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10 Tips to Transform Your Heads-Up Game

Posted by preachercasy151

Heuristics are little rules-of-thumb that can be used to simplify decision-making. In poker, where every decision is vital, it is important to have some guidelines to fall back on when tough spots come up. Here are ten heuristics for Heads-Up that will help you to make better decisions, more consistently.

 

-          If in doubt, take the aggressive route

-          If you never look stupid, then you are playing too conservatively

-          There is no ICM heads-up, so you are free to take thin edges

-          Never assume; make every great SNG player prove that he’s a great HU player

-          Every street provides at least one opportunity to make a great decision

-          Contesting from the button can never be a big mistake; open-folding the button usually is

-          You need a very good reason not to c-bet

-          The second that your foot slips off the pedal is the second that your quality dips

-          A LAG fishbowl is a tougher opponent than a TAG reg

-          The great heads-up player makes plays that she doesn’t WANT to make

 

 

How many of these heuristics do you adhere to? And do you disagree with any of them? Don’t forget to drop me a comment, or get in touch via Twitter or through my website. And hey, be a hero and spread the ten tips around Twitter and Facebook!

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Interview with DragTheBar member and Rising Poker Talent Willian “KhalDragon” Mates

Posted by BlackRain79

One of the great things about being so involved with poker over the years from both a playing and teaching perspective (and now living overseas amongst a ton of professional players as well) is that I have had the chance to meet a lot of talented players. I have been wanting to start doing a few more interviews on my blog here from time to time. I thought there was no better person to start with than Willian "KhalDragon" Mates.

He has been a friend of mine and a regular poster on my forum and at DragTheBar for nearly two years now. He also has had outstanding success rising through the ranks from the very lowest stakes online NLHE cash games to now knocking on the door of mid stakes. He is an example of what hard work and dedication can do for you even in today's supposedly "tough" games.

Without further ado.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello, my name is Willian Chaves Mates. I am 31 years old and from Brazil. I’m a production civil engineer. Currently I’m doing a master thesis on logistics and transportation. I have worked as a production manager in a factory and also have taught soil mechanics at the university.

How and when did you first get introduced to poker?

I think it was about 7 years ago, playing with friends but only for fun. Things were not serious back then, but I was very competitive as I always have been about almost everything that I get involved with. However, I did not play for real money or against more skilled opponents until much later.

What stakes did you start out at? Did you have success right away?

Online I played play money like 5 years ago. Just about two years ago I started playing on Pokerstars at the lowest stake level 0,01-0,02. That was exactly when I bought Crushing the Microstakes. I read it many times, made as many notes as I could, made lots of excel tables, and posted almost every day on BlackRain’s forum. Nathan I really gave you a lot of trouble back then!

[BR79: Haha, no worries! You were quite the prolific poster back then but it is a testament to your dedication to the game and why you have seen such great progress].

I had a tremendous amount of success right away easily getting about 20bb/100 playing at 0,01-0,02 over a sample of over 100k hands. I remember being on vacation on my second or third month after reading CTM and I was able to have a 600 USD month playing 0,02-0,05. It was about July. In December of the same year (2012) I had a 1k+ month playing 0,10-,25. It was part time and I was not sure of how far I wanted to go with poker. Actually I kind of stopped for a while after that but I saw the possibility of making some real money playing this game.

What stakes do you play at now? What was the journey like for you to get to this point?

I’m playing a mix of 0,5-1 and 1-2 right now. Well from the point that I stopped in the last question, I had almost no poker activity in 2013 until July. By the end of June my contract with the university ended and sadly it could not be renewed. However, I had some savings for the upcoming months and a lot of free time. So I remembered that I had some success with poker in the previous year and decided to take another shot, a more serious one.

I only had 200 USD in my bankroll at this moment (previously cashed out all the rest) so I decided to play 0,05-0,1 full ring, and played only this game, since that has always been my best game. In one month I managed to get a healthy enough bankroll to play 0,1-0,25 so I moved up. I proceeded to play at this level and a few months after that moved to the next level. I think it is important to note that I played no SnG, no MTT and almost zero short-handed, I kept focused on full ring cash games.

December came and again a huge boom. There was a huge volume of deep stack games, lots of fish and I ran incredibly well. I ended up over 5k USD in earnings on the month, which was huge for me. The beginning of 2014 was not so good. I bought a nice car and overall increased my expenses a little bit but then I fell ill a couple times. I also had some bad runs (actually I think I played bad, both because of being sick and because of having some new money pressure).

So although I had some really good results instead of moving up I was indeed going to move down. At that point I had a conversation with Paul Ratchford, an incredibly skilled high stakes pro, and he told me that my skill was far greater than the level I was playing and it would be a huge waste of time if I moved down. So he mentioned Staking Pros, a site which is run by Hunter Bick, the CEO of Drag The Bar. They have been kind of my home for poker. It is for sure the place where I learned the most in the past years. I had a conversation with Hunter and we started a staking arrangement where I would play at 0,5-1 and we agreed that if I manage to get good results then I would quickly move up to 1-2. That is exactly the point where I’m at now.

