Interview with Mientjeuh

The Name; The name Mientjeuh originates from a friend's cat, which has since been given away.  She lives on a small farm now.  The name carries over to the tables.

Me: How old are you and how did you get started in poker?

Mientjeuh: I'm 21 years old. I started playing poker when I was at university in early 2007 and had a lot of spare time. I was meeting a lot of people, and came into contact with some old friends I hadn't seen since high school. These friends played poker, usually 5 Euro home games, sometimes sng, sometimes cash (yea, ballin obviously). I don't think we ever played over 10 Euro. I remember one hand specifically where I flopped a set of duces on an A2x board. I had no clue what a set was, much less how to play it. I minraised my opponent's flop bet,  on the turn I bet small to keep him in the pot and then on the river I overbet jammed because I forgot to build a pot. He had AK. So a few of my friends told me after the hand "well, if you want to play a bit to practice, there's a lot of free online poker sites where you can play for fun."

So I began playing play money games. After awhile, I discovered Everest, played some freerolls. I got bored and ended up depositing 20 Euros or so. I ran it up to around 200 Euros, before 2-3 bad beats caused me to tilt and bust my roll. But I made a promise to myself, that I would not play online poker for real money for a year or so. I would give myself plenty of time to learn how to play properly.

And I stuck to that promise. I read poker books, 2p2 forums and watched some videos. About a year later, I figured I knew a good amount, because I was able to see a lot of bad advice being posted by winning players, mainly in the low stakes forums on 2p2. I figured if they could win, how could I not win? So I deposited another 50 Euros.

I didn't really know what games to play, so I just kind of played everything. I probably played 10 forms of poker back then, everything except heads up cash really, as the lowest buyin was 50NL. After awhile, I grew to believe the heads up sng opponents I was facing were the worst. That, combined with me liking the one on one action and ability to play almost any hand, made me finally settle on husngs as my primary game.

Side Note: I actually tried hu cash when my bankroll was around 1,000 Euros, but did not do well. Looking back, that was likely due to playing bad as well as running bad. Regardless, it just made me stick to husngs even more than before.

I had moved from Everest to PokerStars when I first went bust. My first real month of grinding was September of 2008, I believe. I played around 1,000 husng turbos on Stars, maybe more. I was in the $11s at the time, but by October I had taken my first shot at the $1,000 level, albeit on a very short roll. I was really rolled for $55-110 at the time.

Me: Lets pause there a minute. You went from $11, to taking shots at $1,000 in a 1-2 month period. What sort of bankroll management did you use?

Mientjeuh: I was pretty liberal about bankroll management. There are a ton of good threads on 2p2 that talk about bankroll management, using your winrate, etc. to calculate your risk of ruin and so on. But I just played whatever was comfortable to me. The $1,000 buyin match I played with a $4,000 bankroll. I never followed a strict bankroll plan moving up, I never felt I needed x buyins to play x level. Sometimes I would say thing say things as I moved up, things like "When I have $x I'll move up to the next level" but apart from that I did not have a bankroll system or anything like that.

Me: Did you move up and down often with your approach?

Mientjeuh: When in a downswing, I rarely moved down or anything like that when I started, because I was confident that I was beating the games. I mean, the $1,000 shot wasn't all that common, I usually had 20 buyins or so for the levels I was playing. So for the $22s, I remember having $400. If I really had a lack of success, I might move down at say $300, back to the $11s, but this was not common. I only remember moving down three, maybe four times. And those were going from the $11s to $22s. I didn't face any more major downswings on my way up to the $115 level.

Me: So when did you move to Full Tilt?

Mientjeuh: Around November of 2008, I got a pop up on PokerStars telling me that Sharkscope wasn't allowed. I then decided I'd just move to Full Tilt, since I'd get 27% rakeback anyways.

I had a huge downswing in December while taking shots at the $230-570 levels. All though it was technically a breakeven month, I had built up about 40 buyins of winnings and then dumped them all back at a very fast rate. I had about a $2,000 roll and moved back down to the $88-115s. My bankroll actually dropped to about $900 at one point while I was in the $115 level, but I haven't had to move back down ever since due to my bankroll.

Me: So your bankroll management when you were moving up was always on the aggressive side. Would you say that your hard work and high level of confidence made up for an aggressive bankroll management plan, otherwise filled with risks and downside?

