Showing posts with label heads-up. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heads-up. Show all posts

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Playing your A-Game

When I first started to play Poker, I was mostly a proponent of 10,000 Hours of Practice/Play to excel at something. Yes, I still believe in the 10,000 Hours Principle. BUT, the Quality of your game play is more important the number of hours that you play.

I do something or I not do it at all. So when I became serious about playing and specialize in HU LHE. I was all about playing, playing, and playing. Which quickly became playing while watching TV, playing while risking to be interrupted, and worse of all, playing when tilting. I soon realized -- after re-caving several times my bankrupted play money bankroll -- that the more I played the more I became prone to self-destruction.

The more I played, the more I tilted, the more I was convinced that I sucked at poker, the more my bankroll suffered. Thank god it was only play money.

Happily, I've finally found light in the following affirmation.

Always Play Your A-Game: Your goal should be to only play poker when you're at your best. 

Thanks to this excellent post: SNG Tips: Play your A-game all the time. Ways to increase your ROI. I just realized, a couple of weeks ago, that the TV should be off when I am playing and that I should be 100% focused, physically and psychologically, on my game and my opponent.

Here are some insights from SNG Tips.

Just because you are a winning player, don't start thinking that all you need to do to win is show up with a mouse in your hand. Your full attention needs to be on the game. You should never have the TV on. 

You need to do everything you can to keep your body and brain 100% in poker playing mode. You need to be aware of the game flow, your current image and who else might be on tilt. You need to be noticing how your opponents play and take quality notes on them. You also may need to be actively table selecting.

Your goal should be to reach "flow state". Some people refer to it as being "in the zone".
from wikipedia:

Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.  Colloquial terms for this or similar mental states include: to be "on the ball", "in the zone", or "in the groove".

Once you're in the zone, don't allow distractions to pull you out of it.

Some tips to play your A-game and be "in the zone".
  • Avoid distraction at all cost. No TV, web surfing, facebooking, chatting, etc...
  • Do not play when tired, unwell, drunk, or stone.
  • Do not chase a bonus or any kind of volume goal.
  • DO NOT PLAY WHEN LOSING. Since losing means tilting, losing confidence and chasing losses.

Make sure that you are alert and able to play your A-Game whenever you join a table. Your wallet will benefit!

Yes, I'm still an advocate of The 10,000 Hours Principle BUT playing your A-Game is a lot better for your bankroll and your confidence.

Phil Ivey 's commitment to excellence

If you need further proof, just take a look at the almighty Phil Ivey. Phil Ivey is the king of "stop losses" online. He practices the "reverse hit and run" when facing the best players in the world at the super high stakes heads up games at Full Tilt Poker. Which mean that he leaves a session when losing as low as one buy-in.

On the flip side, Phil Ivey will ride out a winning session until he's too exhausted to continue. 

Thanks to his commitment to only play when winning, Phil Ivey has been the number one earner in online poker history despite playing about 10% as much as players such as Tom Dwan, Phil Galfond, and CTS. He doesn't succumb to tilt, he merely turns off the computer and comes back at a different time when he is more focused.

Zero tilt factor for Ivey

With that in mind, I doubt that Tom "durrr" Dwan played more than 10-20 hours a day. So if you play 10% of 10-20 hours, you can get away with playing 1-2 hours a day playing your A-game only. 

You must ALWAYS play your A-game.

Quality over Quantity

PokerStars Heads-Up Fixed Limit Sit N Go

Heads Up FIXED LIMIT Sit and Go tournament
 Poker Structure Information

Regular1500 chips, blinds go up every 10 minutes: 10/20; 20/40; 30/60; 50/100; 100/200; 150/300; 200/400; 300/600; 400/800
Turbo1500 chips, blinds go up every 5 minutes: 10/20; 20/40; 30/60; 50/100; 100/200; 150/300; 200/400; 300/600; 400/800

FL Hold'em (HU, 2 players) on PokerStars

Buy-in for each player and Prize pool for the winner

$1.50 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 2,76 $
$1.50 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 2,80 $

