Thursday, January 24, 2008


Ever since I ambushed the heads up tables a few months ago, there have only been two types of players that have fleeced me for all I have. One is the experienced, aggressive player that I should have avoided, and the other is the totally unpredictable Limit player who has an infuriating habit of min betting every street, refusing to fold, and then betting over the pot when you least expect it.

In the past, the latter of those two has always been beatable, but too often their unorthodox play, and perhaps a little good fortune, has bamboozled me to the point of tilt. If I get beaten by some muppet who got lucky, then I find it a lot more manageable, but if it's a guy who is min betting left, right and centre and causing my brain to melt, I just feel like exploding.

The big error I make with these guys is not studying their game enough. Frequently I'll lose my patience and just call them down with bottom pair, only to find they have me beat come the river. I end up paying them off way too much for what is a weak hand, and then find myself having to grind my way back up to what I had before. After a few hands like these, those $4 really add up and you find yourself refilling more often than you realise. Also, I tend to assume that they're fish, just because they're min betting all the time. However, this isn't always true, and if they have their wits about them, they can pray on this by altering their game slightly and start bluffing more strategically.

For instance, what do you do if your opponent is min-raising almost every hand pre-flop from the button and then betting $4 on the Flop? With $4 already in, it's hard to fold pre-flop, and again on the Flop, what if you have bottom pair? Can you fold for another $4? How about re-raising? You're out of position and many of these types of players tend to be calling stations to an extent, so often call the re-raise and then min bet the Turn. Do you call again? Where does it end? What about the River? What do you if they suddenly decide to bet big and you have something like top pair?

Well, as you can imagine, my naive approach to these players, many of whom are actually better than their bizzare betting patterns might suggest, has cost me at times, way too much money. But, recently, I've been able to confront them with a more level head, studying their play more carefully and working out my best strategy. I ultimately decided that I'm best folding weak hands pre-flop. Most of the time they are unlikely to hit, and I don't want to be calling off a total of $12 down the streets with something like king high. Instead, I've been ensuring that I stick to connecting cards or hands that have more potential. I can't be calling with 9-3o, hitting a 3 and then just calling him down. Also, the chances are that I'll miss and then just fold to his continuation bet, meaning another $4 wasted.

I think position is the key with these guys, meaning that making that pre-flop out of position fold for just an extra $4 becomes a +ve move. I want to be playing each street in position, and if I do decide to make a re-raise, then I'll at least be able to see what he does on the Turn at which point I'd hope to know what his Turn action means and how I can utilise that information.

Most of the time, I can pick out enough patterns in their play to adjust my game accordingly. Today, however, I found it virtually impossible. Sitting with $400, I was joined by a min-bettor whose betting patterns were simply unfathomable. They were so confusing, that I almost concluded them to be random.

About 65% of the time, he'd bet $4, 20% he'd check, 10% he'd make a normal pot raise or slight overbet, 3% of the time he'd push all-in unprovoked and 2% of the time he'd min check-raise. I tested out all of these different variants, and he held monsters on some occasions, and nothing on others. It was simply mind-boggling and I seemed unable to garner any decisive tells on the decisions he made.

I recall him shoving all-in early doors for $350 with virtually nothing in the pot. I assumed he had the nuts and folded. However, he did this a number of times, too many for it to be continual nuts in fact, and I started to become suspicious. However, having the nuts frequently isn't impossible, so if he pushes all-in for so much, and you have two pair, how can you justify calling? One hand I'd Turned a straight and bet it out, knowing that there was a good chance that he was calling all the way. He did indeed call, but when the River paired the board, he pushed all-in for everything I had. Having been beaten up by his constant min betting and casual all-ins, I was so close to calling, but eventually folded, knowing that if he was making these moves with non-nuts, then sooner or later I'd catch him at it with a stronger hand than a straight. These are probably the hands I would have called once though, if only through frustration.

After a while, I was dismayed to see that I'd somehow dumped $300 to this bloke, the pots never exceeding the $100 mark. Whatever I did, I just couldn't get a good read on him, and I couldn't seem to decipher if it was because he was playing me like a fiddle, or was actually pissing about and just being lucky. At one point, I did start grinding it back to around $200 down, but we hovered around that mark for ages, so I never felt like I'd genuinely got the better of him.

Finally and after about 90 minutes of play, I caught the fucker. On a 6-K-Q-6-6 board and with just $88 in the pot, he made an out of position all-in push for $389.80 with K-J and I called with 6-7. That hand that I'd been waiting for had finally arrived, and it resulted in a nice, tasty $866.60 pot going the Beagle's way. I knew it would come sooner or later, I just didn't expect it to be quads.

Anyway, I left that table wondering if I'd been lucky to find quads, or just had my patience inevitably rewarded. I never felt like I had him sussed at any point, but at the same time, knew if I did Flop a set against an overpair or something, he was liable to make that ridiculous all-in push. In a way, it's a shame, because I really wanted to break him down gradually, work out where I should be folding, raising, etc and grind him down to nothing. Don't get me wrong, I was overjoyed that he presented his stack to me, but I think it may have been slightly more satisfying to correctly assess his play and clean him out bit by bit.

I once saw an episode of Games Master where a Japanese dude was taking on 100 of Britain's best Virtual Fighter players. They all stood in a line, and he played them one-by-one in a best of three bout. Before the show had ended, he'd beaten the lot, every single one. In the post-match interview, he claimed that the toughest players were actually the ones that weren't particularly good at the game because they were so much more unpredictable than the others. He wasn't used to the decisions they made, and it threw him off his guard and caused him to make mistakes. However, he still beat them in the end, even if their unpredictability had taken the odd round off him. Let's hope I can do the same in heads-up poker.

biggest pot won: $866.60
biggest pot lost: $136.00
time at the table: 1hr 38min

profit = $405.08
blonde poker account = $6,188.29
-$1,188.29 to go before the tax man comes back

Days played = 20
total time played = 61 hrs 31 mins
total rake earned = $860.85

current $ per hour = $79.46
current $ per day = $244.41


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