Interview: Sam ‘KODDZILLA’ Razavi
Monday, 10 October 2011
When he’s not final-tabling the Aussie Millions and winning UKIPT titles, Black Belt Sam Razavi is busy earning a crust at the heads-up cash tables…
How has the heads-up landscape changed over the years?
These days, a lot more players have turned to heads-up, so the action is more difficult to find. There are still plenty of fish; if anything, there are more of them, but your slice of the pie is now smaller than it was before. There have been a few times when I've been worried and wondered what’s going to happen, but at the end of the day, the action is always there, and it’s as fishy and beautiful as it always was. You can still get days where you’re gifted the entire lot by a fish; it's just the luck of the draw as to which reg they choose to play. Patience is the key.
Do you have to wait long for a game?
Because of iPoker’s new table-hogging rules, I can only play four tables on Black Belt Poker, so I tend to play several sites, chuck on Columbo or Fawlty Towers and just wait for the fish to arrive. It's weird; sometimes I won’t get a bean for the most of the day, but other times I’ll get action for the whole day. I know this one guy who puts a baby monitor by the computer, goes about his daily chores and then races back into the room if he hears bleeping.
What stakes are you currently playing?
I'm playing $1/$2 and $2/$4 at the moment, but that can sometimes change depending on who I’m playing. For example, I beat a guy for $400 this morning at $1/2, when suddenly he sat out and demanded to play $3/$6. I took another $1,200 off him, and then he sat out again and requested $5/$10. I pocketed a further $2,000, so ended up winning almost $4K. You get that sometimes, so there are days when I play higher than normal, either by choice or because of running into these types of players.
Are you interested in the nosebleeds?
It’s not of huge interest to me because I know that I can comfortably make $150 to $200,000 at my current level. If I move up and have a bad run, I could do like $20K or $30K in a night, and, granted, I could win a lot, but I don't like the thought of the massive downswings, even if I can afford it. Maybe that's one of my flaws: the fear of losing big amounts.
Is there much competitiveness between the regs?
Sometimes a few regs get frustrated because there are no fish and they’ll start sitting down on another reg’s tables because they're desperate for action. If they do this to me, I just sit out against them and say, 'Look, I'm waiting to make money off bad players.' Most of the time they'll show respect and leave, but sometimes they'll block the table and say, 'Play me or leave.' At this point, you have to stamp down your authority otherwise they'll just keep doing it, so I just play with them, and although it can take a while to work them out, I’ll end up beating them.
I know that all these players have the same strategy as me so I've worked out how to cancel that out. The one good thing about playing them is that they have big egos, so if you’re spanking them, they might start going on tilt and lose even more because they’re the ones who challenged you in the first place.
Have you ever struggled with ego in heads-up?
I’ve never been stubborn like this; I just don’t let it affect me. If someone is a good player, I’ll just sit out and tell them that there are better fish out there to fry. I certainly won’t press the issue and try to win my money back as I know there will be other players coming along, so why make my life difficult? You have to accept in this game that there are other players out there who are better than you.
What’s your general approach to playing weaker players?
I basically raise every hand, and call practically every re-raise. I rarely pass if they raise because I know I can outplay them post-flop, whether I’m in position or not. I don't 4-bet much because I know that most of the fish that are 3-betting aren’t necessarily doing it light, and so I'd just be opening myself to being shoved on. You can get a pretty good idea of their range by how they follow through on the turn, at which point you can reassess and act accordingly.
What skills do you believe the best players have over others?
Aggression. They are a lot more fearless than other players. The best players are also very good at adjusting and modifying their own game dependent on their opponent. They know when to alter their bet sizes, when to tighten up, and when to use the chat box to their advantage – they are constantly changing their style and approach.
In heads-up, you’re involved in every hand, and have to fight for every pot; being forced to think about every single hand gets you used to analysing tricky situations, and helps you understand the value of marginal hands in certain spots.
Do you think tracking software has a place in heads-up?
It's absolutely unnecessary in heads-up. Heads-up is all about trying to manipulate your opponent's behaviour and style to the best of your ability, so prior data isn't really that useful as each session can be different. I think it's absolutely necessary, though, if you want to make a living at medium stakes six-handed, but I've never been a fan of it.
How ruthless are you?
I’ve definitely managed to get people to reload when it’s obvious that it’s game over for them, although I do draw the line if they tell me that they’re blowing a student loan or something. I won't give them their money back, but I won't goad them into losing more either.
I've always felt a little uncomfortable playing poker for a living knowing that if I take a £1,000 off someone, that's a grand I’m better off, but what has it done to this other guy? You don't know what affect you're having on those players, but it’s dog eat dog. If it's not me, then they will lose their money to someone else.