An Interview with HokieGreg A HU SnG Guru



Ill be the first to admit that Im a heads up cash game player and I dont have much experience in HU sit n goes.  While obviously theres a lot of overlap, there are some really important differences (e.g. playing with 10 30 big blinds).  To get more insight into HU SNGS, I interviewed the one, the only, HokieGreg.  Hes currently ranked 4th on Sharkscope for Total Profit in 2009 in the $101-$300 level.

Greg (HokieGreg HU) is 26 year old professional poker player from Richmond, VA. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2005 and went on to graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University, before dropping out to pursue poker as a career. Hes been playing professional poker for about 2 years now and his long-term goal is to set himself up for a career in real estate investing.

What got you into HU SNGs?  Why not fullring SNGs?  Why not cash games?
Some people are natural poker players. They learn the basics, start playing a lot, establish pretty solid handreading abilities, and crush. Im not one of those people. I spent about 2 years being a fish and 3 years as a marginal winner before I really started to understand the importance of bankroll management, tilt control, and self-discipline. In the Fall of 2006, I found the 2p2 forums and started grinding 10 NL 6max cash. I deposited $60 on Stars (lol bankroll management) and over about 150,000 hands I was overrolled to move up to 50NL. This is the first time I ever experienced what it was like to make money with very low risk (after I was up a few buyins initially) and learn how to deal with being a regular at a certain limit (yes, there are regulars at 10NL). It was a pretty exciting and motivating experience for me. For the first time, I realized that through hard work and discipline, it is possible to make consistent money playing pokeralbeit at very low stakes in this case. I was hooked.

Fast forward a few months, I tilted off my entire bankroll that I had built playing 6 max cash (mainly due to life stress). I quit poker for a few months (weve all said we quit poker before right?). I really felt like I just beat myself due to a lack of discipline and emotional control, so I really wanted to give it another shot. In March of 2007, I was randomly browsing the Heads Up forum on 2p2 and came across a link to a blog written by BCM11. I was amazed to read how he seemed to make a profit most days and almost certainly every month. I had always felt pretty comfortable playing heads up. Focusing on one person rather than a full table was appealing to me. Also, being the action junky that I am, I liked the idea of being allowed to raise 70% of my buttons. I deposited $40 on Pokerstars on March 17, 2007, starting at the $5 regular speed husngs, and I havent deposited again since. I slowly worked my way up the levels and am now playing 220-550 on a regular basis. Since that deposit, Ive made approximately $250k including bonuses/rakeback/etc.

If you had to teach a friend to play HU SNGs profitably, where would you tell him to start?  Any 2+2 posts, videos, articles, you particularly recommend?
When you first start taking husng/poker seriously, START OVERROLLED. Dont ever set short term monetary goals (i.e. dont say Im going to make $200/week). Understanding variance and the importance of emotional control is essential (search gigabet tilt article on 2p2). Start at a stake where the money doesnt mean a whole lot to you. Just focus on learning to make +ev decisions on every street of every hand. Do not put yourself in a financial situation where you have to be results oriented because you have bills to pay. You are not a pro yet. Get off your butt and get a job for a while (I did).


  • Register an account at 2p2 and start posting in the HUNL forum. There is a huge difference between reading 2p2 strategy threads and actually jumping into the fire and responding to threads. If you post poor advice, the regular posters will probably jump all over you. This forces you to be hyper-critical of your thought process. Stop browsing threads and saying to yourself, I know, I know, I knowIf you knew you would be making bank. Drop the ego and get active.
  • (shameless plug). Best resource for husng vids. Bunch of great coaches from all different stake levels and different playing styles. While the monthly subscription fee might seem like a lot to you now, try to look at it as a longterm investment. If you use our resources correctly, you should make back much more than you invested long term.
  • An hour of studying is just as productive as an hour of playing. Practice does not make perfect in poker, practice makes permanent. It is a lot harder to unlearn bad habits, than to just learn the right way in the first place.
  • 1 table until you have a solid winrate over a large sample size.
  • Use this tool to get an idea of how your swings can be with your winrate. When I am running bad, I just plug my stats into this program and click update over and over. Really puts things into perspective.

Do you prefer FT or PS for HU SNGs?  Why?
I play almost entirely on Stars. Stars has the best software and security. I have a lot of trust in Stars support. I also like their VPP system because it motivates me to play more to reach milestones for bonuses.

