LukaSteel on the Red Spade Open (and playing heads-up for USBs)

It's that time of the year and Red Spade Open is here again. This time with $1,000,000 prize pool and whooping $500 bounty on all Red Spades at the tables.

Five hundred sweet American dollars - that is the single biggest bounty I ever had on my head, which means there's going to be lots of action on the tables. If that's not good enough reason for you to join us on Sunday, just know that all PokerStars Red Spades are going to be there! From my Team Pro Online colleagues, to the Team Pro superstars that you regularly see on TV, athletes from Team SportStars are playing as well and of course other friends of PokerStars won't miss it either. I used to be the one trying to catch these guys, but not this time around. Now I am on other side of the fence and let me tell you, it's a different kind of a game.


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Of course there are lots of bounty tourneys on PokerStars these days, especially the Progressive Super-Knockout ones are great fun, but there's quite a difference when everybody has some sort of a bounty, or when only selected few have targets on their back. In the last few years I've played my fair share of tourneys where there was a prize on my elimination. Either be that online or live. There's actually Team Pro Online Depositor freeroll that we are playing each month with $25 bounty on us. All the members are doing different giveaways and giving away tickets for this freeroll, so just follow us on social media, if you want to grab one *hint* *hint*.

When you look at the final results of a tournament like that you always see Red Spades either being out pretty early (even in the very first hand) or making a deep run. Why is that you ask?

Well, if pro is playing a hand, there's a pretty big chance that at least one of the other eight players at the tables will be in the hand as well. Sometimes you even get pretty big crazy family pots. People are trying to find excuses to play a hand with you and doing their best to get that bounty. Suited hand? Let's go in! Unsuited one-gapper? Heck yeah! One picture card with a baby kicker? Can't see why not! So there's only a question if your hand is going to hold and you'll double/tipple up, or are you out of the tournament at that point. I was knocked out against 72o in the first hand before. But don't get me wrong, when there's $500 bounty on my head, you definitely should play looser. You just need to find the perfect balance.

From time to time I also play live tournaments in local casinos and TDs there almost never miss a chance of doing a bounty out of me (as if PokerStars logo and Team Pro Online patch isn't big enough of a target by itself, d'oh!). The actual award for sending me to the rails varied from returned buy-in, to free dinner in casino's buffet, to extra money prize or some poker merchandise.

One time I had PokerStars branded mini travel USB mouse as a bounty and there was a guy, who really wanted it. REALLY wanted it. He and I didn't start at the same table, so he was checking my progress every 15 minutes or so. Every time that my tournament life was on the line, he was sweating more than I was and asking the dealer "not to do it."


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Eventually we were down to the final table and we both made it. He had position on me so when I played a hand, he was slooowly squeezing his two cards and, like I wrote above, just trying to find excuses to play hands against me. Finally we went all-in and he was in big trouble, but managed to get lucky. I was already standing and handing him the prize, when dealer realizes that I might be the bigger stack here. And there it was... One and a half blind left... The guy was devastated, so the whole table kind of colluded and everybody decided to just fold so he can get my bounty. My chips went to the middle, didn't even look at the cards, but when the action was on my "villain", he was hesitating all of a sudden. Saying that he's not sure, that he should just fold his hand and not really call, but the whole table was almost yelling CALL and scratching their eyes in frustration. Yes, he called and yes, he also won the hand (even though he was miles behind again). In those five minutes I've seen all the colors of one's emotions.

There's one good thing though for having a physical bounty with you at the tables. It works really well as an intimidating factor. When I go all-in and I want someone to fold for example, I just push the prize together with my chips in the middle. They know you mean business when there's a mini USB mouse sitting at the top of 10 big blind stack. I've done studies. 60 per cent of the time, it works every time... (Is what Brian Fantana would've said).

Oh, and one more thing. Red Spade Open is on the same day as my birthday. So if you see me at the tables, go easy on me.


Luka "LukaSteel" Kovak is a member of Team PokerStars Online.