Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Not Tails Down

I’m becoming a big fan of these HeadsUp (HU) SNG’s lately.  Perhaps my success ratio in an admittedly small sample size is contributing to my enthusiasm; nonetheless, I am enjoying these small bursts of intense poker.

I haven’t really read much strategy with the exception of the HU section in Harrington on Hold ‘em Volume 2.  Harrington’s dissection of the HU play between Ivey and D’Agostino is worth the price of the book alone.

This blog entry is just a mish-mash of thoughts that have sprouted during the last few days.  Some of it may be considered strategy, but I’m not so foolish to think that I’m any kind of expert yet, so feel free to expand/critique/denounce.


During HU play, I believe that each hand represents an opportunity to shape and mold the texture of the play.  Here’s where attempting to model the psychology of your opponent becomes a factor.  For example, in the early stages of the game, each player is feeling each other out like two boxers throwing a few jabs here and there in Round 1.  It is during this time when you can see if your opponent is passive or aggressive.  One sure sign of passive play is folding the SB preflop.  Once I see my opponent do that, I begin to think I may be able to push him off pots later.

Again, in the early stages, there’s simply no need to fall in love with a hand.  Smart opponents will make you pay a heavy price for chasing your draw.  Pay very close attention to pot odds.  You may think to yourself that if you catch your draw that you can bust your opponent early.  Don’t fall into this trap, HU play success is dependent on several winning decisions, not just one.

Thus far, I’ve been having a 50/50 success ratio in picking off bluffs vs. calling my opponent down who has a hand.  Recognizing the bluffs among the value bets is very important.  The tendency to raise in HU play is more often dictated by the play in previous hands rather than actual hand strength, so putting your opponent on an actual hand can be more difficult.  You also have to remember the times you got called down bluffing.  Your opponent will be more likely to pay you off if he’s picked off one of your bluffs.

Changing gears is also a very effective strategy.  Every now and then, slowplaying a monster hand is deceptive enough to win you a big pot.  The same holds true for an aggressive re-raise on a scary board after you’ve been forced to fold several hands in a row.

I’ve found that once the momentum swings in your direction, you have to take advantage of it and push your opponent hard.  Only when he feels he’s backed into a corner and forced to push back should you hesitate.  From my experience, the turning point when this behavior becomes effective is just when you gain a 2-1 chip advantage.


Over at the Talking Poker forum, there’s a HU tournament that I’ll be playing in more for bragging rights than anything else.  After this week’s foray into this type of play, I’m really looking forward to it.

No comments: