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Playing heads-up

advanced strategy


Patrik Full Tilt Pro

"Only one of us is walking out of here alive."

While not quite so dramatic as the infamous line above, headsup Texas Hold'em is a very fast paced, rapid-fire game that often ends in a flash.

Not the flash from a bullet being fired from a pistol but "bullets" are often the last thing your opponent sees before being sent to the rail! For the Texas Hold'em player who finds themselves heads up at their first final table, these tips will help you live to fight another battle.

Basic Heads-up Holdem Strategy

The first thing that you'll need to toss out the window (not literally, you'll need it when playing standard ring games and full tables) is the poker starting hand chart you've used forever. When you're playing short handed and certainly when playing heads up, starting hands that normally would be folded are often a raising hand. That's right, a raising hand.

Why would I raise with Qd 4c? Easy if you're heads up, more than half the time you're likely to win against a random hand here. Think about it for a moment, there are only four more Kings and four more Aces left in the deck. If your opponent is holding one of these, even with a rag card, they will likely re-raise here (as should you if the scenario is reversed).

If they smooth call and the flop brings a scare card like the King, you can get away pretty easily as you don't have much to bluff raise with here anymore.

Playing Possum In HU Holdem

There are many other hands in heads up play that you will play completely different vs. full ring game play.

Another such example may be if you're holding pocket Aces and you're last to act. The correct play almost 100% of the time here is to just check your blind and play the flop. The opposite applies in a ring game, if you get limpers and you're the BB, you run a huge risk of one of them out flopping you.

Heads up it's a new set of rules; you want your opponent to connect here. Of course they could hit a crappy two pair here or a big draw that winds up winning.

The difference is that the odds are overwhelmingly on your side when playing heads up. Even if your opponent has a very playable (heads up) hand like Q 10 off suit, you're almost an 84% favorite to win this hand heads up. It's even better if they hit their Queen on the flop because it's very likely that all of the chips are getting in on this hand.

So sometimes playing possum here is the right move, even soft playing the flop at times. Yes, even if they hit their Queen on the flop you remain an almost 83% favorite here! Check the odds to see how this works.

Playing Big Draws Heads Up

Another great tactic is the semi-bluff when you're HU.

Check raising on a flop where you are looking at an open ended straight draw or a big flush draw with over cards is a great move. The same logic applies even if you're holding rags here because it's just as likely heads up that the villain here is holding rags, too.

So being the aggressor here and betting the flop is a great move. Of course, there will be times that your opponent hits their hand. Maybe they're just tired of your bluffing and bluff re-raise you.

So what? Fold the hand and try a new tactic the next hand. You won't have to wait long, because you're heads up! So be quick on your feet, change gears often, and try these tactics the next time you find yourself heads up at an online poker table.

A great online poker room for a wide selection of heads-up matches is Full Tilt. Visit them today.

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