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Online Poker: Interview With Greg 'DuckU' Hobson

DuckU Talks About His Historic Back-to-Back Wins at Full Tilt and the Best Strategies to Employ to Accomplish Such a Feat

Greg 'DuckU' HobsonWinning a major tournament twice, back-to-back, easily qualifies as one of the ultimate fantasies of most serious poker players. Greg "DuckU" Hobson was on track to accomplishing this goal on April 22 of this year when he made the final table of the major Sunday tournament on Full Tilt just one week after he had taken down the major Sunday event on the same site. On April 15, he had outlasted 1,646 other entrants to win the monthly $750,000-guaranteed tournament, earning $152,000. The next week, the tournament had a $400,000 guarantee, and he again saw himself in position to take it down. He got down to heads up, and in the final hand, his K-Q went up against his opponent's dominated K-6. The 6 failed to materialize, and the Full Tilt virtual railbirds went wild with DuckU's unprecedented back-to-back wins. He earned $86,000 and a certain amount of legendary status for his second win.

Hobson has gone on to make nine other Online Player of the Year-qualified cashes since that time, an especially respectable set of scores considering he plays much more rarely nowadays. Card Player caught up with Hobson to see just how he accomplished his amazing feat:

Shawn Patrick Green:
So, you're a monster. How do you explain taking down the biggest weekly tournament on Full Tilt twice in a row?

Greg "DuckU" Hobson: I would say it was a combination of running well and playing my best game. I would say I was also playing for first on both occasions, as I always do, but wasn't afraid to get involved in big pots and tried to take down as many pots as possible without showdowns. I like to take down a lot of pots without showdowns because it reduces the luck-factor a little bit. If people fold before they see a river card, they can't draw out on you.

SPG: But how do you do that consistently and effectively? How do you do that without being played back at?

GH: Well, I play my big hands very aggressively, unless they are the nuts. I don't like to ever give people a price to draw against me because that is the sickest way to ever go bust, "giving" somebody a pot that you should have already taken down.

I would say that I do get played back at when trying to take it down preflop, and in those cases you really have to know your table image and be able to decide whether or not to give your opponent credit for a real hand or if they are just sick of you running them over.

When I get a big stack in a tournament, I am going to try to run over my table most of the time - but not if the table is really tough - because people don't want to get involved against the big stack. With that said, "good" players aren't going to let you do that and will play back at you with some pretty marginal holdings, and that's when you have to really know your image and how different opponents perceive you.

I have made a few pretty disgusting calls in this type of situation against good players. I've been playing very aggressive preflop, and a good player right behind me reraised all in as a pretty significant overbet, and I called with king-seven. Making this call, I still had about average if I lost, but I really thought I had the best hand, or, at the very least, was in a 60-40 situation, and I was willing to gamble and show the rest of the table that if they want to reraise they better have a hand. My opponent had eight-nine and that hand vaulted me up the chip ladder.

SPG: Do you think you'll ever do anything like that dual-win, again?

GH: I hope so, but, realistically, winning back to back "majors" at the same site is a stretch. I think I have a shot at winning big back-to-back tourneys, but probably not majors. Everything was just really falling into place and they were such huge fields to navigate through. I think the size of the field is what really limits that possibility. To battle through roughly 2,000 people once is hard enough, but twice in a row is really challenging.

SPG: Undoubtedly. After doing something like that, you have to feel pretty damn invincible. Was every tournament you played after that a huge letdown?

GH: [Laughing] I wouldn't say they were letdowns, but I would say that the double-win has changed my definition of a "big score." I still appreciate winning a tournament and cashing for 10K to 20K, but it doesn't have the same luster as it used to. I also don't like playing in the smaller tournaments that some of the big online tourney players play. It's just not worth my time to play in tournaments where first place is only 3K or 12K and you have to beat out a field of 800 entrants or something. I really haven't been playing very much before or since those big wins. The whole NETELLER thing made it so that I didn't have access to money on any site but Bodog, and so I had to find ways to get money onto the other sites. And, since those wins, I have been on vacation for so much of the time or in the process of moving. I really haven't had time to play as much as I'd like. I also play a lot of cash games when I have a limited amount of time to play.

SPG: What kinds of tips do you have for people playing in deep-stack, big-field tournaments like that? Did you have a game plan that seemed to be working out for you?

GH: As far as tips for players, it really depends on their skill level. I would say that one thing that I always tell myself is that I can't outplay everybody every hand and that I can't win the tournament this early. I know that I sometimes get impatient or try to make too many moves early on, and I have to tell myself these things in order to calm myself down.

I would say that I don't have a specific game plan, but I like to see a lot flops and make people make big mistakes against me. I like to win big pots with small pairs and suited connectors and take down small pots with "premium" hands. Obviously, you can win big pots with premium hands, too, but if all of the money doesn't go in preflop with them, I like to take down the pot before more cards come out. I would say that one piece of advice in deep-stack poker would be to flop really big hands against bad players with overpairs and play them very aggressively. I have doubled up many times early in tournaments when I have a small pair or suited connectors and somebody makes a raise that seems to indicate a big pair. I call and see a flop that makes me a set, two pair, or a straight, and if there are two cards to a flush, I either check-raise all in or just raise all in and make it look like a flush draw. So many people call and double me up.