What are your top 3 tips for HU SNGs?

  1. Create an aggressive image by raising your button wide and cbetting a lot. We want an aggressive image so that our big hands get paid off and so that we are difficult to deal with. Dont be a nit.
  2. Always think in terms of effective stacks (the shortest stack at the table). All decisions are based on the current effective stack. It makes absolutely no strategic difference whether you are the chipleader or the shortstack.
  3. When stacks get short, it is a MUCH bigger mistake to play too tight than to play too aggressive. If its close, just be aggro and get it in. Learn Sage/Nash for endgame. Dont be a nit.

What are some common mistakes for HU SNGers?

  1. Bet sizing according to strength of your hand. The easiest guys to play are the ones that cbet a standard size, but then when they flop big they cbet larger. Other examples: large 2 barrel sizes are ALWAYS the nuts, turn check/minraise is always the nuts, etc etc etc. Dont be transparent.
  2. When effective stacks get short, most people play way too tight. Learn Sage or Nash and be aggro.
  3. Ignoring the importance of mastering the mental game. Knowing when/why you tilt and how to deal with tilt, when to take breaks, how to avoid auto-piloting, how to get in more volume, etc. Most people just play and ignore these important issues and just focus on improving their strategy. Ill take a player that has complete mental/emotional control that has an above average understanding of strategy over a really good strategy player with huge tilt/auto-piloting problems any day.

In your opinion, who are the top 5 HU SNG players?

  • Skilled_Sox
  • Jovial Gent
  • Croixdawg
  • Dibasio
  • Adonis

**In no particular order. Just listing guys that play on Stars. I dont really know Full Tilt players.

Whats the craziest bluff you ever pulled in an HU SNG?  Whats the thinnest valuebet?  Whats the craziest hero call?

Craziest Bluff:
Playing very good cash player. Standard preflop raise and cbet. He hasnt been calling too wide out of position and hasnt been floating wide when he has called my cbet. I put him on AX/8X on flop. My plan initially was just to shut down turn/river, since I didnt really feel like I could rep anything that would get me a fold. Then the river a 3 and the lightbulb went off. Im like 99% sure he doesnt have a 3 in his range (barring A3) on the flop and am pretty certain he is just value betting AX with his river lead. I dont think he thinks Im a blufftard, I think that me cbetting 3X/checking turn/shoving river is a believable line to him, and I know he is capable of folding hands when he knows hes beat. Ship.

Thinnest Vbet:
Played multiple games against decent Villain. He vbets really wide at weakness. On the river I know he would valuebet any heart. He knows Im more than capable of bluffing. I think about a standard half pot valuebet, but realize he doesnt have a heart and he knows that a lot of hearts are in my range and I would valuebet most of them. I think about how he thinks I would play Ah/Kh and I definitely think he thinks I wouldve at least cbet the flop and possibly raised the turn. I decide to overbet valuebet 1.5x the pot, trying to represent A/Khh, but knowing that he wont put me on it and end up hero calling.

Sickest Hero Call: A few because Im sexy like that. From the past few days:

  1. Standard villain that never, ever c/r cbet with any piece of this board or AX and is def capable of bluffing 3 streets.
  2. Never plays a full house like this. Felt that he was frustrated because I was running him over. Dont think hed do this with AX either. Ship.

Honorable Mention:
** He had seen me small c/r his cbet wide a few times. He had min3bet me once before and showed when I folded. We obv had a pretty sick c/r-3bet dynamic going on, but I felt like he was def a spewtard enough to throw away his stack with complete air if I played back at one of his min3bets. Little different here bc we are limped, but I know he wont give me credit for AX. I make small c/r with plan to induce a 3bet. He 3bets small and I felt like he would see a really small 4bet as me just trying to make a stand with air. I kinda expected him to shove the flop..when he flatted I really dont have any reason to lead out turn bc I think he is going to shove or bet/fold when I check. Pretty cool hand imo.

What was your worst downsteak?  What is the most HU SNGs you won in a row?
Biggest downswing: 30 games. Ive never really had big swings. I usually play a little lower stakes than Im capable of beating. I like grinding with low stress.

Longest HUSNG Winstreak: Sharkscope says 9 in a row. I won 14 straight 220s yesterday actually, but had a few 4 man losses mixed in so not sure if that counts. I won 23 straight 11s on Party Poker back in the day, but that was before Sharkscopes time.

