There are a several benefits to being on Team PokerStars. The most obvious is that I get to work with a company that feels like a family, and I get to occasionally pose for Magnificent Seven-style photos with the likes of Joe Hachem, Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, and Isabelle Mercier.
The second most obvious is that I get to play in a few big tournaments each year, most notably the World Series of Poker and the World Championship of Online Poker, while flying the Team PokerStars flag.
The least obvious is that I get to play high-stakes heads-up (just two player) matches several times a year, against some of the best opponents in the world, in a weekly match that PokerStars calls the Tournament Leaderboard Winner Match.
Isabelle was supposed to play in the heads-up match this week, but was unavailable, so I got called off the bench to represent the team . . . and I totally won!
So this morning, before my PokerStars TLB Winner Heads-Up Match, I went through my pre-tourney rituals (reviewing some well-worn notes from Absinthe, paging through Harrington, a little meditation, and a brisk walk around my yard to shake everything off and just focus on the game) and sat down hoping that I'd catch cards when I needed them, and make more good decisions than bad.
[. . .]
I got very lucky and caught some good hands right around the time my opponent (who played a very good, solid match) started to hit a place where a standard raise was about 20% of his stack, and I was able to apply pressure at some key points (I'm not good enough to explain what those points are, I just sort of know when they come up, I guess) so I was able to start raising with K-rag, J-rag, and the one little pair I caught, knowing that he would only play back with a real hand. That let me steal some blinds and keep his M low enough to set him up for playing at me with a weak hand, I hoped.
I really like heads-up play, and I'm beginning to think that I don't completely suck at it. I'm 1-1 when I'm scheduled for myself, and 2-0 when I'm filling in for someone else (I filled in for 2005 WSOP Champion Joe Hachem a couple of weeks ago and won that match.) I also play these 4-player, two round heads-up tournaments at PokerStars pretty frequently, and I'm a lifetime winner there, as well. (Those are great; you risk one buy-in to win three if you beat two opponents.)
Okay, I'm totally starting to speak in poker code, so if I haven't lost you entirely, you can read the full story at Cardsquad.