Bet365 Poker: A Heads Up to Playing at the Heads Up Tables

While most of the poker tournaments and tables at Bet365 Poker are aimed at four or more players, there are a number of players who prefer to go one-on-one against another player.

These heads-up clashes are all part and parcel of the game. Not only will you play heads up every time there you log onto a heads up table, but at the end of a tournament, you will face a heads up situation between the two players battling out to be Champion.

It is tempting to think that heads up play is essentially going to be the same as playing against more opponents, however this is totally untrue and many of the ‘poker truths’ we hold as key tenets to our poker strategy, do not apply in heads up play and can even be damaging to your chances.

So if you fancy taking on another player in heads up poker, then you need to develop strategies to do so successfully. In this article we’ll look at five key strategies that may be different or even opposite to your usual poker play, but which can provide you with more success when you play heads up.

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Aggression and confidence is the key

Against multiple players, you can opt to play loosely, tightly, conservatively or aggressively. In heads up, if you want to win, you need to be more aggressive. Remember, instead of three, five or nine other pairs of cards for your pocket pair to beat, there is just one other set of cards out there.

This radically alters the game. You can’t simply keep checking or folding in this situation as you are putting blinds in on every bet. If you decide to fold until you get a good hand and are playing blinds that are $1/$2 and you have $100 in your starting pot, you’ll be out of chips within 66 hands. You’ll be well behind in stack size a long time before that too, putting you in an even weaker position.

They key here is not to be intimidated and to play more aggressively, contest more hands and keep your opponent on the back foot. Play confidently and aggressively and ideally set yourself up in a position where you are the aggressor at the table and the chip stacks show it.

The real skill is understanding how aggressive to be, without being reckless and allowing your opponent to pick you off. The first stage of developing these skills is to understand the relative value of your cards in Heads Up and how these values differ from multi-player games.

The value of your pocket cards is far more important

Ask any player who plays Hold’em on Bet365 Poker and they’ll tell you that the worst hand is 2-7 off suit and they’ll also understand the reason why. In Heads Up however, this is not the case as the value of the cards is so much more important.

A 2-7 is therefore a stronger hand in Heads Up than a 2-5, 3-6, or 4-5. Any high card, particularly an Ace, regardless of what it is paired with, also makes for a much stronger hand in heads up than you would assume playing against more players.

In heads up, most hands are won either by a pair, or a high card, rather than runs, flushes, three-of-a-kind or similar. You need to target winning these hands for an effective heads up poker strategy.

Statistics show that most hands in Heads Up are won with a high card, or a pair. This means that having a high card, such as an Ace, in your hand really is very important. Any Ace in your hands in heads up, gives you a 52% chance or better to win against any other random combination of cards.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that if you hit an ace in your pocket pair, you should go all in, but it does highlight the importance of the value of your pocket cards much more than how they could potentially connect with flushes and runs on the flop.

How to call aggressive players in Heads Up

Occasionally, even if you are an experienced heads up player, another player may be more aggressive than you and be taking a considerable amount of your chips. If you don’t deal with this aggression, you could literally bleed your chances of success, through your chips, into his stack without putting up any fight whatsoever.

So how can you deal with an aggressive player?

The key here is to understand why they are being aggressive towards you. Is it simply their playing style? Do they have a read on how you are betting? Do they believe you lack the conviction to be as aggressive back?

In Heads Up, you may not have the luxury of waiting for a big hand, before setting a trap for them and going all in. So if someone is playing aggressive to you, then you need to bite back.

Calling is always a good option. Of course, try to do this from a position of relative strength (remember the face value of cards is important). If your opponent is continually stealing the blinds with bets, call them a few times in a row. Show them that you won’t be bullied.

If cards pan out on the flop, you can raise (but be prepared for them to fold very quickly if they don’t hit a hand). Either way, you are showing your opponent that, you will not be bullied by aggressive play.

Stealing blinds whenever you can

Picking up blinds is vital as a heads up player. Indeed most hands may be folded without a flop being seen. As such, picking up blinds is a crucial strategy to get yourself in a strong chip position.

This is very much linked in with the notion of aggression. You need to show your opponent you are willing to fight for the pot on each and every hand. Picking up several blinds in a row is also a good way to frustrate your opponent, which can influence how they play future hands negatively and change their perception of you.

It may only seem like you are picking up a few extra chips here and there, but stealing blinds regularly, especially when you have started to dominate the table, is the best way to impose yourself on the game and give you the best chance of heads up success.

Psychology is often more important than the cards you have

The key to great heads up play is getting an understanding of how your opponent is thinking. How do they perceive you? What is their frame of mind and how do you want them to play against you?

The very best heads up players then ‘feed’ this image to their opponent. So if you want your opponent to start taking more risks while laying a trap, you’ll feed them an image of being slightly tentative with bets, perhaps folding a little too readily. This will increase their confidence that they are actually in control of the table and hopefully encouraging them to make increasingly reckless bets so that when you do hit them with a big hand, they will have overcommitted to the pot.

Also, don’t underestimate the importance of temper. An angry, frustrated player is one likely to make rash decisions. How many times do you see a player lose a significant chunk of their chips and then on the next hand, go immediately all-in pre-flop? A sure sign of frustration and good heads up players can use their opponents negative emotions against them.

Good heads up play is a real art form and almost a different kind of poker to the typical game of hold’em. It is arguably the purest form of the game and one where how you play your cards may matter less than the value you have on them.

Want to try your hand at other variations? Check out our guide to getting started playing Omaha at Bet365 Poker.

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