$3.50 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 6,58 $
$3.50 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 6,64 $

$7.00 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 13,34 $
$7.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 13,42 $

$15.00 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 28,58 $
$15.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 28,78 $

$30.00 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 57,14 $
$30.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 57,56 $

$60.00 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 114,56 $
$60.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 115,34 $

$100.00 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 191,38 $
$100.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 192,64 $

$200.00 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 385,50 $
$200.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 387,70 $

$300.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 582,50 $

$500.00 FL Hold'em [HU, regular, 2 Players] Prize pool: 970,80 $
$500.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 975,20 $

$1000.00 FL Hold'em [HU, Turbo, 2 Players] Prize pool: 1958,40 $

FL Hold'em (HU, 2 players)

Buy-in and Rake for each player
The name of the SNG is simply the Buy-in that the player has to pay.

Then the Prize pool / winning prize is very simple to calculate.
Prize Pool = (Buy-in x 2) - (Rake x 2)

Rake % 
$1.50 (Regular)
$1.50 (Turbo)

$3.50 (Regular)
$3.50 (Turbo)

$7 (Regular)
$7 (Turbo)

$15 (Regular)
$15 (Turbo)

$30 (Regular)
$30 (Turbo)

$60 (Regular)
$60 (Turbo)

$100 (Regular)
$100 (Turbo)

$200 (Regular)
$200 (Turbo)

$300 (Regular)
$300 (Turbo)

$500 (Regular)
$500 (Turbo)

$1,000 (Regular)
$1,000 (Turbo)

Perfect Heads-Up Limit Hold' Em Strategy part 2


At the highest level of excellence.  There is two obvious reasons that push you to excel in an particular activity. OBSESSION and/or PROFESSION.  So what is the fuel behind the success and the excellence of our four champions?

PROFESSION - Phil Ivey plays for a living.
OBSESSION - Andy Beal was obsessed with facing the bests to be the best.
OBSESSION - Polaris was created to beat the best pro players.
PROFESSION - Texas Hold' Em Heads Up Poker machine was manufactured to legally take the maximum amounts of money out of patrons's pockets.

As you can see in the four above examples.  Those who are mainly fueled by OBSESSION wants to be THE best in the world.  And those doing it as a PROFESSION are mainly interested in the money. 

Now that we know they main motivation.  Let's analyze their playing style and do a mix of it all to create The Ultimate Heads-Up Hold' Em Winning Strategy.

First of all, as I see it. 
All four are hyper aggressive.
All but Ivey are specialized and exclusively play Heads Up Limit Hold' Em.  Phil Ivey is excellent in any form of poker.

All four take on all comers.
All four want to be the best in the world.
All four want to face the bests of the world.
No table selection and bum hunting here! 

Phil Ivey learned the game by playing it.
Andy Beal learned the game by studying it.
And Polaris and "The Brain"...  Well?  Are both robots.

Phil Ivey's style is purely exploitative.
Andy Beal is a machine.  Purely GTO (Game Theory Optimal), probabilities and mathematics.
Polaris, despite using the Nash Equilibrium as his default strategy, is exploitative.  Since his playing style is all about adaptation.
"The Brain" can't be exploitative so it is GTO defensive.  All about preventing itself to be exploited.

What is the main strength of each player / robot?  Just one word to describe each player/bot's main secret to win and be so excellent at HULHE.
Phil Ivey = his reads
Andy Beal = mathematics
Polaris = adaptation
"The Brain" = defense


We don't know much about Phil Ivey and Andy Beal unpredictibility and different play modes.  This isn't the case with Polaris and "The Brain"

Polaris changes gear to adapt.
"The Brain" changes gear for defense.

Polaris have 5 strategies
"The Brain" have 3 "tag team fighters"

Polaris 5 different strategies
1- Polaris default strategy is Nash Equilibrium.  
2- Exploitative Counter Strategy
3- A compromise between the first 2???
4- A team of all strategies to learn which one to use during the game???

