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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Heads-Up Intimidation...Playing Poker Against A Pro And Rebounding After A Loss

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For a good year now, I've been rail birding Diablo VT AKA NSXT2, AKA Todd Arnold from I'm not a subscriber to his site, but I do watch his play enough. I saw him give out his MSN chat address and sent him a few messages. We got to talking and eventually got onto the topic of playing heads-up against each other after he claimed that his bankroll on PokerStars was running thin and I jokingly told him I'd play him heads-up for $10+.50 so that he could build it back up. He immediately responded with an "ok". Uh oh, was he serious?

Now I've played heads-up for quite some time and even won CC's inaugural heads-up blogger tournament so I consider myself a decent heads-up player, but I've never played against a seasoned pro who runs their own poker training site and who's made hundreds of thousands of dollars playing online poker. Needless to say, I didn't know what to expect. Todd plays $100+5 four-player heads-up matches and wins them regularly, so to say I was a little intimidated would be an understatement. Either way, I felt if I could win a few hands, at least I could be satisfied that I wasn't completely dominated.

I waited for a while until he was finished with one of his tournaments and then I told him I was ready to play. I messaged him and we set one up. I didn't coordinate it too well and I ended up getting into a match with a random player and then Todd messaged me that another one was I joined him. I've never played two heads-up matches at the same time, and it showed. I beat my random opponent, but Todd ran me over and I ended up getting all my chips in pre-flop with {A-Clubs}{J-Hearts} against his {A-Hearts}{K-Hearts}. The Flop came {7-Hearts}{4-Spades}{6-Clubs}. The turn was the {A-Diamonds} and I was drawing dead to a J. No help with a river of {3-Clubs}, so I was out since he had me covered by some 400-500 chips.

I was completely outclassed and still discombobulated from trying to play two heads-up matches at the same time, one with someone I knew was a much better player than me and I admit, I was more intimidated than I thought I'd be. Not a good way to play, but the opportunity was there to play a high-quality player, so I took it and paid the price for doing something I do not have enough experience to do. I waited a bit, calmed down, and messaged him later on that I was ready for another $10+.50 and that we'd call it a night after a best two out of three (including his first win). He agreed.

We started up another match and this time we coordinated it well and we got onto the same table without any difficulties. I've watched him enough to know his game somewhat and I am pleased to say I out played him this time since I had no distractions and was able to focus solely on our match.

Todd is a somewhat loose player, but changes his game up very well at opportune times. In short, it's very difficult to read him. I stole a few BB's from him and got a small chip lead (from our conversations, he knows I'm a tight player, so I took advantage of that when holding mediocre hands).

I then picked up {A-Clubs}{A-Spades} on the button. I made the standard 3x BB raise, with the blinds at 15/30, and he called. The flop was scary, coordinated {Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}{J-Diamonds}. Todd checked, and to see where I was in the hand, I fired out 100 chips. He called. The turn was the {9-Diamonds} completing a potential straight and/or flush draw which, from his flat call on the flop, I had to consider.

He bet 120, which I looked at as a little weak, but he's very capable of trapping, so at that point, I just called. The river brought a {3-Diamonds}. Good grief, there was also a 4-flush on the board, a straight possibility and maybe he had a Q. He led out for 430 chips and I made the sick, crying call and he showed {8-Clubs}{7-Clubs} for a busted straight draw. He was crippled.

I'm not sure if I played this hand correctly. I even said in the chat when he bet the river, "Damn cracked aces" and he gave me a ":(". Of course I thought I was beat. It's very difficult to get away from A-A though in a heads-up match and he's been known to throw in bluff bets on scary boards, so again, I wasn't sure. Obviously, it was an interesting hand.

I finally took him out when I picked up two black Kings on the button. I made another standard 3x BB raise and he called. The flop was {J-Spades}{Q-Hearts}{4-Clubs}. Todd shoved his last 250 chips into the pot and I gladly called. He showed {J-Clubs}{3-Clubs} for middle pair. He didn't improve on the turn or river and I came out the winner:

I didn't win any huge sums of money here, but I accomplished one thing. I didn't let myself be intimidated by a better player. I played my game and won. That's always a plus. I beat a seasoned pro at his own game when I was able to focus on mine. It's a good feeling and I'm proud of myself. Point being, if your game works for you, stick to it and if you need to adjust your play somewhat against a certain opponent, then that's fine. Just know when to do it. Todd wanted to play our third match right away (ha-ha), but I needed a little break. I ended up delaying the "rubber match". Updates soon to come.

By the way, Todd was nice enough to agree to meet up with CC at the WSOP and be interviewed for Pokerworks. Even though he's a real cool guy, I'm very surprised that when I asked him if he would be interested in being interviewed for a poker website, he immediately said, "sure" (since he already has one of his own sites). So be on the lookout for that. If he's half as much the entertainer in his upcoming interview as he is in the chat, it'll be one helluva post.

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