Advanced Heads-Up Strategy in Texas Hold'em
The heads-up format of No-Limit Texas Hold'em is gaining in popularity, in particular through the National Heads-Up Poker Championship created by NBC.
This event gathers the top poker pros and superb poker action is guaranteed. But what made this tournament even more remarkable is that two gorgeous female players went very deep recently. In 2007 the actress poker amateur Elizabeth Shannon went to the semi-finals. In 2009 super hot poker pro Vanessa Rousso went to the final, losing to Huck Seed.
Some poker pros consider heads-up to be the purest form of poker, the only gauge of the true talent of any player. This is raw poker, this is the essence of poker. This article covers a few of the important concepts to be aware of whenever you sit at a heads-up table.
Heads-up play requires aggression
The most important concept in heads-up poker is understanding your opponent.
In order to understand the player sitting in front of you, you might need to make some plays that you would normally not make in order to evaluate his reactions. Try to put your opponent into one of these five categories: very aggressive, aggressive, medium, tight & very tight.
Only the heads-up format offers you the opportunity to very rapidly clarify in which category your opponent belongs, as nearly every action is a new piece of evidence exposing his playing style.
The easiest type of player in heads-up is the very tight player. The reason is that everyone receives a disproportionate number of trash hands that the tight or very tight player likes to fold. But unlike in full ring games where you can be very selective and wait for a good starting hand, in heads-up you are involved in every hand as you are always in the blinds.
Being overly tight or just tight is the sure road to persistent losses in .
Remember that in heads-up, the small blind is also the button. Hence the small blind is the good position to have, the one you want to raise from. The key to winning against a tight player is to apply pressure on him, enough pressure to slowly steal the blinds away.
Raise somewhere around 80-90% of the time from the small blind, and he will fold many hands, as he likes strong hands. If he does not raise much himself when he has the button, you are in great shape, taking some pots by raising in position and able see a lot of flops by checking out of position.
Use your judgment post flop
Against tight players the majority of your profit will come from stealing the blinds, but you must play wisely whenever he decides to call or to reraise your raise.
The good news is that you will usually not be a big underdog in a heads-up situation. Very often you will have at least a 1/3 chance to win the hand. For example if you have 72o versus AKs, you still have 31% to win. T6o versus AQs, 32% chance. But only 14.5% versus AA. So unless you are up against a big pair, it is not a desperate situation.
In addition in such scenarios where your adversary called your pre flop raise, he will be out of position for the rest of the hand. And tight players do not bluff often, so you will get a chance to take down the pot when he misses and does not bet. And if luck is on your side you will sometimes both hit but your hand will be bigger. This is the time when you will collect the big pots.
Uncovering your opponents' tendencies is the secrets for mastering heads-up play. If you want to increase your bankroll, try to select opponents that you can outplay. As heads-up is where the money is made. Leave your ego and do not insist on confronting stronger players, unless it is with the goal of learning in mind.
Once learned, this reading skill will carry over to other poker format such as 6-max or 9-max, making you feared at the tables.