Friday, February 29, 2008

HU Resolution

It's been said that you won't remember the bad beats of today in the weeks and months ahead, that your hands blur together over time in this big long session.

But there are some beats and sessions I'll never forget.

I had been playing online poker for about 8 months in 2004 when I decided to concentrate on limit hold 'em. I started out well at 2/4 and quickly moved up to 3/6.

This was in the early days of Full Tilt Poker, and I had the outer space theme selected as I sat at a shorthanded table. I bought in for $150, and the table quickly became heads-up. I was eager to take this guy on because I was brimming with confidence and wanted to try my untested one-on-one skills.

It didn't take long before I was down to the felt. As my last few chips were slipping away, I started tilting hard. I asked my opponent, "What am I doing so wrong? How are you beating me when I'm trying to play good cards? What do you have that I don't?"

He didn't have much to say. He told me he didn't have the answers.

In retrospect, it's easy to see that I was inexperienced and had no grasp of the depth of my ignorance. I knew nothing about heads-up play, and my style was so intractably tight that I didn't stand a chance. I remembered that feeling of helplessness and resolved to avoid feeling that way again.

I got that feeling again at times when playing 5/10 NL heads-up games. The bad beats piled up and I didn't understand how I could be losing to such terrible calling stations. I've learned a lot about heads-up cash game play, but I still feel lost at times against superior opponents.

Like my decision to develop shorthanded skills, I believe heads-up play to be a crucial step toward becoming a more complete poker player. Reading hands, evaluating hand ranges, bluffing, adjusting, changing gears and getting value become so important. I have to be at my best and most deceptive to perform well.

I also believe these skills are directly relevant to other forms of poker, especially because most contested hands are heads-up on the flop.

So I resolve, once again, to commit myself to study and practice of heads-up poker. I'm thinking about hiring a coach to specifically help me with heads-up play, although I'm not comfortable with shelling out the money for coaching just yet. My plan is to do what I've always done: think about the game, review hands and watch videos. I don't know how else to improve except gradually.

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