"The Brain" 3 tag-team fighters
1- Neutral net with optimal number of bluff.
2- A slightly different style.
3- To finish off a short-stacked opponent.  I like this one!
Aggression level might change randomly.


So, if we can do a melting of those four winning strategies.  What it would be like? 

I will call it the P.I.B.B. in hommage of our four HULHE gods.
P.I.B.B. stands for... 

or  if you prefer

Now let's look at the

HULHE P.I.B.B. Winning Strategy aka P.I.B.B. Strategy


  • Play nearly every hands

BUTTON (in position): 

  • Raise almost 100% of the time

BIG BLIND (out of position): 

  • Raise called button 75% of the time.
  • Always raise (3-Betting) with Ax, Kx, Q3s+, Q6+, J8+, T7s+, T9+, 98s+, 22+. 

Or you can use the Polaris's 3-Betting strategy from the BB.


  • Continuation Bet 100% of the time.


  • Continuation Bet 100% of the time.
  • 8-bet the turn with two pairs


  • Check-call all the way down the river with any Ace-high hand.
  • Call with K-high unless the board is scary.

Extreme Aggression
Be The Aggressor

Tag team fighters / different strategies (P.I.B.B.)

1- Extreme Aggression (default strategy) 
    Push or Fold when villain (or you) are 4BB
    (Ax, Kx, Qx, Jx, T8, T7s, 98s, 22+)


  • You are the aggressor
  • Leave after losing one buy-in
  • Keep playing when winning
  • Obsession with preventing tells

Now, after studying the playing style of my four heads up limit hold em icons, heros and idols.  I have enough information to devise my own strategy.  The Perfect Heads-Up Fixed Limit Hold' Em Strategy.   This will be the third part of this highly instructive guide.


For an analysis of the respective playing style of Polaris. Ivey. Beal. Brain. you have to see

The bio, profile, in-dept playing style of each of our four marvels read the following.

Stay tuned for the 3rd and last part of this article. Where I will devise a more usable, realistic, and adaptative strategy. Everything you need to know to be a $ucce$$ful poker player from playing style to money management. 


Optimal Heads-Up (Preflop) Limit Hold' Em

The Game has changed. As said in The Evolution of Poker: from Super System to math PhD reading Doyle Brunson's SUPER SYSTEM is not enough anymore to give you an edge.  The 2003 Chris Moneymaker's Effect changed all that. Now the common man has the opportunity to play thousands of hands and read all kind of poker books about game theory and exploitative plays. Todays fishes are way more skilled than their counterparts of 20 years ago.

Let me give the highlights of the Optimal Game Theory as ellaborated by highly lucrative online poker pros and some math wizards. These below were particularly devised for Heads-Up Fixed Limit Hold' Em Poker (HUHU / HULHE). HULHE is the simplest form of poker from a programming and mathematical standpoint. Just like chess computer Deep Blue defeated undisputed world chess champion Garry Kasparov. The best bots like Polaris and casino slot machine named "Texas Hold'em Heads Up Poker" AKA "The Brain" routinely beat world-class pro poker players. To this point, HULHE is similar to chess. While it is possible for Artificial Intelligence to play near optimal strategy to beat the best players. Both chess and Heads-Up Limit Hold' Em aren't solved games. 

Exploitative Players were information seekers to keep an edge over their opponents. They are the old guard.
Game Theory Optimal (GTO, optimal) players the highest limits of online plays. They don't much care what their opponent does. They seek to play a strategy designed in the long run to beat any other strategy in the long run.

An optimal player seeks to find the optimal strategy. For any game, there exists at least one optimal strategy. Any GTO poker pro dedicates his time and effort to get as close as possible to the Optimal Strategy. 

However you need to prioritize the practical over the theoretical at all times.

