5 MUST-READ Tips For Heads-up Poker
After my first post, many people where interested in learning what helped me to begin progressing quickly.
In this article I will give advice to players who have decided to earn money playing HU SNG poker. Very probably, all poker players may find it to be useful as well. It's likely that a lot of the things written here have already been said by other players. I will try to emphasize the things that I think are important if you want to be successful in HU SNG poker.
1. Play a lot
Nothing will move you closer to success than playing a lot of tournaments. The headlong start of playing three to four tables non-stop is something that is not worth doing. Play one table, and analyze every deal in action. When you play one table, you will always have the time to analyze the situation.
I do not, however, recommend looking through the deals straight after the game, because you're likely to filter out the biggest won/lost pots and surely you won't remember the whole dynamics of the hand.
With the accumulation of experience, you will get that sixth sense which is called “the feeling”. This so-called “feeling” will show you how you “feel” the dynamics of the game. I am not taking about folding aces pre-flop on the “feeling” - I am talking about the fine line that divides a genius bluffer from an idiotic move, and a stupid fold from a perfect-hero fold.
According to the game dynamics, I make unprofitable calls due to the common notion of call on flop (for instance, with a flush draw). Just knowing in advance that the opponent will check on the run and I can watch the river and this will be enough when playing against this opponent to take the pot on showdown, even if I get a third pair. Only once you have gained an immense amount of playing experience will you learn how to turn such “unprofitable calls” into positive ones.
If you have not yet succeeded in winning more than you are losing, this means that you are still not playing enough. Determine what poker means for you. If you want to be a PRO, then 200 tournaments a month is clearly not your goal.
This is last month's screen-shot. In total, I had to play 600 tournaments to make the EV line and the line of actual profit converge. If I had played 200 tournaments a month, I would have had two negative months in a row. You must admit that it is not the most pleasing aspect of a player's career.
2. Manage your money wisely
I associate being a poker player with being an investor. You have to invest your time and money all the time. If you win $1,000 a month, that does not necessarily mean that your “salary” is $1,000 a month. You have to spend money on training (welcome to the real world! Good tuition is expensive) and moving up limits.
Imagine it as a game: You have to reach the highest bets in a certain time period having not gone under. By the way – you do not know when the timer stops. Maybe in six months, maybe in a year, maybe in ten years. You cannot afford to not move up the limits if you are a pro. As soon as you stop at NL50/SNG50 as though you have enough money – YOU HAVE LOST IT! Your needs are growing – right now you may be single, soon you will get a girlfriend/wife/family; it will be necessary to withdraw money on a regular basis … games become tighter, you have to play more to obtain the amount of money you need. BANG! The trap has closed and you are the loser.
For more than one and a half years I played $10 and $20 HU SNGs. I withdrew $300-600 for life expenses (the amount was dependent upon how lucky a month I had had). I was constantly stressed and lacking in confidence. Imagine if I had to withdraw $400 out of my $1,000 bankroll, as already by then I lived separately from my parents.
Around July 2009 I started working for 10k roubles as a construction materials sales manager, playing poker after work. I had very little entertainment in my life – I blew off the gym, TV, computer games and even my girlfriend (OMG!?). I was working from 9am until 4.30pm every day then playing heads-up until the morning. I was almost never doing cash-outs, and from August onwards I moved up one limit every four to six weeks, following conservative bankroll management (I had 80-100 buy-ins of the limit I was playing). Having saved 100 buy-ins for $100 tournaments I left my job.
Already, by February 2010 I was mixing 200-300 tournaments in different rooms, sometimes even making raids on the higher limits.
3. Control your emotions
One of the key skills for a heads-up player is the ability to control emotions during a game.
I used to be on tilt before, playing twelve-hour putty sets, playing limits that were five times higher than my working one, etc. Now I have gotten rid of about ninety percent of these problems. Sometimes I do start playing in a less than optimum fashion, making mistakes and flapping about a lost pot.
As soon as I notice the first symptoms, I either start to control my emotions, or I end the game. I am not the best HU SNG player, and certainly I am somewhat technically inferior to the top regular players, but I can spot players who are psychologically unstable. I won many knock-down drag-out fights with good regulars thanks to my opponent falling on tilt.
4. Do not clutter your mind with rubbish
Your worst enemy is the forums or, more specifically, the problem-discussion sections. Here I am talking about HU poker above all other forms. Of course, you might learn something while you are discussing a problem and catch the other person's meaning, but for that you will need to filter out plenty of unnecessary and often even harmful information. If you are a newbie, it is a dead lift for you.
Even posters who seem competent at first sight and who play limits five times higher than your current working one can give bad advice. Of course, they don't do it out of spite. It's simply that every strong regular player has their own playing style and their own way of understanding a particular situation.
For example, let's take the possibility of bluffing on the river. This will probably be a positive move for you, but for a regular player (who gives advice on the deal) it's quite the opposite, even if the opponent and the board are the same – in the previous one hundred deals your behaviour was different, your image is different, and your opponent does not expect this move, especially from you. So bet the third barrel on the river!
5. Find your style
I play in most European rooms. I have many friends and people that I know among the regulars across all networks. Sometimes I follow their playing, or I share their screen via Skype. EVERY DECENT REGULAR PLAYER HAS THEIR OWN PLAYING STYLE. No one plays strictly by the numbers, and everybody sticks out by something in particular. Do not try to copy what you have seen in VODs mechanically. Instead, try to understand WHY the author is doing this, how it is connected with the opponent and the game dynamics, and only then adapt it to your own playing.