How to Play Heads Up Texas Holdem Poker
When playing Texas Hold’em heads up against just one other player, it goes without saying that your game must be modified completely in comparison to playing against a full table or even a six-man table. Heads-up tournaments are becomingly increasingly popular online, and more and more players are learning the keys to being successful.
It is also very beneficial to play a heads up a game if you fancy six-man SitNGos because you have to know how to excel heads up if you want to make a habit of taking first-place prize money instead of the lesser second-place prize amount.
What You Need to Know
The first thing you have to know about heads up play is that your starting hand selection should encompass a wide range of cards. Playing heads up, the average hand is just J-7 offsuit. You have a 50% chance of winning with what are considered very weak cards in a full table. Therefore, hands like K-4 and Q-6 are better than average and should be played against only one opponent because you will win pots with them more than 50% of the time.
With a full table of players, there is roughly ten premium starting hands that command a raise as the proper play. In heads up competition, any pair, Ace-rag, and even hands like K-Q suited are monsters in which you should be raising pre-flop.
There are about 27 starting hands in heads up that you should assume give you the best hand before the flop. Unlike a full ring game, small suited connectors are not a good starting hand heads up. Well, they are also not great at a full table, but they sometimes can win big pots and do deserve a peak at the flop if the price is right at a full table. In heads up play, you should be more inclined to play hands with at least one big hole card.
It has often been said that aggressive poker is winning poker and this is even more true in heads up competition. It is usually better to raise than call, especially in the early stages of the hand. Keep in mind that you will also be folding mediocre hands less often.
The best situation playing heads up is to get your opponent to go all-in when you are holding a killer hand. Until that time comes, you should be doing your best to be scooping as many small, uncontested pots as you can. While waiting for an opportunity to win a large pot with a high pocket pair or a flop that hits your hole cards nicely, you should be aggressively trying to take down the small pots that can increase your stack little by little.
Winning the small pots is vital in heads up play. This is best accomplished by putting pressure on your table rival and inducing him to fold whenever possible. When acting first, you should be betting aggressively. When your opponent bets first, you should often be raising.
The key is to keep this pressure on often enough that you take the majority of pots, but not often enough that your raises lose their effectiveness and have no meaning. This is the art of heads up competition. All situations are different and do require you to get a good read on the style of your heads-up opponent. Keep in mind that if he seems to be calling your raises with somewhat less than quality or premium hands, it’s a good indication that you’re raising too much.
Being Chip Leader
Aggressiveness is even more crucial when you are ahead and have the majority of chips on the table. You want to put your opponent away by keeping the pressure on and making him think about which hands he will play and which he won’t. You should be trying to force him to fold and chip away at his stack by being aggressive and taking the small pots.
Eventually, he will have to call you by going all-in and trying to double up his chips. Even if he has the better hand, keep in mind that the worst hand in poker, 7-2 offsuit, will beat A-K one out of three times.
If you happen to be the short-stacked player heads up, you have to choose the hand to shove all-in. Remember, there are approximately 27 monster hands that would qualify. Some players believe that holding a King is good enough.
The smaller your stack, the more hands you should consider taking a shot at doubling up. You can be more selective with more chips, but don’t fold so much that your chip stack gets eaten little by little so much that even when you do go all-in and double up, it won’t be enough to get you back in the game.
Any pair after the flop when you’re short-stacked is time to get all your chips in the pot. Should you flop a decent drawing hand, you can go all-in if the odds are favorable or if you believe your opponent may fold. Short of those scenarios, try to keep enough chips to remain in the tournament until the right-hand does come your way.
Heads up play is a lot different than facing a full complement of players. Some tend to like it a lot better because there is not as much waiting around for playable hands, as your starting hand selection is widened considerably.
Just remember to be aggressive when the situation calls for it–and even sometimes when it doesn’t–because passive players get eaten up in heads up competition. With enough practice and the correct aggressive strategy, you can soon find yourself a winning heads up Texas Hold’em player.
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