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Poker Strategy - Playing Heads Up

Heads Up No Limit Hold Em has experienced a major increase in popularity, and with that comes a lot of fish to capitalize on. Whenever I am in an online poker room lobby, there are always several heads up games running. These games are great because you are involved in almost every hand, and most players want to hit the flop heads up anyway in a cash game, so this is a great place to work on your skills not just in heads up poker, but overall. Playing a session of heads up poker can be much more rewarding than playing a full ring or six max game, however unless played properly, it can also be quite detrimental to your bank roll.

Aggression and Discipline

Plain and simple, heads up no limit poker rewards aggression. You have to be prepared to be in situations where you are willing to gamble, you also have to be prepared to exercise great discipline at times, laying down a monster hand if you know your beat.

Controlling the pace of the action is something you want to do right from the start when playing heads up. This is not the time to play your super tight multi table strategy, playing nothing but high percentage hands. Because you are heads up, those marginal hands turn quite playable, and you can take control of the pot with these hands by being the one raising and re-raising your opponent. You get control when you raise, you put your opponent in a situation where they need to make a decision. You want to be the person forcing the decisions, not the one being forced to make them. Keep your opponent under constant pressure, and force them into playing a scared defensive game. Remember that you are not invincible, though at times you may feel like it when you are constantly controlling hand after hand. You MUST play with discipline.

Playing a Passive Opponent

When playing against an opponent who is playing a weak passive game, you should be doing a lot of raising before the flop and taking down the blinds. Against certain opponents, you want to raise the pot every single time you are in the small blind. You will do this against opponents who are playing that sit and wait game, only playing premium hands. Over time, more money will be won by stealing the blinds with risk of your opponent making a hand, than playing the hand out

Playing Against an Aggressive Opponent

At times you will sit at a table and figure out quickly that your opponent wants to play the same aggressive game you do. This is fine, and you can still be aggressive, you just need to be in better control of your aggressiveness. Do not fall into their trap, play back at them, and make it known that you are not afraid of their aggressive play. Three bet often at these players, let them know there won’t be many cheap flops if they want to play that way. Most people who are playing aggressively are quite reckless, and you can capitalize on that.

Reading Your Opponent

Getting a great read on your opponent and a feel for the way they play is very important when playing heads up poker. Realize the way they are playing in a given situation so that later in the session you can use it to your advantage. You can hyper-focus when playing heads up, you only have one player to pay attention to, and you want to do so closely. Even the slightest edge can make a big difference when playing heads up.

Playing heads up will not only add another dimension to your poker game, but provides great practice for any ring game you might play in. Play some heads up, see a lot of hands, and get some practice in!

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