Heads-up limit poker is a lot of fun.
Even when no-limit was all the rage, the
heads-up limit tables were filled. Don't
let this jewel slip by you!
One of the best things about heads-up
limit is that it lets you learn about
every single human aspect of limit
poker: aggression, hand selection:
bluffing, trapping, reading, value
betting, folding and lastly, pot odds.
Let's look at each aspect:
Those weak of heart can really get steam
rolled in heads-up poker. There are two
ways of winning a pot: you either show
the best hand or your opponent folds.
The value of aggression is so strong,
you can play poker without even looking
at your cards if you wanted. The whole
object of aggression us to cause your
opponent to fold more hands than you do.
This makes the most important part of
poker strategy the aggressive use of
bets and raises.
You need to select the hands worth
putting money into the pot when you have
the best hand and avoid putting money in
the pot when you don't have the best.
Too many players in limit heads up games
don't make others pay to see the flops
after posting the big blind. Players too
often let the small blind limp in. In
heads-up poker, you want to always raise
with Aces, Kings, Face/kicker, mid-high
suited connectors, and pocket pairs.
They'll really take in the chips for
you. You want to raise for value and
play out on a flop whether or not the
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Most of the time in heads up poker,
neither opponent will hit anything on
the flop. This is where bluffing and
aggression combine so you can to take
down a pot even if you and your opponent
have nothing. When the turn comes, the
real action begins because you can make
things happen with a check-raise bluff
or a raise behind the action. If the
other player is faking an attack on the
flop, you'll catch him, regardless of
what you hold. Watching and observing
for small patterns or timings on the
part of your opponent, a key to this
tactic. Sometimes you want to simply
toss one out and see what happens. In
the event you get caught, switch to a
tight style and draw your opponent in
for the kill by using that loose image
to your own advantage.
When your opponent believes you're not
being honest, trap him for his money. A
check-raise / raise on the turn that
gets called plus a river bet gets you
twice the big blind and most likely
another big blind from the pre-flop and
flop. You could fold on the flop on an
un-raised pot four times in a row if you
could pull a trap every seventh hand.
When you're playing another aggressive
opponent who simply likes to run you
over with bets, sit back and let him do
the betting, then hammer him with
check-raises and raises when you have a
strong hand. You can fold when you have
nothing; your traps will make up for it.
If you have Ace high or low pairs, you
can call to showdown if necessary.
Learning how to read your opponent in
heads-up limit poker is very important.
Poker in general, but especially
heads-up poker is a game where, if you
make the reads, you make money.
is about identifying patterns in
behavior that are anomalies. How often
does he check-raise? Does he have it
when he does? Will he bet low pair? Will
he bet draws? You can't figure this out
with just one action on your opponent's
part, so you must often raise on the
flop or call and see the turn to figure
out what's going on. There are only
three choices for action - bet, check,
call. Adding a raise or calling the flop
increases the options from 3 to 9,
bet-bet, bet-check, bet-call, check-bet,
etc. Paying close attention will pay off
in reading heads-up players.
Value betting is simply getting in that
turn raise and river bet so that your
opponent doesn't see a showdown
inexpensively when you have a strong
hand. Even when your hand is a little
weaker, toss the opposition out and gain
some fold equity. If your opponent is
loose, you get equity from the bet with
Ace-X calling you down. Too many times,
opponents check on the river with a
superior hand because they're scared
they may be beaten. In heads up, there
aren't a lot of draws that go on, so an
opponent sticking with you to the river
is probably calling with mid-pair or
low-pair but much less often a monster.
Get that extra bet in and don’t be
afraid of doing it.
Knowing when to get rid of a dominated
hand is pretty important, especially
when it can save you a big bet or two.
Often you won't realize it until you're
on the river or turn, but the
willingness to fold a hand when you are
sure your opponent isn't bluffing is
much like extracting an extra big bet of
your own. In a full ring game it is
often almost impossible to fold with
some of the pot odds, since some of them
will be as large as 20 big blinds or
even more. Winning only five percent of
the time makes this call to be correct.
In heads-up, the pot is more often
somewhere around three to five big
blinds, giving you good reason to fold
if you know you're beat. Once the pot
becomes larger, it becomes harder to
fold at critical points like the river,
given the pot odds at that point. The
key is to fold early or when you're in
trouble rather than late and
over-committed to the pot.
Pot odds are actually the least
important in heads-up because you will
rarely call based only on the pot odds.
Play those flushes and straight draws
aggressively because, whatever odds you
are getting, aggression gives those odds
a huge value with folding equity too.
Even with an inside straight draw, it
isn't not a bad move to bet if checked
to you or if you are first to act
because you still have the possibility
that your opponent might fold to you. If
you miss your draw, you can keep
attacking in the hope that he will fold,
or you might hit your draw and end up
with a well disguised hand you can use
These are only some quick and dirty tips
to heads-up limit poker and some
effective strategy for the game. Playing
one-on-one poker is difficult at first,
even for the seasoned Texas Hold'em
player. But it is a skill that becomes
valuable to almost all players because
tournament poker players benefit
substantially and limit players sometime
are in games that become short-handed.