Danny Steinberg is a regular poster on FlopTurnRiver under the name “IowaSkinsFan” and a regular high stakes heads up hold’em player called “Mirttinur” on Full Tilt and “heybude” on PokerStars. Today, he returns for another FTR exclusive interview to talk about his new strategies, new blog, and new goals.
Paul Sideris: You’ve come a long way since your last interview in October of 2008. Can you tell us how you’ve done in that time?
Danny Steinberg: Well, 2009 ended up being a really crazy year for me.
For the first 4 and a half months that year I probably played the best poker I have played in my life and the results showed, I made more money in those 4 and a half months than I thought I would make the entire year.
Almost all my profits were at HU cash.
I had been playing HU cash most of 2008 too, but I was playing too aggressive, too spewy, not making the kind of folds I needed to make against the tight players I was playing.
But I really got my act together in 2009, my hand reading, especially with game flow and timing tells was superb, I always felt like my theoretical understanding of the game was as good as the top players in the world, but I wasn’t harnessing it in 2008.
But in 2009, I got my act together. I believed in myself, I got in a good routine, and I felt unstoppable.
I’d play people and it was like I knew what they were thinking, I knew when they would fold and when they would call, and I knew when they were bluffing and when they weren’t.
At that point I thought I was going to make a million dollars that year.
But my play began to degenerate and I made some bad decisions.
First, the only people who would play me at HU were very good players, and I wasn’t that interested in playing $10,000 or $20,000 dollar buy-in a game I didn’t have much, if any, edge playing.
because, of that, I decided to start playing HU sit and goes.
I saw that the players who played the SNGs, even the respected ones, were playing very badly with deep stacks and consequently felt that meant that I could develop a huge edge playing in them.
PS: How is the strategy there different than in cash games?
DS: They are a lot different. First off, your play with much shallower stacks.
I saw all these players playing loose and building pots with mediocre hands and it made me think that they were terrible, but after awhile I learned that with shallow stacks this sort of play isn’t that bad.
In cash, you play so deep, check raising the flop with a hand like top pair bad kicker is hanging yourself, you can’t build pots with mediocre hands because a good player is either going to make a bluff that they would play congruently with nut made hands, or you put yourself in a spot where you feel forced to call your stack of even though you are facing a very wide value range.
Also, cash requires you often to fold a hand such as a two pair, a straight, or even a set. I felt like I was able to make correct big folds very well in cash and it gave me a huge edge. But in HU SNGs, it’s not as relevant.
PS: so are you back to cash games now?
DS: Well what happened is I kept at HU SNGs in June through Christmas, and I struggled to improve but by the end of the year I felt like I was one of the better regulars. I didn’t end up making nearly as much money as I would have if I played HU cash. And the problem was that HU SNGs were detrimental to my cash games. I ended up losing a lot at HU cash because when you focus on playing two different games, your play is going to be worse at both than if you were to focus on one of them. So I ended up having a 6 month long small downswing / break even stretch. It was frustrating, detrimental to my play, and just plain depressing. But I made a lot of rake back and got some free tournament entries so overall I was happy.
I continued to play HU SNGs this year but I really have dabbled back into HU cash. I feel now I’m playing as well as I did last spring, and I am looking forward to a very successful year.
PS: That’s great.
I have a couple questions about grinding.
PS: What do you do when you are getting ready to play?
DS: Up until very recently, pretty much nothing. I would normally just wake up and put in a morning session, and that would be the poker I would require myself to play that day.
But after working with my mental coach Jared Tendler, he encouraged me to really use some trial and error and figure out what sort of pre game stuff I can do to get better.
So now, most of the time I do this:
I will wake up, take a shower, and have a very small breakfast, which is either veggie sausage links or veggie sausage patties.
then I have two continuous logs going, both of which I review before a session.
First, I look through my poker log, this is pretty much random thoughts I have about poker or my sessions that I write down in a word document.
Second, I look through a log I call my “Mistakes Review.” This is pretty much a log where I write down the general main mistakes and the less important mistakes I make during a session where I’m not playing my A+ game.
PS: Is there anything you try to keep at the top of your mind while you play?
DS: Well this one is a favorite of mine, and its honestly the most important thing for my game. In tier 1 of my mistakes log, which are my biggest mistakes, I have something that says “Bluffing in a situation where my opponent will play a later street with a balanced range.”