The Isildur1 Supernova

The Isildur1 Supernova

The Isildur1 Supernova

According to Wikipedia:

Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months.

It looks like Isildur1 fits that definition to a T.  He emerged on the poker scene from nowhere.  People have speculated that its likely blom90 (a Swedish poker player) from the iPoker network.  He ran up to the nosebleed stakes  in just a few months and eventually crushed the legendary durrrr for millions.

A lot of people questioned how long his run could last.  I mean, no matter how good you are, it cant be a good idea to play durrrr, Phil Ivey, and Patrick Antonius simultaneously on 8 tables.  Not to mention hes recently been playing a lot of PLO and NLHE is definitely his stronger game.

Anyway, theres no doubt Isildur1 is a very good player, but watching the brutal Patrick Antonius vs. Isildur1 action last night, I got reminded of a great post on 2+2:

Poker history is full of hot shot maestros who quickly racked up big wins by making just the right mistakes to exploit their regular opponents. Unfortunately, their egos usually didnt allow them to recognize their deviations from perfect play as theoretical mistakes; in their minds, they were natural talents playing an unbeatable game.

Then, the sober, seasoned players moved in, systematically destroying the maestros and their mistakes. Since the maestros were oblivious to their own mistakes, they lost. And they kept losing, wondering louder with each bad session how they could possibly run so badly against these unimaginative players. Their big wins disappeared, and broke, they slumped out of the poker world none the wiser.

Dont be a sucker. Theres a perfect unbeatable strategy, and its determined by math, not by talent. Great players dont stick to that strategy; they intentionally deviate from it to take advantage of their opponents. But truly great players also know full well what weaknesses those deviations expose, and if they see someone going after them, they shut down quickly. Theyre willing to make mistakes, but only when they can swap those mistakes to their opponents for bigger ones. When their mistakes become the ones, they stop making them.

Learn the fundamental principles of no limit and stay perpetually aware that your goal is to trade small mistakes for big ones.

– No Limit Hold em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller

New Version of Bing Blang Blaow (Dr. Seuss Style)


Sit down, pour a drink,
Ive a story to tell
Bout a villain who plays
Heads-Up 50 NL.

Id been crushing the game,
Had a big winning session.
Zigging and zagging
With guile and aggression.

Just fifteen more minutes
Fore hitting the sack,
When a new guy sat in,
With a full fifty stack.

We traded some pots
But then I flopped three threes.
A bet, raise and call
Just as fast as you please.

On the turn he snap-called
The huge bet that I made,
But then donk-shoved the river,
Which had brought the third spade.

I called and he showed down
A flush, seven-high,
And then raked in the chips.
Just keep chasing, thought I.

Then shrugged and reloaded –
Im used to hard knocks.
But thats when these words
Popped up in the chat box:



My jaw hit the ground.
I bit off a retort.
No need to trade barbs
With this douchey poor sport.

Id get it all back
Plus more with no guilt.
Takes more than one beat
To put this pro on tilt.

Didnt have to wait long
Made a big overbet
But top pair no good
This time HE had the set.



Did he really say that?
Was this some kind of joke?
Thats one more full buy-in
To go up in smoke!

No worries, hed find out
With whom hed been messin.
Twas time to dig in,
Teach this A-hole a lesson!

I asked him to open
One more table or two.
Cant lose since hes playing
81 / 62!

In ten minutes things
Went from awful to worst
And another three buy-ins
Had followed the first.

Who was this fool,
This lunatic punk?
Was he cheating somehow?
Was he high? Was he drunk?

My suited Ace-Queen,
Got run down by Ace-Deuce.
Had to listen again
To his verbal abuse.

Gnashing my teeth,
I tried to ignore
The bile coming from
This delusional whore.

But my bluffs got picked off,
And my traps went unsprung.
Until finally I just
Could not hold my tongue.

So far Id played nice,
Remained civil til now.
But Id had quite enough

You $%@#-sucking *&^#!
Your mothers a %@&!
Ill find you Ill cut you
For your little stunt!

My fingers were shaking.
I typed out more curses.
But he only responded
With those juvenile verses:



My descent into madness
Then got out of hand.
By the time it was dawn
Id lost more than a grand.

