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Daniel - Poker Journal

Heads Up Poker on PokerStars

15 Sep 2008


The key to offering a heads up tournament where post flop skill prevails is to make sure the structure gives the players enough time to play before it becomes a shovefest. The Heads Up tournament structures at Stars were fantastic and allowed players at least a solid four levels before things started to get prickly.

I played in both events, the $300 buy in event that attracted 2048 players. I have to say, it drives me absolutely nuts and annoys me to no end that some heads up tournaments don't allow a bye system. It is completely fair to all entrants and to shut people out is just completely unnecessary in my opinion. If byes are random, the luck evens out in the long run and not one person in the event garners an advantage. Let them all play!!!

I won my first four matches in that tournament and never really trailed in any of them. I grinded my opponents down by simply playing a fundamentally sound heads up strategy of min raising the button and betting 50% of the pot on most flops. This strategy is very difficult to exploit, but there are a few other keys to performing it properly which I discuss in great detail in my videos at PokerVT.

I was down to the final 128 players and then had absolutely no chance to win my fifth match based on the card distribution. I got cold decked and outdrawn and hung in as long as I could, but I couldn't get the job done.

The real gem was the $25k buy in event that saw 64 entrants, many of which were Team PokerStars pros. It was a decent field and I was pumped to play. I won my first match pretty handily, leading most of the way thanks to a sick run of cards and some coolers on my opponent.

My second round match was against Greg Raymer, who I'd already played once in the NBC Heads Up event which is very different in terms of skill. The NBC event is much more of a crapshoot than the Stars event which offered a lot more play. I was running brutal to start the match and couldn't connect at all. He had me down pretty low before I called for all of my chips on a board of 3-5-8-Q with 3-4. Raymer had As Js for a flush draw and I faded it on the river getting back to about 10k to his 30k. From there it was over pretty quick. I hit two pair on the flop and got him to call three barrels with bottom pair. then I picked up AA on a flop of 10-5-2. The turn was a K and we got it all in again, me beating his KJ.
The last hand was a bit of an odd one. I raised from the button with A4 and he called from the BB. The flop was 9-2-3 and it went check-check. The turn a K and again, check-check. The river was a 5 and he bet 600, raised to 2400 and he went all in for an additional 8000. I hated my hand at this point, assuming that he either had to have A-4 or 4-6, otherwise there is no way he would re-raise me on the river unless it was a total bluff. I had to call it, and he showed K-5.

My next opponent was zivziv who I knew to be Ziv Bachar, a guy I'd watched play while doing commentary for the APPT. I remember him being a really good player so I knew I'd have to play well and get lucky to beat him. He ran super hot against me, though, and I just couldn't catch a break as he grinded me down, taking a big lead of 70k to 10k before we got it all n on a flop of 7-5-4 with two clubs. I check-raised a 600 bet all in and he called with 7-10. I had 4-5, but the 7 on the turn sealed my fate.

Nonetheless, I was extremely happy with the way that I played this week, both at EPT Barcelona and online in the heads up matches, going 6-2. It's really hard to go 10-0 and win one of those things, but I'm confident that with a good, slow structure, I can maintain a high winning percentage against most fields. The NBC event is a bit frustrating because the blinds escalate quickly and there isn't as much wiggle room. I believe I'm 4-4 lifetime in that event.

When I return from my European trip I am going to do videos of every single one of my matches this week for PokerVT, so be on the look out for those.

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I'm still in Barcelona. No one else is here, just me chilling out on the roof of the hotel, sitting in the sun, reading Dreams of my Father. Pretty deep book, very introspective and amazingly honest. Surprisingly honest, especially for a politician.

Other than that I'm doing perfect push ups everyday, those things are awesome! I feel like I'm already a bit stronger and it's only been about 10 days since I started using them. They are so much harder than regular push ups it's not even funny. I'm still too weak to do them normally, it's too much weight, so I do them on my knees. Christian says this should help me hit the ball a bit further when we get back on the golf course (a place I miss dearly).

It's another one of those, "Me against the world" trips, where work on eating well, reading, working out... kinda like jail- but in a good way!

The only other thing I've been up to, aside from watching CNN for hours and hours, is preparing for my hockey draft. It's a huge, no massively intense job. I will likely put in a 100 hours of research and that is only to draft a total of four 18 year old players. My team is set outside of that, but building through the draft, much like in any real sport, is essential to winning my fantasy hockey league, my other true passion outside of golf and poker.

Yes, I still consider poker a passion, although it doesn't always seem that way. I've been craving it big time. I want it bad and I feel like I really have that, "Eye of the Tiger" back, so to speak. I realized that I just can't be at my best if I'm complacent. That would make me just like one of the online players who are focusing mostly on betting patterns and fundamentals. When I'm playing my best, and focused on my opponents, I see things that clue me in to what my opponents have. That's a powerful weapon in live tournaments and it's kind of like an exciting epiphany for me. I look forward to the WSOPE and the two events at EPT London.

Having said that.. I'm still in Barcelona. Hey, the weather is better here and I don't mind being alone. I think I'll probably end up catching a flight out tomorrow, though, get situated and comfortable with my surroundings a few days in advance. I'll probably play the WCOOP events tonight. So on that note, I'm going to go sign up for the Stud 8 or better.


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