HEADS UP PLAY
Well after six weeks in Las Vegas, I needed 2 weeks off to acclimatise to the real world again. Eventually I dragged myself back onto the European Tour again, and flew down to Barcelona (it is such a hard life). The major competition of the week was the Worlds Heads Up Championship, with a first prize of 100,000 euro. Not bad for a week's work, but it wasn't to be.
Heads Up poker is completely different to 9 handed or even 6 handed poker. If you fancy a change, try it on the Bet365poker.com 1 v 1 tables.
My first round opponent was Daniel Holm, one of the young Scandinavians that are changing the way poker is played in Europe. Generally they play considerable more aggressively, raising considerably more starting hands than I would. If they suspect any weakness after the flop they will fire away trying to pick up the pot. There have been players like this in the past, but certainly not the same number.
Personally I dislike playing against this type of player, because I much prefer to be the aggressor myself. I prefer to be the one who dictates when I want to play a big pot (preferably when I have position and good cards). I am not quite so keen on playing big pots every third or fourth hand. But this is inevitable against some opponents.
My strategy for playing against this opponent is to rarely raise myself but to call with big hands and marginals such as suited connectors or say K7. (King high is much stronger heads up than you may think. The average starting hand for Heads Up play being only Jack high). I would then tend to do a lot of check calling until my opponent realises that he can't steal too many pots from me.
The first round match went very much along these lines. I took an early chip lead when I called a raise with A10. I flopped an Ace, checked to my opponent and called his bet (which turned out to be a bluff). After about 30 minutes, I flopped top pair against his flush draw and the rest of his chips went in. Fortunately for me, he missed his flush and I progressed to the next round to face the intimidating Rob Hollink.
In my opinion, Rob Hollink from Holland is one of the top ten all-round players in Europe. He plays live cash games and competition poker equally well. He is a prolific winner on the internet, and is also one of a very few players who repeatedly win Omaha competitions (myself and the great Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliot being the only others who spring to mind). He won last years online WCOOP Heads Up Tournament. So I knew I was in for a Battle Royale?.
Wrong! Rob raised the very first hand. The blinds were 100/200 and he raised 300 more. I looked down at Kd4d and called the 300, as there was already 700 in the middle. The pot odds were good and the hand was average. The flop came down 10h4h3d. I had second pair so thought I was probably in the lead. There was 1000 in the pot. I checked and called Rob's bet of 700. Making a pot of 2400. (I don't think either of us wished to be playing a pot this big on the very first hand). The turn card was 10d, so I now had 10s and 4s with a King kicker. Surely I was in front? So I trap checked, as I had also picked up the flush draw. Rob bet 1700 and I quickly raised all in. I nearly fell off my chair when he called. He had 10J and my only out was a diamond. It didn't arrive, and now I am the proud owner of another record: the only player eliminated from a WHU match on the first hand.
Well the only moral I can pass on this week, is that Heads Up is tough, Very tough. But try it. It is fun.