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I play a lot of texas hold'em with colleagues & friends. We have our own little league going. Whilst I have won quite a few times, I still find myself struggling when going heads up. It's my main weakness in the game. I usually end up folding hands and constantly passing the blinds to my opponent when he shoves, and when I call, I usually fall into a trap.

My question is simply, whhich techniques, resources or tips can I study to improve my heads up game, or is literally playing more hands the only way to improve this?

Many thanks!

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Micro stakes on line for practice? There are lots of books.

I find heads up hard also.

With 1 1/2 bb in the pot then even a 3 bb bet only has to get a fold 2/3 of the time. Even when you do get looked up two under cards to an over pair is 6:1. Should be raising air (non-value) like 1/3 the time and then go up or down based on how often you are getting called. Bluffs don't need to pay for themselves outright as they are a tool to get action when you do have a hand.

Don't bluff with total dogs unless you have a read they will fold. A hand like 53s rather than 72o. Give yourself a chance at a call and miracle flop to stack them.

This is a good chart to get familiar with as you need to play hands you are not comfortable with. All 169 holdem hands ranked by strength If someone is raising EVERY hand then even J9o is better than 1/2 the hands.

Basically you need to raise with any top 20 hands. And you need to bluff raise the rest a fraction of the time. If you are not bluffing 1/5 of the non-value hands in heads up then you are playing tight - against some opponents that may be the way to play. Against a player the will fold then you might be profitably bluffing 1/2 the non-value hands.

Call a small raise with any hand that has a chance. If you hit 53s on a flop they are going to fire back so you are going to get paid off. If they were slow playing a big hand then that is poker.

You need to gamble more at heads up. I get the feeling you are not comfortable with gambling.

Facing an all in is problematic:

  • If you are down to 10 bb then you need to call with basically any paint and at 6 bb you are pretty much forced to call anything. Loosen up before you get down to 10 bb and hope for a hand with a chance.
  • Even on a deep stack if they are pushing a lot - like 1/3 or more they are are either catching cards or coming in light 1/2 the time. You need to gamble with a top 20 hand - any pair and any two 10 or above. If they are constantly pushing on you preflop then you may need to take a stand with a lone ace before you get blinded off.

If you are putting them in a must call all in situation then have a hand that is ahead a random hand.

Another important dynamic is that preflop the button is first to act and post flop the button is last to act. So you would naturally play a wider range as last to act postflop. If the button just folds pre-flop then you are giving up position. The button is also the small blind so cannot check the initial bet - to call the BB the dealer must put out an (additional) sb. Button should raise a lot to steal the BB just like you would from the cutoff. If you have a value hand you should raise for value. If you are bluffing then you have to raise. Open value hands the same as a bluff or they can read you like a children's book. Have a standard raise - like 3 bb. If you are going to just call open some times then do so with both value and bluff hands at an equal frequency.

The reason for button to be the sb is debated - but it is what it is. There is a question on this site about it but I don't like the accepted answer so not linking to it.

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When playing heads up I find you almost have to open with anything, if you are normally a conservative player, heads up can be hard, especially if short stacked.

Try and adopt a really aggressive strategy, as if you continue to play conservatively and your opponent is marginally more aggressive, they will eventually win due to the swallowing of the blinds/antes.

As most players play very aggressively in heads up games, it can be hard to get a good read on their betting strategy pre flop. So my strategy is always try and see as many flops as you can, as long as the initial raises aren't ridiculous in comparison to the cards you hold. E.g. calling or betting more than 4/5 times the BB with a weak hand is a big no go for me.

If you are short stacked heavily against the other player you want to be shoving with any pair or Ace.

  • Thanks for the feedback, it does make sense. I think I just need to be more agressive! – SamFarr Feb 17 '16 at 16:45
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Heads up is quite simple mathematically, you just play the equity of your cards against a random range or calling a shove against a random range.

For example a weak-looking hand like Q♥8⋄ is around 53% vs a random hand and because of this is good enough to open it on SB.

It's also a good hand to call a shove with since your equity says so. Of course, this depends on your opponent. Against a guy shoving always his SB, you just call. Against a tighter player you may up your calling range but not much.

Heads up is essentially a crapshoot, you want to shove with more hands and open raise with more hands, since most of the time you're against random hands. There's no full ring here, so aggression is key.

Bet sizing is generally x2 bb to allow you for more aggression without depleting your stack.

Effective stacks (the smaller stack of the two) under ~10 blinds (or a bit more) are essentially in push/fold range; never raise in such cases, either shove or fold.

There are many push/fold charts on the net, a good one is this.

You want to raise the SB/BTN with many cards since you'll have position, while trying to have initiative on BB by re-raising or raising a complete since you wont have position for the rest of the hand. This depends on your opponent or your skill post-flop anyway.

There is a ton of resources for Headsup play. Collin Moshman (the SNG wiz) wrote a book exclusively for Heads up play if you want to dig deeper, but you can find free video everywhere. Personally, i like to watch HU matches on pokerstars.

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