[BR79: Here are some recent graphs that Willian posted on his blog that show just how dominant he has been at the tables. First one is mostly NL50 near the start of this year. Second one is NL100 from last month, April].

(Right-Click and Open in  a New Tab)
Interview with rising poker talent Willian Mates
Interview with rising poker talent Khaldragon

Do you have any advice for people just starting out in poker or who are currently struggling at the lowest limits?

I think that people should realize how important focus is. People that really want to go to the next level should probably focus on a single game and commit to it. Playing less tables is also something to consider. By reducing the number of tables not only the focus on each table will increase but the game selection will improve drastically since you will be playing less marginal tables. What you will essentially be doing is trading those extra marginal tables for focus on the really profitable ones.

Do you have a blog or any social media accounts where the readers can follow your progress?

I have recently started a blog at www.khaldragon.blogspot.com.br. It is kind of new but I plan on doing two posts per week, both talking about my struggles at the new levels and about the strategies that I’m using. You can also find me on Twitter here.

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I want to thank Willian Mates for taking the time to do this interview for the readers here at blackrain79.com. I think the sky is the limit for this guy and once again he is a perfect example of where you can get with dedication and focus in this game. I would encourage all readers to go check out his blog. I am subscribed and looking forward to reading all of his future posts!

If you have any questions for Willian please leave them below or ask him directly on his blog. Also let me know if you like seeing interviews like this and want to see more!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

Struggling at the Micros? Just Getting Started in Poker? Join my FREE weekly newsletter for exclusive tips, articles and more! 

Are You Too Quick To Give Your Poker Coach Credit?

Posted by preachercasy151

Beware of falsely attributing an upturn in your poker results to a good coach. This one can be extremely tricky, so you have to be on your guard. Here’s a scenario for you:

Mike is a long-term winning reg in the mid-stakes 6-max Sit N Gos. However, in the last couple of months he has been losing a chunk in his normal games, and he is worried that the other regs have figured him out.

On the recommendation of another reg, he contacts a coach to see what can be done to end his slump.

Sure enough, after five expensive coaching sessions, Mike’s results start to improve. Before long, Mike is back to his old win-rate, beating his normal games at a decent clip.

The coaching worked!

Or did it?

This famous coach was the focus of one of my favourite bits of standup - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWIXVvd-oyM
This famous coach was the focus of one of my favourite bits of standup

The Poker Coaching Conundrum

As a coach, I can assure you that most players seek out my services when they are suffering a bad run of form. They think that it must be addressed urgently, and hiring a coach must be the most efficient way of getting back to form.

I am always very wary of accepting coaching applications from such players. Indeed, I reject a lot more of them than I accept.

The reason is simple – it is immoral for me to take credit for aiding these players’ recoveries. 90% of the time, what they experience is a simple case of regression to the mean.

Poker’s Regression Obsession

Regression to the mean is when things naturally settle back towards their ‘true’ level over time. For example – in poker, an average player who binked a massive tournament win was almost certainly extremely lucky, rather than someone who had developed poker genius overnight.

Before long, they will dribble some of their money back to the poker community as the luck wears off and their typical skill level emerges.

When a football team sacks their manager, it is usually because they have been under-performing relative to their normal standard. The new boss gets appointed, and lo and behold, results start to improve. Miraculous!

Well, not really.

The reality is that the team were likely going through a run of bad luck and fragile confidence – a temporary blip that would rectify itself naturally in time.

Do you see where this is going?

Let’s get back to Mike

Mike’s poor recent run was overwhelmingly likely to correct itself over time – assuming, of course, that the bad luck would not provoke bad decision-making.

The real solution to Mike’s sticky situation is to simply keep doing what he does best: grinding away, until variance rights itself and he regresses towards his typical, impressive level.

classroom

So how best do we avoid getting into this sticky situation?

I always encourage my students to strengthen from a position of strength. That means that they should look to work hardest on their poker homework when things are going well for them. It is during such times that their thinking is at its clearest, and my students are at their most responsive to new ideas.

If they wait until something goes wrong (ie. a downswing) before attempting to appraise their game, then their outlook will be cloudy. They will be tempted to attempt root-and-branch, reactionary surgery when a few tweaks were all that was needed.

My advice to Mike

In future, look to engage the services of a coach when things are going well. Don’t fall into the trap of bolting the barn door after the horse has departed. When things are going badly, it is not the time to clutter up your mind with new concepts and it is very difficult to objectively appraise your game.

And most of all, don’t assume that the upturn in results was down to the genius of the expensive coach! In all probability, in a swingy game like poker, it was a simple case of regression to the mean.

A good coach will be able to say no to applicants who are suffering a temporary blip – or at least, they must be willing to hold their hands up and say that they had little to do with the sudden upswing in the student’s results!

 

What do you think – are you too quick to seek out coaching when you hit a downswing?  Are you the sort of person who wants to pat the coach on the back when you should really be applauding yourself? And most of all, do you truly understand the nature of variance and its sister – regression to the mean?

Let me know in the comments, check out my siteor drop me a message on Twitter or Skype (just add me – ‘casy151’)

 

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