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Being Aggressive in Heads-up Games

Heads-up play is a high-stress situation for all parties involved. Some people thrive under stress others have a harder time coping with it. Those who like high octane poker action will probably become better heads-up players faster than those who like to lurk in the dark and watch other people take care of the dirty-work. If I had to sum up heads-up strategy in a word, it would have to be “aggression”.

While heads-up play often degenerates into a coin-toss, and while luck has a magnitude bigger role in heads-up games than it has in regular full-table battles, it has been proven statistically that the more aggressive of the two combatants will win more often.
Good players like heads-up games because they can use their skills to full potential there. Whether you like heads-up games or not, you’d do better to brush up on your heads-up skills, because you’ll never win a MTT or a SNG without having to deal with such a stage.

From a strategy perspective, heads-up poker is an entirely different breed when compared to cash poker or tournament play. Starting hands values plummet here, and since you’ll always be in one of the blinds, the pot odds change radically too. The wide starting hand selection is partly due to the fact that when faced with a single opponent, your hand stands a much better chance of being the best hand, regardless of what it consists of. On the other hand, the blinds (which are usually through the roof in tournaments at that stage) create pot odds which justify going all-in on just about any two cards from the deck.

In heads-up play, made hands (like pocket pairs, or high cards) gain huge value, and in the same time drawing hands (like suited connectors and suited one-gappers lose value). This gives birth to a very peculiar situation: in heads up poker, the worst possible starting hand is no longer the 7,2o, it is rather the 2,3o.

Most poker professionals love to play heads-up because they’re adept at playing the player instead of the cards. If you play heads-up poker on Full Tilt or on PokerStars (especially if you play high stakes), you’ll learn that first hand.  While both Full Tilt and PokerStars feature extremely difficult to beat opposition on high limits, because of the abundant traffic they get, you’ll have a much easier job to do on small and medium stakes.

Read your opponent and use his weaknesses against him, pile on the pressure and never let him take a breather.


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