By Hank Cashman
If there is anywhere in poker that the cards become irrelevant, it is in heads-up play. The big problem most players face with heads-up is the lack of practice.
Most players spend all of their time playing poker at a table of four or more players. In tournament play, you play on full tables until you are at the final table. Only 9 out of, letís say, a hundred get to the final table. So, unless you get to the final table a lot, you are missing the chance to learn the nuances of heads-up.
If you want to get ready for that time, when you get to heads-up, my best suggestion is to play it on-line. Most poker rooms offer heads-up tournaments and Sit and Go's. These are the best way to get the experience you need and not break your bankroll.
There are very few opportunities to play heads-up live. The few chances you have to play heads-up live will be very expensive. These tournaments are usually in conjunction with bigger tournaments. The entry fee is in the hundreds and you are going in an underdog.
Earlier in this article I said that in heads-up the cards are almost irrelevant. At this stage of the game it no longer matters what you have. What matters is that you can make your opponent think your hand is better than his. Here, like no other place in poker, bluffing and aggression become your strongest tools.
Position play is very important here. That may sound strange since you can only be in one of two positions. In either position you should control the action. Do not let the other guy take control of the table. You need to make your decisions from a position of strength.
When Iím on the button and first to act, I will raise, no matter what I have in my hand. At the same time, if I am in the big blind and my opponent only calls, I will raise. I have to make him think I have the winning hand. This will also make him have less faith in his hand.
Now at the same time I'm not foolish. When the other guy can demonstrate to me that he is willing to stick with his hand, I do know when to fold. Aggression should never out weigh information and skill.
When you are playing one on one, it is a lot easier to read your opponent. Plain and simple, you only have one person to watch. Pay very close attention for reads and tells. Even here, betting patterns give you a lot of information.
When you have the chip lead, just like in a full table, you need to push the weaker chip stack. Force him to question the strength of his hand. Make him lose his blinds waiting on a bigger hand.
Here like no where else you are playing the player and not the cards. Your ability to read and play against the player, not the cards, is what will make you win.
Keep the cards and chips flying.
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