He finally quit,
And I staggered to bed.
But no sleep did I get
With that song in my head.

An entire months profits –
Flushed down the tube!
Or rather, got rubbed
On this maniacs boob.

Let this be a lesson,
Dont play in a haze.
Control your emotions
And avoid the Ch3ckraise.

Street-by-Street Poker EV Graphs with SECT

SECT: Showdown Equity CalculaTor

SECT: Showdown Equity CalculaTor

Let’s say you have AA on the button with 100bb stacks. You misclick and accidentally raise to 99bb. Villain, a crazy billionaire railroad tycoon, has 27 offsuit and decides to call. The flop comes 222 and the pot is 198bb. Villain shoves his last 1bb and you obviously call.

HEM and PTR will calculate your EV only when you go all-in. In other words, you have 0.1% equity on the flop (when you went all-in) and that translates to about 0.2bb in EV. That is obviously painting a very distorted picture…

But that’s where SECT comes in. It calculates EV street-by-street. So in other words, 99bb went in when you had 88% equity and 1bb went in when you had 0.1% equity. SECT will report your EV as 174bb (a much more accurate representation of what’s happening).

SECT only works for cash game hands and it reads off an HEM database (sorry PTR folks, you’re out of luck).

To install:

  1. Download the latest Java update.
  2. Download SECT
  3. Uncompress the .rar file (you might need Winrar)
  4. Edit the XML file in notepad (see steps 5 7)
  5. Replace “HoldEmManger” with the name of your database
  6. Replace “postgres” by your postresql login
  7. Replace “postrepass” by your postresql password
  8. Run SECT_v3.2.7.jar

Forgot the name of your database or your login information? Here’s how you can find it in HEM.

HEM Database Information

HEM Database Information

In the example above, my database name is 2008.  Youll see your Login name and Password once you click on Database Management.

Props to Pprofesseur and Victor118, the  two French poker players who developed SECT.

Play BluffBot Heads Up NL Poker Bot

BluffBot: A Pretty Advanced Poker Bot

BluffBot: A Pretty Advanced Poker Bot

SuitedAces made an amazing post on the HU Forums.  Hes a limit player thats transitioning to NL and he brought up Hyperborean-Eqm, a poker bot that won the 2009 Poker Bot HU NL Championship.  Now Hyperborean-Eqm (made by a team from the University of Alberta) beat another poker bot, BluffBot for 1.8bb/100.  Unfortunately, you cant play against Hyperborean-Eqm online, but you can play BluffBot!

And guess what, its actually not that bad!  I beat him (caught him bluffing in a big pot), but I was pretty impressed.  He adjusted pretty well to my game and its definitely an awesome learning tool.

I do wonder how much better Hyperborean-Eqm is and how long before a bot can grind out microstakes NL holdem

And the Winner is

In 2 weeks since, 12 people registered and made a meaningful post on the HU Forums.

The lucky winner of the $25 worth of free coaching is Hank. Congrats and prepare to crush souls.

Remember, posting on the Heads Up Forums is almost like getting free coaching. You can ask me any question about HU cash games be it general strategy or about specific hands youve played.

40 Poker Tips From Sun Tzus Art of War

Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese military tacitian.  His military strategy masterpiece, Art of War ($2.99), has some pretty solid advice for poker players.  Here are 40 great poker tips from Sun Tzu:


  1. All warfare is based on deception.
  2. When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
  3. Hold out baits to entice the enemy.  Feign disorder and crush him.
  4. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.
  5. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage simulated weakness postulates strength.
  6. At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards, emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you.

Table Selection

  1. Attack him where is unprepared; appear where you are not expected.
  2. Take advantage of the enemys unreadiness, make your way by the unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
  3. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him.  If he is in superior strength, evade him.
  4. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
  5. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  6. The rule is not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided.
  7. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  8. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
  9. A clever general avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish.
  10. No ruler should put his troops in the field to gratify his own spleen.
  11. When it was to their advantage, they made a forward move; when otherwise, they stopped still.
  12. Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.

