Jason Koon: “Heads-Up the Purest Form of Poker”

Jason Koon playing Max Steinberg in the $3k Mixed Max.

Jason Koon is one of the most successful tournament players around but for the last six months he’s focused on what some consider to be the most skilled form of poker in existence: heads-up.

“Heads-up is great, as players aren’t protected,” he explained while on break at the 2013 WSOP.

“If you’re playing a ring game with ten people, even if you’re not that skilled of a player, you can have a pretty default strategy and be protected.”

Koon has the benefit of watching roommate Ben “Bttech86” Tollerene battle Isildur1 for the highest stakes available online over the last few months.

“It helps me out just being able to have conversations with him over dinner,” he said.

He's also getting extensive coaching from a player he didn't want to disclose.

Koon Eyes Nosebleed High-Stakes Games

Ben Tollerene
Jason Koon's roommate Ben Tollerene knows heads-up.

Koon has always loved heads-up poker and when he originally got into poker he played numerous $3 heads-up Sit & Goes. Over the last year Koon has developed a desire to take his game to the next level however.

“I’ve always had the desire to become a nosebleed heads-up reg so I started putting those hopes into action and in the next few months I’ll be ready to go,” he said.

It seems to have paid off, as Koon put on impressive performance in the heads-up portion of the Mixed Max event before finally getting unlucky to bust against Max Steinberg.

Koon finished in the penultimate round of the tournament to earn $132,748.

According to Koon heads-up requires more thought than standard ring-game poker.

“Heads-up, you can’t sit around and wait for two jacks or you’ll get eaten alive,” he said.  

“Your edges are bigger and if you have leaks, they’re more obvious. Heads-up is the purest form of poker."

Jason Koon
Jason Koon

There are some dangers in focusing entirely on heads-up poker though.

“If you’re not careful, you’ll start playing too many hands in ring games,” he said. “As long as you can switch the gear on and off you’ll be okay."

Koon Makes Huge Changes to his Game

While Koon didn’t want to go into too many specifics, he did say his game has changed dramatically over the last six months.

“There are a lot of spots back in the day where, let’s say, I would’ve raised but now I call because it’s better for my range,” he said.

“It’s demoralizing for an opponent when they have a feel for what you’re doing with a specific hand and then are completely flabbergasted when you open your hand.”

Despite the danger of getting tunnel vision when learning heads-up, Koon still recommends it for most players.

“If you can remember to think how many people are behind you and be very disciplined like that, then playing heads-up will only help your game,” he said.

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