Mientjeuh: If anything I was probably overconfident. I did constantly improve, but maybe not the same as many people would think. I did read a lot of 2p2, and posted a lot. I talked to other good players, both playing higher and lower than me. We discussed a lot of hands and spots. But I never reviewed my hands very much, with HEM or any other programs. I see no real reason why players review their own hands so often in husng, especially at the lower levels. I think it's kind of waste, since you play so many random players all day, and they are all rather poor players that require vastly different approaches. At the very least, experience playing is going to be much more beneficial than reviewing your own hands.

Me: So you feel that self analysis on hand histories is mostly a waste of time for the lower stakes player.  What about talking with other players or receiving coaching on those hand histories?

Mientjeuh: Like I said before, I think it can be very valuable to talk with other players.

As far as coaching goes, I think many players make the mistake of buying packages, which I don't find to be as valuable as individual coaching. When I came up through the stakes, I had a few hand reviews from xSCWx, a few video reviews, and I watched most of the videos he made prior to coming out. I kept tinkering with my game, and then went to PrimordialAA. I immediately bought a ten hour package, of which I used two or three hours. Here's a hint for smaller stake players: Pick out coaching from different players. Many coaches have interesting stuff to say, probably all of them if they are consistent winners. So I say pick up a bit from everyone. After my two hours with PrimordialAA, I was so pumped to play and test out the new stuff I had learned. I experimented a bit and had a really good month.

I really think of coaching like legos. Your current skills are like lego blocks, your lego empire. The coaching you receive is like a new box, with new pieces as well as older, more similar pieces. Your goal needs to be to get what you can, what you need out of the new box and strengthen your empire, grow your empire. 80% of the coaching you may already have, can't really use. But that 20% that you don't have is so valuable that you have to treasure it and try to use it to its fullest potential by experimenting with it and finding out where it fits into your empire.

Me: What do you think some of the most common issues that new and struggling players deal with in heads up sngs?

Mientjeuh: The best advice I have for lower stakes or struggling players is to play as much as possible on one table. I've always one tabled and that's the way you really improve your game. You pick up so many more things while one tabling, especially if you're still learning a lot about the game. After a certain number of games, a lot of spots will feel very natural to you.

That's the thing I dislike about many of the hands posted in 2p2's HuNL forum, so many of the spots are rare spots and usually one decision over another does not mean that much in the greater scheme of things. For example, you'll often see someone say "should I call or should I fold" in a thread when villain jams. A lot of those spots are so close that it doesn't matter much which decision you make. So it's the overall gameplan that you need, and the spots that come up a lot in game, those are the spots that you need to focus on.

Me: How do you avoid overthinking and fancy play syndrome, while still staying creative and having an open mind towards adjustments and decisions?

Mientjeuh: A 6-max example comes to mind. I was talking about this with my roomate, a lot of people in 6-max are 4-bet bluffing these days, you could say it's the latest trend. But people tend to fail at adjusting to that, especially when playing too many tables. They will still end up 5-bet jamming garbage, even though your 4-bet range is still 100% value in certain spots. They will think "he must be bluffing" when it's a ridiculous spot to bluff.

In heads up sngs, being creative without overthinking is just putting your opponent in spots they are not familiar in. You can do this with weird lines, bet sizing, etc. There's so much you can do and manipulate, especially with bet sizing. Lets say you have KQ for example, 1k effective stacks at 25-50. Villain limps 22, planning to limp jam for whatever reason, maybe you've been raising a lot of his limps 3x the BB. Just minraise OOP when he limps. He'll get confused, "is he minraising a monster or a hand like JT? Should I just jam over this? It's a big overbet if I do, lets just call." They miss the flop, you cbet and take down a 200 chip pot most of the time. In that spot, if you make your OOP minraising range a bit ok, he'll even have a hard time limp-jamming anything but really strong hands because of the risk/reward.

Me: So what you're basically saying, is to be open to trying various creative things, but make sure they have a logical reason to them, rather than just being fancy for the sake of it, or putting a ton of thought into something that may not require additional creativity?