I think it makes sense to go for the jugular against unknown players, and when the blinds are so small, playing it slower isn't going to make you very much in chips.

SPG: You also took down a $1K Monday event on Full Tilt, a $1,000 buy-in tournament that usually has around 200 to 300 entrants. That's quite a bit different from your Sunday main-event wins, which had smaller buy-ins and fields in the thousands. Do you play events like the $1K Monday differently than the big-field events?

GH: I play them both relatively the same. I like to see flops and play big hands aggressively, but I guess in the smaller, tougher fields I am more aware of people possibly playing more deceptive and having wider ranges of hands. I think I might also be less liberal with my raising hands. I might not steal the blinds quite as often because the quality of players leads to getting played back at more often.

I think I like the smaller, tougher fields better, though, because I feel like I am able to make plays that they will understand and react the way I was intending them to when I made the play. Whereas, in the big fields, a very deceptive play may completely backfire because my opponent wasn't thinking at the next level.

I guess I play more straightforwardly against bigger tourney fields, unless I'm in a pot with a player I know. The smaller field tourneys allow for more creativity, which I enjoy.

SPG: Continuing along your string of wins, you've also taken down a $100 rebuy tournament on PokerStars. What's your best advice for playing in rebuy tournaments?

GH: I actually have a bit of uncertainty about my rebuy strategy, but one piece of advice I would give is to always rebuy to start out with and play selectively hyper-aggressive, especially at a table with a lot of gamblers. There's a good chance you can get your money in as a big favorite if you are patient at a crazy-loose table. When you pick up a premium hand, play it hyper-aggressive, because people like to gamble during the rebuy period without premium hands. I will gamble if I'm at a loose-crazy table during the rebuy period, but I'm not one of those guys who pushes all in or calls all-ins with any two cards in order to build a monster stack. I like rebuy tourneys because after the rebuy period everybody has deep stacks, which allows for more play, but I don't think play during the rebuy period is a big strength of mine. Another fairly obvious piece of advice is to only play in rebuy tournaments where you feel comfortable paying at least five to six buy-ins, because you always want the ability to rebuy and add on.

SPG: You're currently in the top 20 in the Card Player Online Player of the Year race. You were top 10 after you snagged those first two wins at Full Tilt, but you've sagged a bit since then. How do you rate your chances of making a comeback?

GH: Well, as I said earlier, I really haven't played that many tournaments compared with everybody else in the top 20. I would guess that everybody who is currently in the top 10 has played probably two to three times as many tournaments as me this year. I hardly played any tournaments this year before those back-to-back wins, and I have been unable to play much since. I try to squeeze in a full Sunday's-worth of tourneys here and there, but things have just been too crazy lately. I just moved, so I think things are going to settle down and I will have the chance to play in more tournaments and thus give myself more opportunities to pick up leader board points. I also spend a lot of time playing cash games, which not many of the players on the leader board do on a regular basis. I would love to make a push toward the end of the year, but I think my shot of getting to the top is very remote. I would say, realistically, if I play a good amount of tournaments, I think I could push back into the top 10.

SPG: Have you played any interesting or eye-opening hands, lately?

GH: I played a hand in a tournament recently where I had aces on the button and smooth-called an open-raise from the cutoff. This was fairly late in the tournament, and both the raiser and I had well above-average stacks. Smooth-calling was a little risky because it may have priced the blinds in, but I thought there was just as good a chance that a player in the blinds would try to reraise in an attempt to take down a big pot preflop. I also knew that I would have position after the flop and that there was a good chance the player who opened would bet the flop. After I smooth-called, the small blind (who had about six times the size of the raise) moved all in in an attempt to take down the pot, but he didn't have much success, as the initial raiser then moved all in over the top and I insta-called. The small blind had pocket sevens and the cutoff (the initial raiser) had ace-king. My hand held up, and I was now officially chipped-up and ready to make a real run.

I think that if I had reraised preflop, the small blind would have almost certainly folded because he would have had no fold equity with a move over the top. The cutoff may have pushed if I had reraised, but it doesn't seem that likely because of how deep we both were. The only reason he put most of his stack at risk was because he wanted to isolate the all-in player. I think that sometimes it's good to smooth-call in this kind of situation because people in the blinds almost always think late-position raisers are weak, and then, when another player smooth-calls, they are not usually too strong, either. This leads to players in the blinds licking their chops at the possibility of taking down a lot of potentially 'dead money.'

SPG: Tell us a bit about yourself, personally.

GH: I was born and raised in Oregon and went to college at Southern Oregon University, where I played football all four years and met my future wife. I went on to get my master's degree in teaching and began to pursue my career in education. In 2004, after my wife finished college, we moved to Spokane, Washington, where she began law school at Gonzaga. I had a difficult time getting into the school district there, so I started putting in more time playing poker to make ends meet. Things were going really well and that's when I started playing full-time. We recently bought a house in Portland, and I'm really excited to be back in Oregon. I'm a huge Oregon Ducks fan, and that's where my screen names come from. Go Ducks!

SPG: Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview for us, Greg. Good luck getting your next back-to-back win.
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