Before and in the middle of the NBC Heads-Up Championship
The following blog post comes from Chris Moneymaker and was written in two parts: one before he started the NBC Heads-Up Championship, and one after he finished runner-up for $300,000.
We had our draw last night. In the first round, I drew John Racener. This is probably the best event of the year outside of the main event, because of the simple fact that I love playing Heads-Up, and this is such a star-studded field. It's a really tough draw any person you get. I'm happy I got Racener. It should be a fun match. I pretty much know how he's going to play, so I have my game plan going in and I feel very confident that I will move forward. It's definitely going to be a long match, I believe. I think he's going to be really patient and wait for me to make a mistake. I'm not going to push action too much, but I'm going to try and push him around a little bit. It should be probably the longest match of the day unless something really weird happens.
This tournament is a little bit different than most other Heads-Up events throughout the year as it's made for TV, so the blind structures move faster than what you would normally see in a Heads-Up event. Some Heads-Up event matches can last 2-3 hours, while a long match here is probably an hour long. Most matches are designed to last 30 minutes or so. So, you don't see a whole lot of play here, but you just have to adjust your strategy and play a little bit more aggressively and look for spots to put your money in. You've got to pick up information quickly.
The good thing is in this field is you're going to know who the players are, and you have either played with them in the past or know someone who has. So, like with Racener, I will have information already on my opponent before I sit down to play.
You can use that information to sort of get a baseline of how you're going to play against your Heads-Up opponent and use that as a starting strategy, which I've done with John. I know that going in, he likes to control pots. He likes to play in position. When the money goes in, he's going to have a big hand and other than that, he's going to try to keep the pots small and play really controlled small pots.
My goal is to make him uncomfortable, try to push him, put a ton of pressure on him, make him play pots he doesn't want to play, and ultimately grind him down. When all the money goes in, he might have the best hand, but I will have quite a few outs, and I'll have a pretty sizable chip weight I believe. My plan is to keep grinding him down, and he's going to have to double through me several times to keep in the match. At least that's the plan going in. I will see how it goes.
In the middle
Well I am back after the NBC Heads-Up event with some updates. The first match against Racener was pretty back and forth for the first two levels, and I held a slight chip lead when the big hand developed.
John limped his button, and I checked a 3-5. The flop fell 2 4 6. After I check-raised him on the flop, he moved all-in. I really felt at this point that he was holding a set of twos or a 4-6 type hand. Obviously, my money is going in the middle here with the nuts, and I was pleased to see that he only held A-6. This is about as good as it gets, and I was happy to be a huge favorite to advance.
Advancing was great but my next match loomed large. I was pitted against the winner of the Phil ivey vs. Daniel "jungleman12" Cates match. Neither of these two players are who you want to see sitting across from you at a poker table.
I ended up playing Jungleman12. Going in, I knew this match would be completely different than my Round 1 match. Daniel is a heads-up specialist, and I knew he would be putting tons of pressure on me.
There are two ways to combat the pressure from him: either be more aggressive, or make hands and let him hang himself. I have a lot of experience playing top-notch heads-up players, so I felt confident I could play well here.
In the match I got off to an early lead and found he was not nearly as aggressive as I had imagined. I made two super-light calls in the match that were both correct. These two calls probably slowed him down and made him think twice before running bluffs on me.
Once I saw he was done bluffing, I had a good idea his big bets were going to be for value, so I folded a pretty large hand later where I think he had it. After about 30 minutes, he was visibly frustrated, and I held a little better than 2-1 chip advantage. The blinds were starting to get high, and I decided to go for the knock-out blow.
I re-raised him preflop with an ace-ten and he shipped all-in. I know at this point I am behind here. He has not gotten out of line at all and wouldn't here knowing I will call pretty light.
Even though I know I am behind, there was enough in the pot to warrant a call. Also, against an opponent as good as Daniel, you need to take chances when you have the knock-out blow available. Sure enough, he flipped up AK and I needed to get lucky. The ten came and I advanced. I don't like getting my money in really bad like that ever, but against a super opponent, sometimes it happens. I was just pleased to be moving on to face Doyle Brunson.