It’s not specific enough of a statement, but it means a lot to me. I’ll explain
Let’s say I call preflop with 89o heads up after my opponent has raised 3x preflop.
The flop comes 742 rainbow, I check and my opponent cbets.
Clearly, his continuation bet has a lot of air in it and I want to find some way to get him off some weak hands. But if I check/raise here, there are two possibilities if he decides to continue.
One, he 3bets the flop, which I think he would very well do with some vulnerable hand that he wants to stack off with, and he could do that as a bluff.
Two, he could call, which he could do with vulnerable or not vulnerable nut hands, mediocre hands, or air.
in both situations I feel like doing anything but folding or check folding is a bad move because he can have the nuts pretty easily.
Now if we change the board to 654, same situation…
if I c/r the flop, I feel like my opponent would likely 3bet the flop with all his value hands, rarely doing it as a bluff, and calling with all his mediocre hands that he doesn’t want to stack off with. Both of this situations his range is what I’d call unbalanced: I can fold happily to a 3bet, and I can fire two more barrels on a lot of cards happily as a bluff if he calls
PS: That makes sense
DS: Now again I’m generalizing, but versus a standard opponent this is probably going to be true.
PS: You recently started a poker strategy blog with your twin brother (Suited Aces). How do his strategies differ from yours?
DS: Well, Max is plays a much more controlled game than me. He plays tight and much less bluffy, which is well suited for the 6 max cash games he plays. Me, I’m well known for being crazy aggressive. It’s funny, he could really use more of my instincts in his game and I could use a lot more of his instincts in my game. Guess that’s a twin thing.
PS: Speaking of aggression, in light of what Isildur has been doing in his games, would you like to play even more aggressively?
DS: Well, to see someone play as crazy aggressive as he does, a lot of people would probably think Isildur is terrible at poker. And to be honest, he clearly either doesn’t care to make big folds or isn’t capable of making them. But his style does fit that. He plays like a billionaire whose sole purpose is making someone’s life a living hell.
DS: He is crazy aggressive, but his aggression is good. There’s a lot of things I’ve seen in his game that helped me improve my theory knowledge. And as I mentioned to some other people, if you assume he’s the best player in the world, there’s a lot you can learn by simply rationalizing his plays.
But the truth is, he’s probably not. Nonetheless, he certainly has the potential to be the best in the world.
PS: So, what can we expect to see on your blog?
DS: Well, Max and I really have three main goals with our blog. One, give our readers a feel for our lives as poker players. Second, give our readers some good poker insights. And third, be a fun blog to read. So far, we have gotten a lot of compliments on it. But this is my first time doing any sort of blog, so as time goes on hopefully we will be able to adjust ourselves to write more about what our readers want to hear.
PS: Why did you decide to start a blog?
DS: It was just something that we wanted to do for fun. Clearly, since we are twins who play high stakes poker, we felt like people would find that interesting. If it ends up getting massive readership, I’d love it. But right now it’s just something we are doing as a hobby and hoping to gain some fans and publicity.
PS: Ok just a couple more things
You say on your blog that you’re interested in going back to school in engineering. Why’s that?
DS: I’m not sure if I’m going back to school for engineering, but I have been looking at my situation like this: I have the money to finance whatever I want to do with myself, my skills at poker are very much from my ability to be creative with theory, and I want to make a lot of money by providing people with something of value to their lives. I felt like engineering is something that is congruent with my skills, and what better do something valuable then by inventing something amazing?
Nonetheless, I graduate in May and I’m going to give myself at least a year to not only have fun and relax, but really consider where I want to go with my life.
PS: You’ve written a lot about poker strategy and recently got offered a job on a coaching web site. Ever consider publishing a book?
DS: The thing is I don’t really like talking about poker strategy because even though I feel like I am able to express some concepts that could really change someone’s game, I am an absolutely terrible writer (who would probably be better if I ever revised my work!). But if someone actually came to me and offered me a book deal, I mean pssssh, I’m accepting that in two seconds.
PS: One more question. How long until you make a million dollars?
DS: By the end of the year. I promised my Dad I would make a million dollars this year, so I’m not about to back down from that haha.
But so far I’m not close
PS: haha well, good luck and thanks for the interview.
DS: thanks Paul