T.J. Cloutier Shares Tales from the Poker Trails
I flew into Las Vegas a few days early and played the Venetian Deep Stack event before going to battle in the NBC National Heads Up Tournament, an invitee-only event that I play every year. In my first round, I played one of the young guns, Daniel Schreiber. Daniel is the 22-year-old young man who won the heads-up event at the World Series of Poker in 2007. He beat out 391 other pros, so he's a pretty good player. And believe me, after playing him in the opening heads-up round, I can vouch for that!
Daniel plays very aggressively. He raised every pot to double the amount of the big blind every time he was on the button (the small blind and first to act in heads-up play), actually setting his bet to the side before the hand was dealt so that he could push it in. He did it quite often without consequence because all I held was a deuce or a trey every single hand, it seemed. Finally I got so tired of just holding baby cards that when he raised the pot pre-flop, I reraised him with 2-3. The flop came A-7-3. I led at it and he called. Then on fourth street came a deuce. So I fired at it again and Daniel called me. On the end, I moved in and he threw his hand away. I showed him my 2-3 just to get some action later on. That hand put me about $7K ahead (we started with $20K each).
During the whole session, I held one pair of deuces, one pair of fours, and one pair of sixes, plus an ace five times. One time I had an A-Q, never held A-K. After taking the lead, I played one pot with him and never won another pot until I was down to $11K. We were putting in $1K-$2K blinds by that time. Ours was the longest match of the entire first round. I was on the button, the first to act. I moved in my $11K with an 8-6 offsuit, and he threw his hand away! The very next hand, I picked up a pair of fours. He moved in with an A-J from the button, and I called him for all my chips. My small pair held up, putting me back in the lead. Then on our third hand in this sequence, I looked down at a king and moved in. He woke up with A-J again, and all I had was the K-5 of hearts. Not to worry, though: I caught a 5 and busted him! You might say I got a little bit lucky there on the end. Just shows you how those heads-up matches go sometimes.
The rounds were very short, only 15 minutes each. We started at $150-$300 blinds, and Daniel and I were at the limit for the first day, $1K-$2K blinds. We were the last team to finish, and didn't even get an interview after the match because we'd kept the camera crew there so long. I was looking forward to playing J.C. Tran as my second opponent after getting a good night's rest.
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