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The dos and don’ts of a long heads-up battle in live poker

The dos and don’ts of a long heads-up battle in live poker

Playing a long heads-up battle at the end of an online tournament is one thing.

You’re in the comfort of your home. You can carry your laptop to the bathroom when nature calls. You can whoop at the pots you win and moan at the ones you lose without your opponent seeing.

But playing a long heads-up battle in a live tournament is a different kettle of fish.

Not only do you have to play well to get the job done, but you have to do so while maintaining a calm and collected presence at the table, without giving your opponent an inch.

This is something BBZ Poker student Ryan Dansie – known as ‘dirtypheonix’ in the BBZ Discord – knows a thing or two about.

Dansie, a 29-year-old self-employed crypto trader who splits his time between London and Barcelona, recently found himself in a four-hour-long heads-up battle in a €400 buy-in tournament at Casino Barcelona.

He’d end up finishing second for €20,300. It didn’t go his way this time, but thanks to the BBZ Seminars of Brian Fite, he felt prepared. And after 240 minutes of duelling, he now has plenty of experience for next time.

But what’s it like to play heads-up for so long at the most important stage of a tournament? What knowledge came in handy, and what does Dansie wish he’d done differently?

We spoke to him to find out.

BBZ Blog: Hey Ryan, congratulations on the score! Obviously, you reached heads-up, but how did the tournament in Barcelona go for you overall? Was it smooth sailing or were there lots of ups and downs both leading up to and on the final table?

I was actually short-stacked for the majority of Day 2 and had to be extremely patient and pick my spots as they came. I went into the FT with 10bb and after doubling after the very first hand, I then secured 2 more doubles to find myself as the commanding chip leader. There is nothing better in the world than being the final table bully in a live tourney.

The heads-up was four hours long. How did things begin? Were you confident?

Well, I initially offered an ICM deal because despite wanting and needing to practice heads-up, I would rather it be for smaller stakes. To be truthful I did not feel fully prepared as I had not put the time in to have a clear understanding of my preflop ranges, however, I suspected my opponent was in the same boat even though he declined the deal.

You said you had them on the ropes a few times. What happened?

I started with a 4-1 chip advantage and got it down to 8-1 before losing a standard preflop all-in situation. We traded some pots and after some time we got into another standard preflop all-in situation that he won again.

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How did you maintain your composure during such a long battle?

It definitely feels like there is momentum in HU and when you sense it swinging away from you it can be hard to remind yourself that it’s just an illusion. You just need to take it hand by hand and slow down your play if you feel you are starting to rush.

Towards the end, though, I was definitely feeling the effects of tiredness and I think the tournament director was as well because he decided to cut the 45 min levels to 25 mins after two hours of play.

You mentioned a session by Brian Fite. How did this seminar help you?

Brian introduced the idea that you should be competitive in HU SNGs at your MTT ABI. I think it’s really important to reach this level because HU is the highest-stakes spot of the whole tournament and where you can gain the most EV. Imagine finally getting the deep run you have always dreamed of and you realise you aren’t prepared. My only regret is not seeing the seminar a month earlier!

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What are some of the most important things people should know about playing heads-up live?

I think knowing ranges for min-raising, limping, 3-betting, isolating and how they change as the stack depths differ is very important. It gives you a base to work from and will help you to feel more comfortable.

Looking back, is there anything you wished you’d done differently?

Something which I wish I would have done better is pay more attention to the showdown hands. This is the golden source of information and in HU it is especially priceless because you will be playing post-flop the very next hand with that opponent.

Your big score was at a live event. Do you balance live and online play or do you focus on one?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have two $20K live scores this year and I must say I have been running extremely good deep in these tourneys. For me, online play is the training ground where I get lots of reps, and live tourneys are my colosseum.

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Could you talk me through your background? 

I started playing at around 11 years old as the poker boom spread as far as my high school. I fondly remember being cheated by a classmate as he would keep a couple of aces for himself under the table. I’ve played on and off over the years but after playing a few live tourneys at the beginning of the year I got a bug to keep playing more.

When did you discover BBZ and how has BBZ Poker impacted your game? What products do you use to study and what do you like about them?

I discovered BBZ when watching Lex’s stream at the beginning of the year and after seeing how Jordan would break down hands, I was instantly hooked. Initially, I set about to learn the preflop charts and then I purchased a few bundles to work on my post-flop play. I also regularly watch the seminars and particularly enjoy Brian Fite for his motivating outlook.

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