Heads up strategy concepts

Ace tenHeads up is player versus player, a duel that sometimes turns out hazardous. It can also be poker played on a very advanced level. If you want to win more than one out of two heads up, you have to learn how to handle these situations in a sophisticated way.

Chess teachers often say it’s a good idea to start learning from the “endgame” to develop a deep understanding for the game. – Heads up is the endgame of Texas hold’em. I can’t say if chess coincide fully with poker in this case, but playing against one player hand after hand will move you to the essence of the game, and you are being forced to conduct both the cards and the opponent.

First you must understand that the values of starting hands are different from playing numerous opponents. As the tendency from longhanded to shorthanded dictates about speculative hands contra power hands will continue here, the speculative hands now fall off some more against the power cards.

All in starting hands

In heads up you are never far away from all in situations so you must learn which starting hands are reliable in these cases. I don’t recommend a static, machine-like way of playing, but it’s good to have an idea about which cards you can rely on in general. I will here present you some guidelines.

1) Pairs are very strong in heads up – if you hold a pocket pair you will be a favourite against all other non-pair hands (with a few exceptions), and the chance both players holding pairs is 1 of 289.
2) A hand like K-4 off suited, normally worth very little against several players, is a short favourite against the average hand.
3) The worst hand in heads-up is 2-3 off suited because of its lousy all in prospects; it wins less than 1 out of 3.

All in is one method, but there are also more subtle ways to handle heads up. If you can choose, don’t you want to get rid of your opponent in a surgical manner? It’s both fancier and less risky than put all your chips in for an all in duel. Poker is seldom about 100%, but you want to increase your chances to the maximum. How will you accomplish this operation? The answer is patience and acting deceptive.

You can answer a raise with a big re-raise with the low pair after the flop. That works from time to time. However, if you can wait until you got something almost unbeatable, like a set, you can lure off an ardent player all his chips.

Poker is all about the situation, so you must be able to handle both methods discussed here. In heads up you need to know when to be aggressive and when to be patient.

Recognize patterns and utilization of response

Like always you should play the cards as well as the player. The guidelines above is about which cards to play especially in heads up, now I will tell you about the specialities of playing the player in heads up.

As you are fronting only one player it’s critical to learn his way of acting. Consequently you better watch out for him to read your play. It’s not just about if he is a tight or loose player. To succeed in recognize patterns of your opponent you must focus on the way he is betting – when and which size in different situations. Pay attention also to all cards that you see at showdown and learn about his playing style in that way.

It's also important that you're adjusting your play after how the opponent is responding to your pre flop actions. If he in majority drops his cards then you raise you should utilize this and raise with a higher frequency, even with hands that are normally not raising hands.

How does the opponent react when you limp in: are he constantly raising in the believe that you haven’t all that dangerous cards? This you can use for trapping your opponent. Continue to limp in with mediocre starting hands and fold if he raises too much. Sooner or later you will have a pair or an Ace with a good kicker, if the opponent raise after you limped in then re-raise. If the opponent is impatience you have big chances to win a decisive pot.

This is how you play deceptive. In general, you can slow play more hands – like two pairs and even a top pair depending on the circumstances – in heads up when in other situations. It’s a highly effective way to make a profit against loose and impatient players.

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