Game Theoretical Optimum strategy

Button (Small Blind)
rarely fold in the SB (10/169)
23o-28o and 34o-38o

SB never fold to a raise
SB never raise his worst hands

Big Blind (Out Of Position)
NEVER fold in the BB

BB has the edge (act second and is live)
BB never fold to a raise
BB never re-raise with worst hands

Button & BB
R3 - Raise, reraise and re-re-raise if raised back only with AA

Playing different hands in the same way
However, Optimal Strategy dictates to vary strategy randomly in order to be deceptive.

The Two Rules

If Villain bet or raise, you should CALL (usually)

If you bet one street and Villain calls, you should BET again on the next card. (usually)

Some of the people who applied professional level mathematics to real world poker. 

Nick Christenson
Alex Selby 
Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky
Matthew Janda
Dr. Darse Billings
Bill Chen
Jerrod Ankenman
Chris Fergusson

NASH EQUILIBRIUM Game Theory for Fixed Limit Heads-Up Hold' Em

Transition from No-Limit to Fixed-Limit
Adapting the Nash Equilibrium for Heads-Up LIMIT Hold' Em

Since our concern here isn't Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold' Em but Heads-Up Fixed Limit Hold' Em the number of effective BB (Big Blinds) will be different.

On PokerStar the minimum required stack to play
HU FL HE     5 BB

According to this, we need 8 TIMES less money to play Limit Holdem than we need to play No Limit.

So the 20+ BB mentioned above would be reduced to 2.5 + BB in a Fixed Limit game.  Well... ???? I'm not so sure about the correlation between the two.

A more realistic and representative stack is 100 BB in no limit vs. 20 BB in fixed limit as suggested on Pokerstars.

With that being said: 
HU NL HE  20 BB = HU FL HE  4 BB

I have to admit that I feel pretty naked at 4-5 BB.

The following is copy-and-paste general information about the HeadsUp Push/Fold charts and their usage for Heads-Up No-Limit Hold' Em. For the original source, I encourage you to click the links of the source at the end of the explanations. 

Keep in mind that the explanations below were deviced for HU NL HE. So divide the numbers by 5 to give you an idea of what it could be in Heads-Up LIMIT Hold' Em.

General Information

The charts show the Nash Equilibrium solution of the heads-up push-or-fold game. This is a simplified game where the SB is only allowed to go all-in or fold, and the BB can either call or fold when facing a shove.
It is important to keep in mind that this is not the solution for the full game where limps and smaller raises are also available. The push-or-fold solution is generally assumed to be very close to the solution of the full game up to around 8bb. In practice the strategy can likely be used at least until 10bb without being too exploitable.


The tables show the highest effective stack size in big blinds where a hand can be pushed or called. Values bigger than 20 are only displayed as 20+, which means the hand can be played for any stack size of 20bb or less. (Playing push-or-fold is typically only recommended up to around 10bb, depending on the situation. Using push-or-fold for >20bb is almost certainly a bad idea.)
Some hands have gaps in their pushing strategies, they are marked with * and the details are displayed below the charts. For example 63s is included in the pushing strategy for stack sizes between 7.1 and 5.1bb, and stacks below 2.3bb.


SB (9.0bb): T3s
BB (6.0bb): Q2o

The effective stack size is the smaller of the two, before posting any blinds. So the relevant stack size for both players in this hand is 6.0 big blinds.
To find the strategy for SBs T3s, check the green area (suited hands) of the "Pusher" chart. The value for T3s is 7.7bb, and since that is larger than the current effective stacks the hand is a push in the Nash Equilibrium strategy.
To determine if the BB should call with his Q2o, check the orange area (offsuit hands) of the "Caller" chart and locate Q2o. The value there is 5.6bb. The effective stacks in the current hand are larger than the value for Q2o, so this hand is a fold in the Nash Equilibrium strategy.

