Heads Up Play

December 16, 2009 |

Today, I found myself in a different type of tournament than I am used to playing. That in mind, I decided to write about that tournament for this article. I played in a multi-table heads up shoot-out, and there was roughly 253 people that registered. First, for those who are unaware of what a ‘heads up shoot-out’ is then let me take some time to explain. A heads up shoot-out is when everyone in the tournament plays one on one against a random opponent. The winner of each match proceeds to the next round until there is only 1 left standing. For example, if 8 people entered the tournament you would have to defeat 3 people in order to win the whole tournament (8 players down to 4 then 2 then 1). Now let’s discuss some strategy when you are playing in a heads up match.

When you find yourself in a heads up match there a lot of factors to take into consideration when playing. First off, you are obviously only playing one person so hand strengths dramatically change. Secondly, you are in every pot so there is not taking hands off. Finally, it’s important that you try to get read on your opponent, so you can use that information against him as the match continues. Let’s start with how hands strengths vary in heads up play as oppose to a 9 player table.

In a 9 player table you are always taught to fold your ‘Ace rag’ , because odds are someone else at the table has your hand crushed. It’s a little bit different in heads up play. Since you are only playing one person, the ‘ace rag’ will be the best hand more often than not. Now this doesn’t mean go crazy with an ‘A2’ every time you get it, but keep in mind that it probably has your opponents range beat. Even K high, or Q high is a strong starting hand in heads up play. That being said, you should probably already have guessed that pairs get even stronger in heads up play. The value of 44 or 66 defiantly increases when you are playing an opponent one on one. So don’t be shy to get your chips in with these types of hands, or if you have top pair with a weak kicker. Now don‘t fault me if your top pair or pocket pairs lose. With the right situations I have no problem going broke with these types of hands.

Now I want to discuss what I mean when I say, ‘don’t take a hand off’. Your regular 9 man table gives you the opportunity to fold for multiple hands in a row without doing damage to your chip stack. It’s not quite the same for heads up play. Heads up forces you to play every hand, and it forces you to play hands you normally don’t play. If you continually fold your hands then your chips stack will read zero in no time. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty in heads up play. From my experience today, I believe that aggression is the key to winning in the long run. So don’t be gun shy when you are playing heads up.

Like any tournament it’s important to get a solid read on your opponent. When you playing heads up, you want to be able to know what your opponent is doing before they do. Study your opponent when the blinds are small, so you can use that information against him in the critical stages of the match. Another good idea would be to look up his stats online, and see if he is a quality player. The difference between him being a ‘shark’ and a ‘fish’, can ultimately decide how you should play that particular opponent. Give heads up a try, and see if these type of tournaments are for you. If the 9 man tables aren’t going so well then take a shot at a heads up match. Good luck ya’ll.

Craig Fleck

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