Vidamujer – Playing heads-up is the closest you’ll ever get to feeling like you’re playing Russian roulette with Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter. There might not be a gun to your head, but going toe to toe at the poker table is a high pressure situation. And if you can’t conquer this aspect of the game then there’s no chance that you’ll be able to pull off your dream win, like American Chris Moneymaker.
Moneymaker busted opposition out through a number of online satellite tournaments on his way to winning the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas in 2003, scooping $3.6 million when he knocked out his last opponent on the final table. Neither Moneymaker nor this year’s winner, Australian Joe Hachem, had played in major US tournaments before but both proved that as well as playing the cards they were skilled at bullying an opponent in single combat.
Heads-up is much like a game of chicken – you don’t need the fastest car or, in this case, the best hand. The nerves to stay on target and not deviate from the line once the pedal has hit the metal are far more important qualities. This kamikaze attitude could get you into trouble if you crash your Route 66 racer into a King Kong pick-up truck, but without it you may as well walk away from the poker table before you even lay down your first blind.
The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need the best hand to win; it doesn’t matter what cards you get dealt if the other person folds. If they toss in their 10-8 and you’re sitting there with an 8-6 you still pick up the chips. In heads-up you can justifiably contest any pot with just a single court card and almost any pair is worth pumping.
Show some aggression F**k the flop
When the big blind is called and the flop hits the baize you can’t afford to look at the community cards in the same way as you would during normal play. If you hit a middle pair with a decent kicker during a standard game you’d probably be quite happy about it. In a heads-up this puts you in a very strong position. As a rule of thumb, if you’re on the button never just call – always raise to ensure you get a payout when you get dealt a decent hand. If you don’t know the person you’re playing you may not get many chances to get an insight into their heads-up technique. Watch the pre-flop raises to get an understanding of what your opposite number will bet as a bluff and what is a solid move aimed at pulling you towards a heavy loss. When you get to see cards on their backs make sure you remember the betting practice of that hand. If a similar rhythm emerges later, it’s odds-on they’ll be holding similar hole cards.
Against an inexperienced, passive player it’s best to raise as often as possible and lay as many bets on the flop as you think you can get away with without making your loose and wild play too obvious. It’s good to remember that the chance of starting with a pair is around 16/1, so a single court card is worth a punt, and if the flop doesn’t give you a pair you can often get away with a continuation bet and take the pot without too much trouble. If the newcomer raises and you have a good read on their game, you may well make a move with a good hand, Champions League style, against a weak bet and the likelihood is they’ll fold to you.
However, it’s important to consider the possibility of the jayapoker calling you with a good hand. If they’re anything like the German legend Rainer Stump, they’ll be happy to pay you off on your nut flush but even your 12 flush might be out-of-Place so if you’re in uncertain territory and you have a strong hand you should consider folding.
Beware the calls made by players who have a Maniac in them after they’ve stuck around. These guys can make some bad calls, and even when they make the right calls can be disastrous if the board comes Lower than expected. If you want to protect your chip stack, it’s best to wait for a reasonably good hand and then risk placing unnecessary bets.
One of the worst types of players is the aggressive raiser. These guys who seem to raise as often as they can without regard to form or any other consideration. Raising to scare people into folding will often result in people simply folding. You can occasionally get people to call you, but if they’re raising from more than one position then you can probably expect some sort of a call.
Another bad type of player is the blind defender.