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# Texas Hold'em A to Z: H Is for Heads Up

22 April 2011

Playing Texas Hold'em heads up against a single opponent requires a completely different strategy than playing at a full table. While some players may choose a heads up game, the most common situation is during tournament play when it gets down to the final two players who are battling it out for the top prize money. Many players I have talked to tell me that they have the most difficulty adjusting to playing heads up play and are not very successful when put in that situation. The reason for this is that they are used to playing a very tight game. In a heads up situation, you can't play tight and expect to win.

You Must Loosen Up
When you are playing heads up, you can't afford to wait. Many times it comes down to who can steal the most blinds. Therefore you must loosen up and call more or you will go broke. Queen-Seven is called the computer hand because computer simulations show this hand will win 51.77 percent heads up against a random hand. So with this hand or any hand higher than this one you are almost forced to play. A small pair or even a single Ace or King can be a big favorite in heads up play.

The Aggressor Will Win
In their book Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players, authors Sklansky and Malmuth explain that a player in the small blind can win by raising with every hand. In the example, the blinds are \$50 and \$100, which means there is \$150 in the pot. The player on the button is the small blind and must act first before the flop. He raises by putting in an additional \$150. If the big blind folds, he has risked \$150 to win \$150. If the big blinds folds half the time, the small blind will show a profit. He still will almost certainly profit in these situations since he will not only often steal you blind, but will also sometimes win when you call as well.

Suppose you only call in the big blind with the best 33% of the hands that you are dealt. Then he can raise every time and if called, be done with it -- that is, not bet the flop unless he flops a good hand. When this is the case, he's going to win \$150 two out of three times, plus he's going to win more sometimes. He's going to lose the \$150 less than one out of three times.

If you find yourself against a player using this strategy, you will need to counter it by calling more or raising him. You have to let him know that it could cost him more than \$150 if he raises you every time.

You need to judge your opponents. Poker is a game about making judgments. You need to test the waters by doing the raising and being the aggressor. If you find yourself in a game with a passive player, you now know how to beat him. If on the other hand your opponent is also aggressive, you will have to use some discretion and vary your play.

Playing Chicken
In the sixties, the hotrodders played a game they called chicken. Two cars would drive towards each other and at the last minute one of them would have to turn out of the way to avoid a head-on collision. If neither driver swerved, there was a head-on collision that was sometimes fatal.

Playing heads up poker is a lot like playing chicken. This means you will need to bluff more before the flop and sometimes fire away after the flop with nothing. With just two players, there will be many times when the flop doesn't hit either player. Many times the person that acts first will win the pot. Just remember that occasionally your opponent will have a legitimate. Although you don't want to be bluffed out of a pot, you will sometimes have to give it up to save yourself from elimination.

Size Matters
The size of your chip stack makes a big difference in how you play. If you have a big stack, you can be much more aggressive because your opponents might be inclined to fold more often waiting for a big hand. While this may work, there will be a time when they are forced to make a stand. Although you want to keep the pressure on, you also don't want to double up your opponent too often or you will soon find yourself with the short stack.

Beware the Limper
Players limp in from the small blind for two reasons. They are either trying to see the flop cheaply or they are trying to trap an aggressive opponent. Again this calls for judgment on your part. Your objective in heads up play is to try to extract the most money from your opponent. If you have a big hand and know your opponent will raise, then you can limp in and try for a check raise.

Practice
Becoming a proficient heads up player requires practice. You can practice with software such as Wilson's Turbo Texas Holdem, which you can set to simulate heads up play. You can also practice at one of the online poker sites. Get together with a friend for some free practice or enter the small sit-and-go tournaments to hone your skills.

Until Next time remember:
Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.

Texas Hold'em A to Z: H Is for Heads Up is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Bill Burton
Bill Burton is a gambling expert and best-selling author of Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em and 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets. He is the former Casino Gambling columnist for About.com.

Burton's Texas Holdem book was published in 2002 long before the game became a national phenomenon. The producers of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown used his book during the first season to teach the game to the participants.

He writes for several national gaming magazines and newsletters. These publications include: Casino Player, Strictly Slots, The Southern California Gaming Guide, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Southern Gaming and Destinations magazine, Midwest Player and Blackjack Insider.

Burton is an instructor for the Golden Touch Craps dice control seminars teaching players how to gain the advantage in craps. He is an expert at all casino games and can teach players how to play any casino game as well as offering them advice to get the most out of their casino visits.

#### Bill Burton Websites:

www.billburton.com
www.goldentouchcraps.com

#### Books by Bill Burton:

1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets
Bill Burton
Bill Burton is a gambling expert and best-selling author of Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em and 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets. He is the former Casino Gambling columnist for About.com.

Burton's Texas Holdem book was published in 2002 long before the game became a national phenomenon. The producers of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown used his book during the first season to teach the game to the participants.

He writes for several national gaming magazines and newsletters. These publications include: Casino Player, Strictly Slots, The Southern California Gaming Guide, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Southern Gaming and Destinations magazine, Midwest Player and Blackjack Insider.

Burton is an instructor for the Golden Touch Craps dice control seminars teaching players how to gain the advantage in craps. He is an expert at all casino games and can teach players how to play any casino game as well as offering them advice to get the most out of their casino visits.

#### Bill Burton Websites:

www.billburton.com
www.goldentouchcraps.com

#### Books by Bill Burton:

1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets