Heads-up strategies

purple sneakers

Team Captain
Mar 16, 2005
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I've been playing ub's 6 player $1 sit 'n' goes for a while now and am a slightly winner player, nothing mega profitable but can keep my head above water fairly easily. I seem to be going through a bit of a bad patch when it gets down to me and one other. I had 5 seconds in a row last week and a couple last night as well. Had a few reverse suck-outs performed on me but I basically just want to know if anyone has any good strategies for heads-up play?
Cheers
 

Crosby87

Norm Smith Medallist
Feb 8, 2005
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Be very aggressive. You cannot afford to sit back idly and wait for hands heads up, nor can you afford to fold when you don't have the best hand.

In heads up, more often than not, the best possible hand is NOT the best hand. I.e, you may hold second pair, but that could be the best hand. By the time you get to heads up, you should have been studying how your opponent has bet throughout the game - i.e. does he bluff at high cards, pairs on the board, flush draws, or is he tight and will fold to any bet that scares him off, or is he a calling station that will take you right to the river in hopes of hitting anything. You need to take these into consideration when heads up.

Also, if you're getting sucked out, and playing no-limit, re-raise plenty when there's a draw on the table. If you hit your flop and there's two hearts, make him pay to try and suck you out.

Also, don't be afraid to keep betting under the gun. If you raise pre-flop, and you find nothing on the flop, bet out. If he calls you, bet again. If you calls - make that third bet. A lot of chasers will fold on the river if they hit nothing - and more often than not they don't. You should be weary about making this play with draws on the flop, however, more so use it against people looking to hit an overcard.

As I said, the main thing is to play aggressive. You really have to know your opponent, also - it's hard to go into heads up blind, not knowing what kind of player you're facing. You should change your style of play (switch gears) to suit different kinds of opponents, however. If you're playing a tight player who will fold to anything, bet, but fold if you're re-raised.

Another thing - don't get caught into a coin-flip all-in situation. That is, don't just call an all-in with tens, for example. I mean, you've worked your way to the final two, so you don't want to waste it all on a 50/50 all-in call. If you're called by Ax, and he hits an ace, you're done. Think of heads up more of a battle, and it's probably best to slug it out, and not consider pushing until you have the best hand. Of course, you'll get those who push every four hands, especially if they're short-stacked, so with them it's best to wait until you mow them down with a monster hand.

A lot of people get stuck heads up, because they don't practice it. So a good way to get better is to practice. When I'm not playing for money, I sit down and play some "high stakes" Limit Hold'em play money, heads up. I'll usually just sit at a table and wait for people to play. At Full Tilt (where I mostly play) a lot of play money players play the lower stake tables, so the higher limits are great practice for heads up. I'll spend hours sitting there playing people heads up in Limit, Omaha, Stud Hi/Lo, or whatever it may be (fixed games, not no-limit, because all-in monkeys are annoying).

Practicing heads up with limit is also a good idea because you'll have to deal with people calling you with anything. Limit is entirely different to no limit, but will give you a good idea of how to play heads up in a sit and go (where you will play almost, if not every hand).
 

purple sneakers

Team Captain
Mar 16, 2005
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thanks crosby. i think i need to wait for the tide to turn a little. a few weeks ago I was in the opposite position when I just couldn't loose a heads-up encounter, it's frustrating. Lately I've been quite aggressive and managed to whittle them down to about 1,500 vs 7,500 only to see them suck out a few times and end up winning. I put $25 in ub and so far have seen it go down to $18 then up to $45 then down to $24 now up to $38. It really is amazing how your frame of mind when playing influences the way you play. Anyone who says hold 'em is luck really knows nothing about the game. It's fairly easy to idenitify poor players within the first ten hands and have a decent idea of how everyone plays after 20 or so hands. After that I'm constantly thinking about how to knock people out. What play will work best on different players style - eg slow play big hands with aggressive people and let them bet for you, bluff a lot against tight players etc. One thing I've noticed on ub is that people overvalue weak Aces - weak aces are a way to get rolled of all your chips IMO, I never play them unless we are down to three or less players.
 

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Crosby87

Norm Smith Medallist
Feb 8, 2005
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Lately I've been quite aggressive and managed to whittle them down to about 1,500 vs 7,500 only to see them suck out a few times and end up winning.
That'll happen a lot, but it's not your fault. I sometimes am totally baffled by people who chase the smallest of draws. Just today someone called on a flop with a K, called on a turn with a 10, and found an inside straight draw on the river with an A, turning over Q-J. Amazing. Most times, ignorance is bliss in poker, which is unfortunate.

Anyone who says hold 'em is luck really knows nothing about the game.
When I was going to University a few months back, some guy there had just picked up the game. Naturally, we got into an argument about poker being a game of luck and skill. I told him I would prove it, so I played him heads up and took his money pretty damn quickly.

But, fact is, there is a lot of luck involved, though in the long run, the skilled player comes out on top. The other night I was playing some play money 100/200 No Limit, and some jackass kept raping me on the river every time. He eventually busted me, and started getting cocky. I bought back in for $20,000, and he knocked me back down to $7,000. I said to him: "Your luck will run out sometime, don't worry."

And it did. He had a stack of $110,000, and I murdered him in five minutes to bust him from just a stack of 7k. I'm a firm believer that the skilled player will almost always cover the "lucky" players in the long run.

One thing I've noticed on ub is that people overvalue weak Aces - weak aces are a way to get rolled of all your chips IMO, I never play them unless we are down to three or less players.
Agreed. They're good hands heads up and perhaps shorthanded, because the odds are that your opponents have trash hands like 6-4o or T-3 or something you can cover, but you can't play those at a full table. It's amazing how many times I push with a hand like A-K or A-Q and get called with something like A-4 or A-7. A lot of newer players, or moderate players, won't lay down with weak kickers, either.
 

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