Psychology & Tilt

  1. If your opponent is hot-tempered, seek to irritate him.  Pretend to be weak and he may grow arrogant.
  2. The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemys will to be imposed on him.
  3. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him; if well supplied with food, he can starve him out; if quietly encamped, he can force him to move.
  4. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst th enemy this is the art of retaining self-discipline.
  5. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.
  6. Tactical maneuvering consists of turning the devious into the direct, and the misfortune into gain.
  7. A whole army may be robbed of its spirit; a commander-in-chief may be robbed of his presence of mind.
  8. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is famished this is the art of husbanding ones strength.
  9. Dangerous faults which may affect a general: Recklessness, cowardice, hasty temper, delicacy of honor (which is sensitive to shame).
  10. It is only if one is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that care thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
  11. When a fire breaks out inside to enemys camp, respond at once with an attack from without.


  1. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.  If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
  3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
  4. He wins the battle by making no mistakes.  Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
  5. Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts.  Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.
  6. A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

General Poker Strategy

  1. Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.
  2. The skillful tactician may be likened to the shauai-jan.  Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the ChUng mountains.  Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.


  1. By consistently hanging on the enemys flank, we shall succeed in the long run in the killing the commander-in-chief.
  2. The general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not what what to defend; and he is skillful in defense who opponent does not know what to attack.
  3. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.

You thought the competition was horrible in 2004?  If poker was around, I bet Sun Tzu would crush souls in 544 B.C

The Best Days Times to Play Poker

In my previous data analysis posts, we talked about how hard it is to move up in stakes and which sites have the best action.  Now, were going to look at what are the best times to play NL HoldEm.

Theres obviously a lot of anecdotal evidence out there.  Most people assume that the action on weekend nights is the juiciest.  LuckySOB analyzed the sessions he played between June and August (note that he didnt play on weekends) and found that he won:

  • 42% of the sessions he played between 8AM and 11AM
  • 49% between noon and 3PM
  • 52% between 4PM and 7PMn
  • 82% between 8PM and Midnight

Thats great and all, but thats obviously very limited anecdotal evidence.  So how do we get good statistically significant data?  Dameon from was kind enough to send me some awesome data about average pot sizes.  Heres a graph of what the average pot size looks like for $100NL on FullTilt based on the day of week and time of day.

FullTilt $100NL Best Times to Play

FullTilt $100NL Best Times to Play

The times are all military Eastern Standard Time.  In other words, Tuesday 18 means Tuesday at 6:00PM EST.

Based on the graph, we can tell that the peak times to play for

  • Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday is around 9-11PM.
  • Thursday night has a longer peak time from around 8PM 12AM.
  • On Friday, the action starts to get hot at around 6PM and stays hot until 2AM or so.
  • Saturday night has the overall highest average pot size.

Interested to know what the graph looks for PokerStars?  How about what the graph looks like for $200NL, $400NL, or $1000NL?  You can download the full PDF with all the graphs on the Forums (yes this is a bribe to get you to sign up).  When you register and login, youll see a secret Premium Content forum start to show up on the Forum index page.  The download link will be in there.

Win $25 Worth of Free Coaching

Want to win $25 (1/2 an hour) of free coaching from me?  All you have to do is post a hand or ask a question on the Heads Up Forums.  Ill select one lucky winner out of everyone that makes a post in the next 2 weeks.

Update: In 3 days, 5 people have already signed up and posted.  My goal is to have 25 people registered by the time the contest is over (October 11, 2009).  Remember, it only takes a few minutes to register and ask question.  Hell, you might even learn something :)


About a week ago, I made a mistake at $200NL HU vs. Smokin Mokin (a breakeven reg).  Heres the hand in question.

Hero (BB) ($200)
Button ($245)

Preflop: Hero is BB with 8♦, 6♦
Button bets $6, Hero calls $4

Flop: ($12) Q♦, 6♠, 9♦ (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $8, Hero raises to $30, Button calls

Turn: ($72) J♠ (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $55.55, Hero calls

River: ($183.1) 5♣ (2 players)
Hero bets $108.45 (all-in)

My line makes no sense.  In retrospect, there are 2 ways I couldve played this hand.  With a gutshot, flush draw, and a pair on the turn I could lead and call a shove or checkfold the river if I didnt improve.  I messed up pretty bad, but we all make mistakes at the poker table. Winners learn from their mistakes. Losers dont.

Its really important to acknowledge your mistakes, but not dwell on the them.  Dwelling on mistakes makes you lose confidence in your game, go on tilt, etc.  I try to hold my head up high when I mess up.  Im not ashamed or embarrassed.  As Emmitt Smith once said, I may win and may lose, but I will never be defeated.