In this second part we will look at the anatomy of a successful HUHT player and explore the attributes most important to success in these games.
Anatomy of a Successful Heads-Up Hyper-Turbo Player
Success, of course, comes in many different forms. However, having been fortunate enough to spend a considerable amount of time with some of the best HU SNG players in the world, I quickly noticed how alike they all were in very specific ways.
Before exploring those, however, I want to stress that the characteristics outline below are, of course, not unique to HUHT players. However, they do seem to be particularly magnified in them in a way that I feel merits a deeper exploration. So here we go!
1) Love & Passion
Whether their motivation was driven by a love of competition, money, or working towards mastery of a unique skill-set, successful HUHT players are incredibly passionate about whatever aspect of the game is most important to them.
They spend their days and nights thinking about it, about how to achieve their goals, how to reach them more quickly, and more optimally. And, of course, they have to!
To quote Mark Cuban “you have to work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you.”
Nowhere is this more true than in HUHTs, where there are people waiting to battle you for lobby control literally around the clock. If you don’t have a similar passion for some aspect of the game, whatever it may be for you, it’s going to be very tough to sustain the same drive and enthusiasm as your opponents will during the long dark times that are inevitable in a game-format with so much short-term volatility.
2) A Willingness to Make Study a Priority
Another trait that is extremely common among successful poker players in general, but one that is absolutely critical in the hyperturbo format where leaks can be located, exploited and capitalized-on so quickly that it can leave you dazed, confused and down 15 buy-ins in half a session with no idea where you are or what just happened. Sort of like waking up with a world-class hangover when you didn’t even get to have a drink. Definitely not a fun time.
Because, of course, if you don’t take the time to review hands, to work with an equity calculator, to watch videos, to get coaching, how can you expect to compete against a player who does?
The good news however is that improving your game has never been easier. Or more fun. Whether it’s through the Upswing Poker Twitch Stream, the impressive rise in quality of poker instructional video content, or the development of incredible study tools like pt4 and any of the popular equity calculators, the key is to find the study format that is best suited for your own personality and continuously work to improve.
This is not so much about finding patience within each game or even session, though that is clearly important, but rather about being patient with yourself as you travel through the learning process.
In a format such as Heads-Up Hyper-Turbos where finding the optimal solution for many situations is as simple as running an equity calculation, there are infinite opportunities to discover just how much you don’t know!
Combining the intrinsic unwillingness to fail with a grounded understanding that the only type of real failure is failing to improve is an integral part of the anatomy of a successful Heads-Up Hyper-Turbo player.
“If you look back at a ‘good session’ and think you’ve only made 1-2 mistakes, frankly… you’re being delusional.” ~Phil Galfond
4) Emotional control
This is yet another quality that is present in many successful poker players, regardless of their chosen game-format, especially in this day and age of hyper awareness about its importance. However, anyone transitioning to the HU Hyper-Turbo games, particularly from MTTs or cash-games, is likely going to have their definition of a bad day at the tables redefined extremely quickly.
It’s hard to truly appreciate the viciousness of variance until you’ve been on the extreme wrong end of a 200 game session where every flip, every cooler, every bad beat, hand after hand, game after game, all seem to go against you in a way that can leave you questioning its mathematical possibility. And, of course, that’s just one bad day. Downswings don’t last a day, unfortunately.
Even as someone who had already dedicated an enormous amount of effort to improving my poker mindset and helping others do the same, I still often had to double and triple it while playing heads-up hypers. Fortunately, getting to spend time with such a strong group of successful professionals, I was able to see first hand that, barring a select few notable exceptions, having emotional control wasn’t about never experiencing negative emotions, but rather about never letting the impulses that those emotions trigger take hold.
The best in the world still swore at their monitor like the rest of us, they still complained after a particularly bad week or month, they even, on occasion, questioned the size of their edge. But while they were at the table, when they were in the throngs of the grind, none of that noise existed.
You could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voice; you could feel it when they’d sit up in their seat after a rough beat and scoot closer to the monitor in a beautiful subconscious declaration of resilience and optimism. They might be experiencing sub-optimal emotions, but those emotions are always used to fuel their fire in a way that allows them to continue chasing their dreams, not move them further away from them, as is often the case when we lose control.
5) Bankroll Management Skills
I know, I know, you don’t need yet another poker player stressing the importance of not blowing your roll in a single session but in these games in particular, the allure of chasing losses by doubling-down (aka moving up in limits), or even just by clicking the rematch button a few too many times against a “fish” who may or may not actually be a highly talented and well-trained reg seeing through your play like Neo in one of the best movie endings of all time…
Fortunately as you work to develop your emotional control at the table, you will quickly develop a certain “distance” from the destructive emotions that are at play when you’re tempted to make a poor decision that will allow you to consider the bankroll implications of your actions and make a smart decision about whether to quit the session or continue playing.
6) Balancing – Think About Your “Opposite” Range
Since this list is somewhat theoretical in nature, I wanted to include at least one tangible concept that you could walk away with today and instantly apply to your game, so here it is.
Very early on I noticed that whenever I asked for feedback on a hand from one of these incredibly talented poker players, the very first question I’d hear, with near perfect synchronicity, was some variation of “What value/bluffs do you have in this situation?”, where the question was always asked about the opposite side of the action being discussed.
“What do you check-raise for value?”
or when discussing the profitability of a flop continuation-bet:
“What do you check-back there?”
When I asked myself why this question in particular seemed to be the launching point for everything else, the answer soon became clear. By defining our “opposite” range (not a real term!) in each situation, we define exactly how wide we can be without risking getting exploited. Because if the answer in a particular spot, for example, is “I never/rarely check-raise value here”, you can likely find better a spot to bluff too.
And as you can see from that example, without even considering hand selection, stack size, opponent type, or any of the other million and one things we can ask about before deciding how to proceed, we were instantly able to reach a solution and save a significant amount of time and mental energy we could be using to extract max value in a spot we may have otherwise missed on another table.
Easy game, right?
So the next time you’re unsure if a certain play is profitable, remember this neat little study trick used by some of the best HU Hyperturbo players in the game and save yourself a lot of unnecessary effort.