Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Heads-up Basics

The quest to improve my heads-up game is slowly progressing, as I continue to make mistakes and learn from them. I've been watching videos, reading forums and practicing as I try to get better.

I wanted to write down a few points about better heads-up play while they're still fresh and I won't forget them.

Above all, it's important to remember that heads-up poker is still poker, and the same guidelines apply despite the necessary additional aggression. Solid play beats fishy play every time. Analysis and logic trumps formulaic play. Observation is essential.

I jotted down a few simple phrases on my laptop's notepad so I won't forget them as I play:

Take your time -- The pace of heads-up games is faster than other forms of poker because you see and play many more hands per hour. Smart opponents will take advantage of you if you fall into a pattern.

Read hands -- People often ask, "How do you accurately narrow hand ranges down so you can figure out how to play correctly?" That's an important question; unfortunately, it's also difficult to answer. A better approach is to attempt to make reads every time rather than fear the unknown. In my experience, there's no secret about how to make accurate reads. It's more a matter of using deductive reasoning to go step-by-step through an opponent's likely holdings, consider which of those cards are most probable, and decide on the best action given what you think you know.

Use pot control -- Strong opponents make frequent bets with a wide range of hands. There's nothing wrong with calling down a weak top pair or middle pair, or folding in a small pot when a scare card comes. Trying to take a stand at the wrong time with few outs has cost me a lot of money. Instead, it's often less costly to give a free card than to raise for information.

I'm still getting used to assigning values to various hands relative to the board. All hands go up in value compared to shorthanded or full-ring games, meaning there are times when top pair is a good hand to go broke with or slowplay. I'm not used to slowplaying top pair, but it becomes a powerful hand against a wide range.

I'm also working on my continuation bet frequency. Different opponents show varying responses, from frequent check-raises to folds to cold calls. I've run into people who will drain my stack by calling my bets down with bottom pair, while against others I've been able to catch their bluff-raises. I want to keep making strong continuation bets, but I've spewed a lot of money away when I keep making them but never seem to get any folds. The key is to play the player and adjust appropriately for the circumstances at hand.

1 comment:

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Great post - just like we've come to expect.