I have included the following chart analyzing the game play of Hyperborean and the legendary Polaris.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Andy Beal

Andy Beal
Billionaire banker from Texas &
high stakes heads-up limit hold'em poker player
Net Worth: Increase US$8.5 billion (March 2013)
    • Born November 11, 1952 Lansing, Michigan, U.S
    • Lives in Dallas, Texas.
    • Father of six
    • Divorced two times (spouse1, Simona Beal)
    • A self-made billionaire
    • Banker
    • Founder and chairman of Beal Bank and the now-dissolved Beal Aerospace Technologies
    • Graduate, Sexton High School, Lansing MI but dropped out after becoming bored with the classes.
    • Attended Michigan State University and Baylor University
    • At age 19 he bought a house for $6,500 and rented it for $119 a month which led to his first gain as a businessman.
    • Played blackjack as a youth.
    • 1981- He started buying property that no one else wanted and made it profitable.
    • 1988 – Opened first bank in Dallas (later renamed Beal Financial)
    • 1993 – Discovery of conjecture (mathematical number theory). Has offered $100,000 for its proof or disproof.
    • 2000 – Bought over 1 billion commercial loans and collected on the debts.
    • After September 11, 2001 – Began buying airline bonds. He makes about $70 million a year from those bonds.
    • 2001 – Began visiting Bellagio to participate in high stakes poker games. Andy Beal was 48 years old in 2001
    • BETWEEN 2001 AND 2006 – Began playing The Corporation
    • His long series of ultra high-stakes heads-up battles were featured in the Michael Craig book The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King

    High Stakes Heads-Up Limit Hold' Em

    Greatest Feat:
    During visits to Las Vegas between 2001 and 2004, Beal participated in high-stakes poker games against professional players. The games included USD$100,000 to $200,000 limit Texas Hold 'Em poker. On May 13, 2004, at the Las Vegas Bellagio, Beal won one of the largest single hands in poker history, $11.7 million.  The games have been chronicled in the Michael Craig book, “The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time.”

    While the games outlined in Craig's book ended in 2004, Beal returned to Las Vegas from February 1–5, 2006 to again take on "The Corporation" in a $50,000/100,000 Limit Hold 'Em match at the Wynn Las Vegas Casino. Opponents included Todd Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Ted Forrest, and others.

    Phil Ivey vs Andy Beal

    On February 5, 2006, Beal was down $3.3 million (USD). He then returned to the Wynn Casino a week later, and won approximately $13.6 million from the Corporation during daily poker sessions from February 12–15. The games resumed February 21–23, with world champion poker player Phil Ivey representing the Corporation against Beal at limits of $30,000/60,000 and $50,000/100,000. During these three days, Beal lost $16.6 million to Ivey.

    Andy Beal High Stakes Heads-Up Limit Hold' Em strategy:

    Step 1. Play nearly every hands
                Raise (most of the time) every pot he enters
    Step 2. Check-call all the way down to the river with any A-high hand
                8-bets the turn with two pair
    Step 3. Obsession with preventing tells

    Why is Andy Beal so good?
    a) Obsession
    b) Specialization
    c) Mathematical approach
    d) High stakes
    e) Ultra-aggressive
    f) Impossible to read

    Carl Icahn once said of Beal, "I always thought of myself as a good player. But I'm not in his league."

    Monday, September 30, 2013

    Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em Sit and Go

    Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em Sit and Go (HUSNG)


    We also like the high win rates that are possible and how quickly your bankroll can grow playing heads up sngs. With a bankroll of 20 buy-ins, and a win rate of 60%, your bankroll doubles every one hundred tournaments. This means that you move up a level every hundred tournaments as long as you are strong enough to win 60% of your matches, and a strong player can move up very quickly. Starting with a $200 bankroll and doubling it every hundred tournaments, you will have enough money in your bankroll to play heads up sit and gos for a living at the $150 buy-in level after just 400 tournaments. A good player at this level makes well over $50 per hour!

    You should not just be limping a lot more, because by raising with most of your hands, you will be putting extra pressure on your opponent and increasing the chances that you will win the blinds and antes. In a typical hu sng tournament, you should be:
    • Open raising or limping nearly all of your buttons;
    • Raising any face card;
    • Raising with any pair;
    • Calling with nearly everything else;
    • Re-raising with premium hands and medium pairs.

    HUSNG grinder

    Best HUSNG players