Mientjeuh: Yea, totally. It all comes down to hand ranges in the end and what your opponent is doing with either part of it, not just on the current street, but on future streets as well. And sometimes it's better to take non standard lines with a certain hand on a certain street, so that on future streets you'll be able to play better against your opponent's range.

Me: How do you explain such a large separation between some of the most successful heads up sng players in the mid to high stakes games? Some players can naturally articulate and use a great deal of self analysis, while others, with just about equal success, seemingly cannot explain why they do what they do, it just works.

Mientjeuh: I think there's some sort of natural talent to have, some might disagree, but it's like most things in life. I'm pretty good at math, so in high school or university I had to do absolutely nothing to pass exams. I could just figure out stuff on those exams myself. Like pokerstove for example, it's a pretty cool tool but nothing too spectacular, especially if you have a lot of experience. After awhile, for some players it will become a natural feel to how much equity you have vs a certain range in certain spots, it's not that hard. And when you're good at math, you can kind of tweak your mind a bit even, and put more combos of certain hands in then others and you'll get a better feel for your equity than people using pokerstove (incorrectly).

Me: Moving on a bit, if you had to take two fellow husng poker minds to pick apart, which would they be?

Mientjeuh: Livb and Skates.

Me: There was recently a thread on 2p2 asking who the best husng posters are. I said you and Skates by far, even though I believe there are a great deal of good posters on 2p2 (primo, skilled, hokie, xscwx, doug, dean, nathan, aex/crimson, mers and probably a half dozen I'm temporarily forgetting). The reason you two stand out, is that on several occasions an interesting hand is posted and a lot of good players come in and agree on something, then you or Skates come in afterwards and  will say something totally different, stating your reasoning and within ten posts everybody now agrees with you. How does this happen?

Mientjeuh: It's kind of hard to explain and probably has a lot to do with experience and thinking outside the box. A lot of people go into the so called standard lines, which is fine against a lot of opponents and will result in winning strategy most of the time. However, for some reason I just always try new stuff. Then I'll review the situation after trying it a few times to find out whether it's something valuable or not, and ultimately decide whether or not to implement it into my game. I just don't see a lot of other players doing this.

Me: Do you have any strong or unique opinions on where the game is headed?

Mientjeuh: It's obviously a bit tough to predict things like that, but the games are definitely tougher than when I started out. Once you play higher stakes your perspective must/will open a lot. Like skilled_sox playing shortstack 25-50 or 2-7 lowball games. I'm definitely thinking about doing something in addition to husngs in the near future. Just to try to stay ahead of the pack, so to speak.

Me: Which player has given you the most trouble in high stakes husngs?

Mientjeuh: I have the most trouble with Livb. There are a ton of players that I think myself (and the opponent) will not be able to beat the rake in the long term. A lot of them are standard, flawless to an extent. But Livb is one of the most creative minds that I've played against so far. He has a really weird way of thinking, he can do anything he wants.

Me: Who will be at the top of the Sharkscope leaderboard at the end of the year?

Mientjeuh: Besides the usual suspects like Livb and Tbags, I think Alex (H2olga) if he sticks to one site. He's rampaging, he's a great thinking mind that's never afraid to try new stuff. He's afraid of nobody.

Me: Recently you took a break from poker.  What brought this on?  What are your future plans?

Mientjeuh: Well, recently the government here in Belgium has passed some laws in regards to online gambling that may be very damaging to online professionals.  The laws aren't going into effect until 2011, but it looks like they have a real potential to be very restrictive to somebody like me, that plays higher levels where my income can be severely cut by higher rake and/or a lower buyin level for high stakes games.  The latter could either be due to the player pool being thinned out, meaning less action at the high stakes games, or a cap, similar to Italy.  So for that reason, combined with the 0% taxes on poker income in the UK, I've decided I'll be moving to Manchester in the next month or so.

Since I'm moving to the UK, I've been spending a ton of time with my family and preparing for the move, so I've taken a bit of a break from the tables.  I should be there in April, and there's already three other poker players in the apartment complex, there's a lot of amenities, pool, sauna, etc. so it's going to be a great experience for me.  There's also a few other poker players that are seriously considering moving to this complex, which would be great.

The $6,000 Custom Avatar; Mientjeuh purchased a custom avatar recently with his Full Tilt points.  After about 6 months of waiting time, as well as an initial rejection, the turtle is finally here!

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