Friday, February 29, 2008

Learning HU plus a little live action

I've been a member of the forums at for a long time. It's a poker strategy forum run by a publishing company who have always published the best literature on poker available. For a few years a group of short handed players have run a tournament amongst themselves. A list of captains draft players from a pool of interested people and then each week teams square off against each other and play head's up matches. I've never participated because I have never been into head's up play and was never sure I'd be able to play all of matches due to work and other commitments. This year I changed my mind and signed up for it.

I was drafted 20th out of 24 players (some did not get drafted) and it was probably a fair draft pick since I am not very experienced at head's up play, but I do want to get better. I believe there is a lot of potential money out there for a head's up player and I think it should be part of my arsenal. Tuesday I played my first match. It was a 50BB freeze-out and I won it after approximately 2 hours of play. I feel like I played very well and also ran decent. Also, our matches are just played for play money but every player in the tournament put in $200 and the winning team splits the total prize pool. My team went 3-2 this week so we are doing ok so far.

That's the part of head's up which I am having problems grasping right now. Tough to see where I am winning (or losing) due to variance or getting out played. At times I think it's hard to differentiate. For instance, last night, for fun, I played a friend of mine. We have played 3 times recently and he has beat me all three. The first one I was experimenting with a few things and ended up not liking them. The second one I just quit after a little while because I couldn't handle it. I was getting run over and never making anything. Last night, I also got ran over. It felt like I also may have gotten outplayed, but it's hard to say. He told me that he was getting hit over the head with the deck, which I believe. So did I get outplayed? It's hard to know. I play him mainly to learn the game (through experience against a good player) and he is doing the same. In the future we are each going to make video's via camtasia studio and then merge the hole cards into one video so that we can each see what the other person hand on each hand. I think that will be the best way to truly learn from the matches with him.

Wednesday night, after squash, I went down the Elbow and played some 15-30. For the first time ever the games were not good. I mean, they weren't horrible, but just weren't as good as I expect for live games. Since I made the effort to get down there and wait in a 4-8 game for a half hour I decided to stick around and see if they improved. They did not, but at least my game became short handed.

Live players do not play much short handed at all, so most of them really have no clue how to adjust. This is good for me, a short handed expert. So when my table dropped to four handed I felt pretty good about my chances of coming back (I was stuck $650 at the time) and maybe booking a win. One problem, they all knew each other. What was happening was that if I was in a pot then they would play normal, betting, check, check raising, etc. But, as soon as I wasn't in the pot anymore they just checked it down to the river. This is very bad for me. In fact, it's cheating. Now, these players were not consciously cheating me, and I could tell that, but never the less they were cheating me so after a little while I said something.

"So, you guys aren't playing against each other at all? Just against me, eh?"

"Well, yah, I guess so."

"Hmm, well this is my last hand then. I would rather play while waiting to get into the main game, but it's really bad for me if you guys are not playing against each other. You can bet and raise until I fold and then check it down."

"Yah, you are right, but we haven't done that."

"I know, but still... it sucks for me right?"

"Yah, it does suck for you. I understand."

One of the other guys pipes up, "Yah, I understand too. Makes sense. We won't do that anymore."

"Yah, if you want to play still we will play each other."


A little while later I was even. We all moved to the main game, which sucked. I stayed another hour and basically broke even on the night (lost $77), but I'm glad I spoke up. I'm usually not one to speak up as I don't like confrontations, but for whatever reason I decided to that night and am glad that I did.

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