Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Friday, December 02, 2005

Watch it....

If tonight on ESPN poker is any indication, I'm DEADLY when it comes down to heads-up poker.

Unfortunately, I reset my stats a couple of times during the evening, but from approximately 400 or so hands, I won about 30-40% of them. Those numbers were skewed by the multiple formats I was playing (both heads-up and 10-person tables), but if you're taking those kind of numbers, you'll probably win. My win % when seeing the flop was around 60%, which is also excellent. To put it another way, I finished the evening tonight with 15 times the money I started with today.

Recently ESPN updated their poker client to include Head-to-Head matches, in varying $$ amounts. At first I didn't think too highly of the addition, since the pot up for grabs isn't much ($600 in a $300 buy in game, $1000 in a $500 buy in game, etc). Playing the tables tonight thought, I must admit that I have gained a new appreciation for the heads up matches. I guess that was because I won 80% of the matches I was in.

ESPN updates their client regularly, sometimes to fix technical glitches (when it first came out, the game was extraordinarily buggy), usually to add in more advertising (which always opens in MS IE, regardless of your default browser settings). I'm hoping in their next addition they add "shootout" matches.

What's a shootout? It's a term that harkens back to the "Wild West" image of poker (specifically Texas). It's a game of Texas Hold 'em where there are 6 players in the match. Like in a 6-shooter... shootout. Get it? It's the same format that the WPT uses for their broadcasts (the final table in a WPT game starts with 10 players, and for their episode they use footage from when the table gets to 6). The shootout is getting more and more popular, and was even a feature at the 2005 World Series of Poker.

Professional poker players will tell you, heads-up poker is a lot different than multi-handed games. The last hand of the 2005 WSOP was a good example; the winner played a 3-7. No pro would recommend playing a 3-7 pre-flop, but in heads-up the game changes, and sometimes cards you wouldn't normally play become viable options. Of course, this can work for and against you. I had one table where I played a K-2, and when a K came on the flop, I thought I was golden. Turned out for me, my opponent had an A-K, and blew me out of the water.

Another thing to consider is changing up your tempo. If you've been aggressive for the rest of the game, consider slowing down a bit (I must say this is unlikely, as aggressive players usually keep going the way they've been playing), and if you've been playing slow, consider opening up your game. Again, this can work both for and against you.

My favorite move I pulled tonight (it's something I pull often) is getting a monster hand, such as a full house, and checking to your opponent. 99 times out of 100 this will get them to bet. In many of these situations, I know that if I put in too much money, they'll just fold the hand. But when you know you have the best hand ("the nuts" is what it's called), you want to get at least some money out of them, and putting them all in usually isn't the way to do that. I had one person tonight who didn't fall for my Ace-high-flush-check, which should have worked on him, he just had no intention of betting that hand. He was on the button, so the action was to me first in each hand. I checked on the flop, turn, and river (had the flush after the turn, after starting with pocket clubs), and with my final check, I was sure that he was going to put at least some money into the pot. In this case he didn't, but he was pretty surprised at my play. After that hand, he was off his game and I busted him out two hands later. This was an example of changing up my tempo. Many times I would have bet that flush both at the flop (where it wasn't a flush yet), and at the turn. If you wait until after the river has come to try to act on your flush, that's usually too late and if you're playing against someone who has some idea what they're doing, they'll fold, sensing your winner.

So when you're kicking back with some friends, playing some poker while drinking your Michelob Amber Bock (Official Beer of the World Poker Tour), keep in mind what I've mentioned here.

If you're playing me, don't use these tactics; just play your regular game.

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