by Victoria Coren
The WCOOP $25,000 Heads-Up Championship turned out to be the most nerve-wracking tournament I’ve ever played. It wasn’t the size of the buy-in (I’ve played for this crazy price twice before, once making a profit of $17,000 and once for nada) but the structure. There was something incredibly intense about being just three heads-up matches away from $100,000 – and six matches away from $560,000.
My first match turned out to be a relatively easy victory, although I was told that my opponent (named BBJ) is considered to be a very good player. When we sat down, I knew nothing about this BBJ except what I could glean from the information in front of me. Our opening conversation went like this:
Vicky Coren: Hi. GL.
BBJ: U’ll need it.
From this I knew that my opponent was definitely male. It also told me that he was probably American, very likely under 30 years old, and – most usefully – that he was bound to play very aggressively. Nobody would make that opening remark if they were planning to play a wily, trappy game. Good; this was in my comfort zone. As a female player, I have plenty of experience (live and online) of opponents who think a battering ram will simply scare me off the table.
BBJ did indeed set off by raising every time he had the button, and continuation betting every street if I called. Experience told me my best strategy was to try and turn his aggression against him – ie. to let him pick up a series of pots without much contest, believing that he was running me over, and to play passively even when I had a big hand. This seemed like a player who would keep betting to make me pass, so all I had to do (if I hit anything) was not pass. Sure enough, our match burned itself out pretty quickly, with most of the field still in action, which left me time to make a nice cheese sandwich, mmm.
My second opponent, with the field of 64 down to 32, was named gunning4you. When I greeted him at the start, he replied in a much more relaxed and friendly manner – which was immediately more worrying. The cleverer the player, in general, the nicer they behave. Have you ever heard the old saying that you have nothing to fear from a roaring lion? It’s the ones who slink about quietly that represent the most danger.
There isn’t much to report from my second match, because I don’t think I was in front at any stage. Gunning4you played a much slyer, more cunning and dangerous form of poker. He didn’t inflate the pots too
much to begin with, recognizing this as unnecessary for a good player in a deep-stack tournament. His timing was strong, and his instincts sharp. He made excellent value bets on the river, which I was usually obliged to call when I was just a pip behind.
In my defence, I was on horrible form for that second match. I had only two decent starting hands (KK, which lost to A9, and AA which won a tiny pot since we both checked it down after four diamonds came) and missed the flop with everything else. If I tried a bluff, Gunning had something to call with. It was the kind of match where, every time you see a flop, you feel like you’re being punished for something.
But this is not to detract from Gunning’s play: I was really impressed. He seemed like a nice guy and a very strong heads-up player, I hope he goes a long way in the tournament. But I won’t find out until it’s all over, since it’s time for me to go to bed and dream about what I would have done with $560,000.
Note: Once Vicky went to bed, her opponent busted out in the next round and stevesbets went on to win the bracelet. Read about that in the WCOOP Event #19 wrap up. Vicky is a member of Team PokerStars Pro.