Heads-up poker strategy; an easy to follow introduction

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy, Poker Tournament

Submitted by Q, this article is a part of the Poker Tournament series.

Playing heads-up poker

What is the beauty and power of attraction of poker? Personally I think it is its many facets. In contradiction to other sports or games, every situation is unique and asks another approach. One of the most important factors which influence a specific situation is the amount of people that is involved in a hand. That’s why it’s informative to play some heads-up games for a change.

Till a few weeks ago, I only knew heads-up poker from final tables in single and multi table tournaments. But then I decided to give the specific heads-up  games on Full Tilt Poker a try, after being convinced by some friends that it’s very profitable. Up until that moment I had avoided those games because I thought it was mainly a matter of luck: a game where people shove with any two cards and subsequently see who has the best hand.

I was certainly wrong on that point. First, heads-up poker isn’t just gambling, it’s a very important discipline in poker, which could deliver you a lot of extra profit in the big multi-table tournaments when you control it well, because of the often big gap in prize money between first and second place. Second, why would you bother when OTHER PEOPLE perceive the game as gambling? Instead, this can deliver you a LOT of very easy money. For examples of specific heads up plays, check out my blog.

Important to know before you start playing heads-up games, is the fact that you should play sit ‘n go tournaments instead of a cash game. Reason is the fact that you’ll see a lot of money disappear during a heads up cash game due to the rake. Once you’ve started playing, you’ll notice that you stay very concentrated during the game. This is easy to explain: you’re involved in every hand, which is a big difference compared to multihanded tournaments and especially cash games, where it can be extremely boring to wait on a decent hand to play.

Concerning strategy there are two important aspects to keep in mind: position and stack size. Fifty percent of the times you have the button in heads up games and you should use it! It guarantees you position on the flop, one very good reason to play aggressively preflop. Same things apply for stack size: once you’ve got your opponent covered with a decent amount of chips, you should put some serious pressure on him. One last important issue: you should play the first couple of hands with prudence, so you can figure out what kind of opponent you’re up against. This will prevent you for example from making moves against a loose cannon who calls anyway.

If you keep these remarks in mind, you should be able to make some nice profit on heads up games, unless…you start steaming. Because you play so many hands, you’ll be confronted with a lot of bad beats and frustrating situations during heads up games. Going on a tilt after such situations is twice as bad in  heads up games as in regular games: because of the velocity of the game, you can loose a lot more money in a shorter time period!

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1 Comment to Heads-up poker strategy; an easy to follow introduction

December 8, 2008

Nice article Q. I think I might start playing some heads up SNG’s to practice my hopefully many to come heads up duels for 1st place in tournaments.

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