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Heads Up Play - The Real Crunch

Heads Up Poker Play – The Real Crunch Of Poker Strategy

Outlasting the field at a poker tournament is hard, but the real crunch is heads up poker play.

Heads up play – outwit, outlast

There are two basic ways that you can get into heads up play. The first is to make it through a tournament sitting and fight your way to the final table, and then outlast your other opponents until you're down to just two.

The other is to go looking for heads up action. What, are you a masochist or something?

Heads up is the most brutal, the most punishing form of poker there is. Almost every poker strategy guide out there no longer applies. Pots will get high quickly, the action will be savage, there will be blood everywhere.

This is because you can no longer use positioning strategy at all to influence the outcome. Previously, being on the button meant you could watch the actions of every player ahead of you before deciding what to do. Now having that position just means you have to act first. Sucks, right?

Heads up play – can you wait for the nuts?

The real problem with heads up play is that by this stage in a tournament, the blinds will typically be very high. This means that you'll be bleeding chips constantly, so a strategy of folding until the nuts come along is only going to last for so long before you're in real trouble.

Don't get me wrong, there's merit to this – it's always great to be heading into a hand with the nuts in your pocket, but if you've already established a pattern in your opponent's mind that you only play the nuts, simply taking the blinds is not going to be a profitable enough.

The clock is ticking – divide your stack by the big blind value – that's how many hands you have left to get on top or else it's all over.

Heads up play – looks good? Raise it up.

The point I'm trying to get at here is that with only two players in the game, the odds of your hole cards being strong increases dramatically. Don't believe me? Pop open a poker odds calculator and do a comparison of the same hand with 10 players at the felt versus 2. See what I mean?

This means that, unlike earlier in the game, you're going to want to raise up bravely on those low pairs. You're going to want to shove in big on those pesky suited connectors. Any high card at all now has a good chance of being the winner here. Aggression is key.

Heads up play – be brave, any card can win it.

While poker is largely about skill, chance plays a bigger factor towards the end. I'll give you an example.

I recently played in a small tournament, and made it down to heads up. After about an hour, my opponent shoved all in. I had Ah-2c. Normally I'd fold that – the kicker is weak. But because of where we were in the game, I thought I'd go along and see, so I called.

He had Ac-Kd. Crap.

Flop brought me no joy. Neither did the turn. Guess what came on the river? 2h. That's right, I won the tourney on a pair of twos.