An Interview with HokieGreg A HU SnG Guru

HokieGreg

HokieGreg

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.

Background:
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).

Also:

  • 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.
  • HUSNG.com (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.
  • www.husng.com/variance: 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: http://www.pokerhandreplays.com/view.php/id/1135010
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: http://www.pokerhandreplays.com/view.php/id/1135087
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. http://tinyurl.com/ybvcf7f 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. http://tinyurl.com/ybtoakt- 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:http://www.pokerhandreplays.com/view.php/id/1075090
** 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.

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 AnskyPoker.com 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