Heads up headaches
"We've got to play poker," we both said.
So it was a heads-up match. I think for 10,000 Chilean pesos each, the table being Mark's stainless steel poker chip case.
We played twice and I won both matches. I don't remember how the first bout went (I only remember betting out a lot of flops when I didn't have anything) but the second one came by a horrible suckout. Mark was all in with A7o and I called with Q5o. I didn't really care at that point. Flop was rags plus two hearts, turn was a heart.
River was a heart. My 5 of hearts made the winning flush.
I crowned myself the "Inaugural Santiago Heads-Up Champion," pocketed the cash and fled the country.
A year later, the crew is planning to hold a heads-up tourney later on this afternoon. We'd all talked about it for months but now it's really real. We'll have 8 players, it'll be double elimination and it'll be interesting to see how it turns out.
When I was at work on the night shift, Mark and the crew laid out odds. Mark and I have the best odds of winning at 5-1. Most of the other people are 8-1 and one of their friends, who doesn't play poker too much, is 20-1.
When I saw the odds chart, I winced a little. I know that I'm more than a little rusty at heads-up play. When I did play it this year, it was all limit. I got into a phase where I loved taking on people at low-limit limit on Ulitmate Bet and Full Tilt. Just a phase though.
So like a student cramming for an exam, I went on the Internet for infomation and ammo. I found some mention of heads up strategy on one site, which urged me to play hands better than Q-7 because it is the computer hand and the median of hands against random ones. (Although I think technically Q-7 isn't the absoulte median).
Then I saw another hit -- Dan Harrington's Vol. 2 of No-Limit Hold'em. It's been sitting in my travel bag for months! I just haven't gotten to that chapter yet.
Like Vol. 1, the second tome is must-have, for this and all the other information it has. I don't think Action Dan would be pleased if I posted all of the tips here, but he basically creates a heads up starting hand chart based on a hand's success versus random hands and he points out what you should do in the small blind and big blind, when it's good to raise, what to react to raises with (regular raises and all-in bets).
What I thought was most interesting was that he says that on the button (the small blind), you should call with any two cards. I remember in the past I've gladly ditched many trash hands. I also like his advice to raise just double in the small blind (a big raise is not necessary here like it is in a full ring game because your'e not trying to chase people away). But a larger raise is critical in the big blind, because you'd like to win it right then and there because of your poor position on later streets.
So I tested his theories out tonight on Eurobet's $5 SNG. The first two times I was getting creamed. I think I was trying to take his advice too literally and frequently found myself not sure of what to do when I would limp in and get raised. Or reraised when I've alreday reaised.
So on the third try I put the targeting computer aside, just a little bit and listened to my instincts on how the game was going. At one point I got down to 287 chips (of 1,500) but then came back to win the game with my 55 vs AJo.
The fourth game, I completely dismantled a guy when I flopped a straight and he kept betting hard (I went all-in and he called) and then I took him out again with 55, flop was 2JJ and i let him bet it, the river was a 5 for my boat and I went all-in.
I was a little amazed at how the small sample of players tended to limp with their small blind (only the laast guy folded his sb at times) and how minimal most raises were.
The last two players I dismantled by making the same bets frequently with and without hands. They had to guess (and Amarillo Slim always says "Guessers are losers.") and I let myself have a better feel for what they had preflop and what they had postflop instead of relying on a chart.
The wins made me feel better about my play, but I'll have to see. I'm armed with new info and the same old instincts. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.