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Heads up strategy.

If you ever intend to be a successful poker player, you just have to learn to be good at heads-up play. In case you didn’t know, heads-up play occurs when there are just two people left at the table who battle it out for the top spot "mano-a-mano” (or mano-a-womano, if that’s the case).

Heads up play is radically different from every other type of poker situation you can think of. If you only play cash ring games, you will never become familiar with the ins and outs of heads up strategy. It is a widely accepted fact though, that the real money in online poker is in different tournaments. If you intend to make some "real money”, heads-up strategy is a must.

The closest thing to heads-up you’ll ever come across, is short handed poker. In this respect, all the concepts that shape your play at a short-handed table, also come into play in heads up: starting hand values decrease dramatically (a high card can be a pretty potent showdown hand) the aggressiveness of the betting picks up, everything happens faster, and you’ll be in the blinds (BB or SB) in every single hand.

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In this situation, if you’re not aggressive, you’re as good as dead. Even if all that your opponent does is to steal your blinds hand after hand. Remember, that the further you go in a tourney, the bigger the blinds get, and by the time you reach the heads-up stage, they’ll be truly significant.

You cannot afford to lose too many of these blinds, or they’ll slowly bleed your bankroll into non-existence.
Another reason for the dog-eat-dog battle that ensues in the heads-up phase, is the fact that the bigger bankroll dominates. A good player with a much bigger bankroll than his/her opponent can literally smother someone to oblivion, simply by making every single decision a do-or-die one for the opponent.
The odds that come with going all-in in any tournament are not exactly favorable. By forcing opponents to play with those odds all the time, you’ll sooner or later have them exterminated.

All right, so we now know that you have to be extremely aggressive in heads-up play, because it’s a do-or-die situation. We also know that because of the increased odds you get for your starting hands (as a direct consequence of very few players being involved in the game) starting hand values plummet, and so do showdown hand values.

The speed increases, and any mistake you make, you will pay for dearly. This is basic heads-up strategy, the only problem with it is that everyone knows about it. Just take a look around the internet a bit. Run a search for "poker articles” and see what you come up with…Your opponent will be 100% on to what you’re doing, if you stick to basic strategy.

Though it is more difficult to implement, there are strategic variations for heads-up play too. One of them is what I call "playing possum”. Even though basic strategy says you should play almost every starting hand you’re dealt, this little twist on basic strategy says you shouldn’t. Play dumb. It is a risky approach, but if you’re disciplined-enough you can pull it off.

Your opponent will see there is little resistance to his blind-stealing antics, so he’ll go into a frenzy. He’ll bet and he’ll bet big on no matter what he has. All you need to do is let him steal 4-5 blinds and show him a few weak plays (fold after calling) he’ll smell blood and go into “chase-mode”.

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As you do all this, you stay on the lookout for some solid starting hand (remember, even though you’re acting tight – which is suicide in heads-up –on purpose, something like A,10, or K,9 still qualify as very solid hands.) Trap your opponent on one of these hands by slow-playing and check-raising him. If he falls into the trap, chances are, he’ll go all in. You pull this stunt once or twice, and pretty soon, you’ll find yourself all alone at the table, with a skyscraper of chips in front of you.

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