4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Heads-Up Hold'em Play
Regardless of your skill in full ring-game or short-handed Texas Hold’em, you can't win a poker tournament without a solid heads-up poker game.
Here are a few beginner concepts for heads-up NL play that should give you a good foundation for your next one-on-one encounter.
1. Loosen Up
For starters, you’ll need to loosen up dramatically compared to any other stage of the tournament. You’ll be in the blind every hand, so you’ll always have some money committed into the pot.
Depending on your opponent’s style, you may be able to see a number of cheap flops with inferior hands. In many cases it will be correct to call a raise to see a flop with a lot of hands you may not normally play.
Your connectors, suited connectors, suited aces, face cards and similar hands are ones you’ll want to play a bit more frequently. In some cases you’ll play nearly every hand in heads-up competition.
2. Exploit Opponent Weaknesses
When you’re playing heads-up NL Hold’em you have to exploit opponent weaknesses more so than in other forms of poker.
Remember how we were talking about opponents wanting to see cheap flops? This is a great time to put in a few raises to see if you can steal some pots.
How about opponents with weak post-flop play? You’ll want to continuation bet more to steal pots. Watch for patterns in your opponent’s play that you can exploit -- especially with players that like to “pump or dump” on the flop.
A standard play by weaker heads-up players is to see a flop and then go crazy betting once they hit. If they miss, they check or fold into a bet.
Watching for patterns like this will allow you to adjust your play to take advantage of their weak play.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Draw More Often
Don’t be afraid to draw to straights and flushes during heads-up play, especially if you can do so without risking a significant portion of your stack.
In many spots outside of heads-up you may not have the pot odds to draw to a straight or flush draw. With heads-up play, consider the implied odds when playing a straight or flush draw.
The “pot odds” may not be right to call, but if you can hit your draw you may be able to win a big pot or even eliminate your opponent.
This tactic works better against small-ball type players. You will see flops cheaply and may even get cheap draws on the turn.
Don’t draw in spots where it is going to cost you a significant portion of your stack to do so. If you're looking for spots to take advantage of your opponents like mentioned earlier, you will be able to determine which players you can draw against and which you need to have the goods.
4. Get Involved
If there is one thing you've probably noticed in all of this, you can't wait around for big hands in heads-up play.
You have to get involved and find a way to win pots against your opponents and hope that either they make a big mistake or you pick up a big hand to finish them off.
By following the above tips, you give yourself a good foundation for developing your own heads-up strategy.