove could help. I just hate giving up my edge on a gamble.

I've also been completely owned by a few players at the $10 level. Here are the events that typically lead to me getting killed in certain heads-up matches:
  • I run a small bluff in level 1 and get caught.
  • I flop a decent hand and my opponent (who won't fold due to my bluffy image) catches two-pair or runner-runner.
  • Opponent gets confident, builds up momentum, and starts pushing me off pots. Usually I'm not catching enough to call flop check-raises, big turn bets, or river shoves.
  • My opponent is now on a roll. I can't bluff because I've now been caught on a second bluff or third bluff (I can't just sit back and wait for cards). I'm forced to fold a lot since I have very little fold equity on any given hand.
  • With 10-15 BBs left, I make a stand with a couple broadway cards and get snap-called by a premium hand.
I really hate feeling that my opponent is one step ahead.

I think I'll fare a little better in the heads-up cash games. I think fold equity is a little higher in cash games. I also believe that opponents are more prone to tilt in cash games. And I like the fact that stacks can get quite deep over the course of a long heads-up cash game session.

I guess we'll see how things go over the next few weeks.

Keep reading "Bumping Heads"

Baby Steps Heads-Up No-Limit

I've been working my way through Moshman's Heads-Up No-Limit book. I've also been watching a bunch of HUNL videos including some of PokerSavvy instructor Roberts' videos and the Deuces Cracked Pr1nnyraiding series. The last time I played heads-up no-limit hold'em, I jumped straight in with very little preparation or study. Thankfully, I still managed a 20 BB/100 win rate over 3,500 hands thanks to some of IStrong's great HUNL videos and some poor play by my opponents.

I've been enjoying heads-up no-limit quite a bit more over the past week. I'm really looking forward to improving my play and sticking with poker a little while longer.

As I continue to study, I've forced myself to stay away from the high-variance world of heads-up cash games. Although I could likely handle the $50 or $100 games, I've opted for the slow, steady, and relaxed pace: I'm trying my best to view poker as a game and not a means of making money (a common theme over the past four years). I'm taking what I learn from the videos and books and applying it to Poker Stars' micro-stakes heads up sit n' gos. Since my last post, I've continued to win my fair share of $5 SNGs and will move up to the $10 SNGs this weekend. At $10 a pop, the risk versus reward scenario offered by the HU SNGs is too great to overlook.

Despite the inconsequential monetary gains I could make while playing low-stakes HU SNGs, I get a 15-30 minute window to work on many key abilities to becoming a better poker player. Hand reading, value betting, patience, aggression, and the super-voodoo soul read are all great skills to master in poker. I think I got a taste of the latter power last night when I called a guy's pot-sized river bet with a 9 high. Of course, I was playing the board at the time but that doesn't alter the fact that I had his 7-high beat. Was I 99% sure that I'd looked into my opponent's soul and seen his desperate bluff? Short answer: yes. Long answer: I failed to notice that I was playing the board.

My plans for this weekend include playing a number of heads up SNGs and finishing up Silent Hill: Homecoming. I also plan on playing with my kids, watching a movie with my wife, having a few drinks, playing a freefoll on Full Tilt, and visiting with family.

Have a good one!

Keep reading "Baby Steps Heads-Up No-Limit"

Playin' Around

I try not to play poker when I'm sick. But after hacking my way through a boss in Silent Hill: Homecoming, I felt like hacking my way through a few micro-stake heads-up SNGs at Poker Stars.

I took down two of three tonight over the span of a short 35 minute session. The nice thing about heads-up SNGs is that they play very quickly with a definitive start and end. It's nice finishing up a match knowing that I'm a winner or a loser.

I've played 22 heads-up SNGs since last Friday. My result are pretty mediocre but I'm having fun. My results are as follow:

  • $2.20 HU SNG: 11 played, 7 won, +$3.80, 15.7% ROI
  • $5.25 HU SNG: 11 played, 6 won, +$2.25, 3.9% ROI
I've definitely been a little unlucky in the $5 heads-up games. But I'm making better decisions now and matching up a little better against the loose-passive and weak-tight opponents littering the $5 micro-stake tables.

I'm still planning on hitting up the HU cash game tables soon. However, I'm enjoying the light-hearted and stress-free nature of the HU SNGs. It helps me wind down from the nightmare world of Silent Hill. I may even give the $10 and $20 heads-up SNGs a try if I can put together a solid record at the $5 games.

All I can say for certain is that I'm having fun playing poker again. I never thought I could have so much fun making 88 cents an hour!

Have a good one!

Keep reading "Playin' Around"

Heads-Up

Let's keep this short and sweet: I've taken up heads-up no-limit hold'em yet again. I've been toying around with the micro and low stakes SNGs on Stars while I try to get my head in the game. I've been alright but not brilliantly. I'm 9 for 15 which slightly better than break even and not very good given the competition I'm up against. Unfortunately, much of the theory and many of the plays that I've learned from reading or video don't apply to these micro-stakes games.

The reason for this black-hole in HU NL theory is simple: all it takes is patience to beat the loose-passive players clogging the micro-stakes games. Bet your good hands for value, limit your bluffs to obvious spots (if at all), and avoid unnecessary coin-flip situations. I forgot this last point in a $5 HU SNG I played yesterday. I called my opponent's 10BB 3-bet shove with KJs. I was getting odds to call against my opponent's likely range of hands. However, I could have simply waited for a better spot to get my chips in.

I'm going to keep playing these puny HU SNGs for a few more days while I focus my offline study on heads-up no-limit hold'em. I'm also playing Silent Hill: Homecoming so I don't mind taking things slowly.

My plan is to start playing the $50 HU cash games by the weekend.

Have a good one!

Keep reading "Heads-Up"

Variety is the spice of life, after all...


I've had my ass handed to me over my past four or five $100 NLHE sessions. So I'm doing what any tilt-happy, knee-jerk-reaction-loving poker player who doubts his self worth would do...

First, I'm playing more video games like Silent Hill: Homecoming (will likely be scary as f*ck due to creepy atmosphere and Pyramid Head) and Gears of War 2 ('roid happy space marines ftw).

Secondly, I'm going to start playing some heads-up no-limit hold'em. I'm a firm believer that moving to a high-variance game will help me rebuild my shattered poker confidence.

That last bit was sarcasm...

...but I am going to play some heads-up for the next little while regardless of the swings. I wonder if this will help me clear my Stars bonus any faster? We'll see, I guess.

Keep reading "Variety is the spice of life, after all..."

This game can be tough...

Sometimes the game's easy; sometimes it very hard. Tonight was one of those nights where I got a little unlucky, tried to get a little too fancy, and then got a extremely tilty.

Lesson learned? Probably not. Down 4 buy-ins but thankfully I'm only playing the $50 games. Still hurts the ego a little bit but I'll live. I'll get 'em next time.

Keep reading "This game can be tough..."

Here we are again...

I'm not saying I'm back just yet. But there are certain things that can happen in one's life that help to shape the road ahead. Just when you think your path has been determined and your fate is set in stone, you spot a rip in the veil and the illusion of certainty begins to fade.

All that aside, I'm warming up at Stars' $50 NL tables. Soon I'll move back up to the stakes to which I'm more accustomed. But for now, I'm happy just reminding myself why I like poker.

Have a good night.

Keep reading "Here we are again..."