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>> One-on-One Poker Strategy

Heads-Up Play

Written by Haunted Poker for exclusive use.


Youíll most often run into a heads-up situation at the end of online Sit Ďn Go tournaments or specially designated 1-on-1 tables. If youíre down to the final two in a multi-table event, youíre on your way to a nice chunk of change. While many players are content just making it that far in a tournament, theyíre often hammered by players with more heads-up experience. To help you avoid the bittersweet taste of 2nd place finishes, letís briefly walk you through successful heads-up strategy.

First of all, you need to realize that hand value goes way up in heads-up play. In fact, the cards almost become meaningless in this format. Your main concern should be playing your opponent rather than your cards. It will be much easier to study him and pick up on his tendencies since youíll be facing him in every pot. The fact is that most of the time neither of you will pick up a decent starting hand. However, youíre always going to be putting money into the pot as either the big blind or the small blind. If you sit back and pick your battles based on strong starting cards, the blinds will slowly eat away your stack. Since itís at the end of the tournament, the blinds figure to be pretty steep at this point. You canít play tight and win in heads-up play.

Youíll have to play aggressively in order to keep picking up those blinds and building your stack. If your opponent is a fairly tight player who doesnít like to take chances, keep betting at him (at least 3 or 4 times the big blind) and stealing his blind. If he does play back at you, you can safely get out of the hand realizing that heís finally picked up a hand. Typical hands that I will push heads-up include any Ace, any two face cards, K-10, Q-10, J-10, any pocket pair, and often suited connectors down to 5-6.

Youíll want to raise most of the time from the small blind, which is the best position when playing heads-up. From the small blind, youíll be able to put pressure on the big blind by acting first before the flop. After the flop, youíll be able to act second. Your opponent in the big blind realizes that heís at a disadvantage for the rest of the hand, so heíll have to be holding some semblance of a hand or suspect a bluff in order to play back at you. The best part about playing aggressively is the fact that you wonít be bluffing all the time. Sometimes, youíll have a hand when you raise and if your opponent tried to reraise you out of the pot youíll welcome the action.

Another advantage to playing an aggressive game is the psychological advantage youíll have over your opponent. Youíll be intimidating him with your aggressive style, and heíll realize that he canít run over you or see a cheap flop. Heíll have to battle you to beat you. Many players canít handle this and will quickly become frustrated and go on tilt to some degree. Obviously, youíre always at an advantage when your opponent is on tilt.

Also, while youíre playing an overall aggressive game, you shouldnít become too predictable. Your opponent is getting to study you at every move, so donít be too quick to fall into a pattern. Changing gears often is another essential in heads-up play that will help keep your opponent frustrated and confused. After playing a very aggressive style in one hand, you might consider checking down your top pair to the river. Sure, you might get drawn out on occasionally but it wonít happen too often against just one other player. Let him think that he has control for once until the showdown, where you drag another pot.

Finally, this constant aggressive stab at the pot will hopefully put you into the chip lead at some point. As a heads-up shark, this is exactly where you want to be. Having your opponent covered will allow you to take more risks in potential coin-flip situation. You can easily call your opponentís all-in with A-K if youíve got more chips than he does. The only hands against which you donít stand a great chance of winning the tourney right there are A-A and K-K. Even if you do take a hit, get right back up with your remaining chips, sink your teeth in once again, and mount a comeback.

Remember, the key to heads-up play is aggression, observation, changing gears, and taking chances at the right times. Always try keep your opponent one step away from being knocked out of the tournament, and at least 2 out of 3 times from the small blind. Keep betting on the flop most of the time, since he probably missed his hand. In closing, donít forget that youíre always getting the right pot odds to at least call from the small blind. Keep up the heat and you should be on your way to more top prizes. Weíll see you at the final tableÖ




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