Recently, a representative from MacPoker.com had a chance to play heads-up in a brick-and-mortar casino against one of poker’s best, Jeff “yellowsub” Williams. The winner of the Season 2 PokerStars European Poker Tour (EPT) Monte Carlo Grand Final, Williams also has a runner-up showing in a $1,000 rebuy event held during the 2008 World Series of Poker (WSOP) for $406,000 to his name. So what’s it like to play mano-a-mano against a world champion and what lessons can we take away?
First off, it’s intimidating to look down at the other end of the table and see a self-made poker millionaire. Even though I know anyone is beatable in the short-term, there’s a certain aura about squaring off against one of the game’s elite. Therefore, when Williams bets into pots and puts in raises, you’re generally convinced that he has something. On a board of 5-6-7-8-Q, for example, we threw away 4-10 convinced that a string of healthy bets meant that Williams had a nine in his hand. Sure, he could have had “squadoosh,” but you definitely want to pick your spots against a world-class player.
Whatever the opposite of “intimidating” is, that’s what Williams looks like. He was only 19 years old when he won the EPT Grand Final back in 2006 and has a sweet Southern persona as a resident of Georgia. He’s as nice as can be, which adds to the complexity of Williams as a player. He doesn’t seem like the kind who will bluff you off your stack with next to nothing or try to put a move on you, but you know deep down that he would in a heartbeat. Williams is one of the game’s top minds. In fact, his “yellowsub” persona is revered across the world.
It’s important to have no fear when playing against a champion. If you have a hand, go with it. If you flop a pair, treat it like the nuts. Importantly, know that your opponent may or may not have a hand at any given moment, so if you see an opening, go for it. The odds of you picking up on a tell are slim to none, so go with your gut and with what hands you have. Is top pair probably good in any given situation? Yes. Is middle pair good? Maybe. Just roll with the punches and have no fear; after all, you are the underdog.
The MacPoker.com Christmas party was where we battled against Williams, who took us on in a low-stakes game. Our crew won the first two pots before dribbling off from there. Momentum is everything in heads-up poker, as Williams or anyone else will be able to tell you. When you have the momentum, push and push to keep it in your favor. Fire bets into the pot and paint the picture that you hold a monster. When you’re struggling, maintain your composure and remember that one big hand separates you from being a winner.
Finally, if you’re playing against a champion, treat them like a champion. You should always treat players with respect no matter what example pros like Phil Hellmuth and Scotty Nguyen may set. It’s especially important to be a good sport when playing against a poker professional. Shake their hand before and after the game. Hit the table and say “good hand” when they outplay you. Don’t swear, tell poker players how they’re idiots from Northern Europe, and know that you’re probably just donating your money for a good story and a rock-solid experience. Whatever you do, don’t chastise a pro or talk down to them.
Go find your own champion to play against, as the opportunity isn’t as exclusive as it might seem given the proliferation of online poker. We’d like to extend the best of luck to our readers when they battle against the best on Mac-friendly sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.