Basic Strategy for MTT End Game Heads-Up

Posted by Klara, March 10, 2013


heads-up poker

You cannot really evaluate your opponent’s poker player abilities when you play heads-up in sit ‘n’ go tournaments, especially at the micro and low level buy-ins. Usually your final opponent at the table remains a stranger to you, and there’s little chance of understanding how he’ll play. Not so in multi-table tournaments, where you’ve been watching your opponents play for quite awhile. At least, you should have been watching them play.

When the multi-table tournament narrows down to heads-up action, the most interesting question is what type of opponent you’re up against. Strategically important elements of the game, such as position, post-flop play, and bluffing, need to be carried out and adapted according to the type of player you’re facing one-on-one.

When you start heads-up play you should employ a solid playing strategy, which is largely determined by position. The position element switches back and forth, from hand to hand. In heads-up play, the small blind initially has the weaker position, because that player is first to act. However, after the flop, the first to act honors go to the big blind.

Basic playing strategy in heads-up calls for you to attack constantly from the button each and every time you hold something better than absolute junk (2 3 / 6 3 offsuit / 8 2 offsuit). On the other hand, when you’re in big blind position, it is important not to let your opponent take the hand every time cheaply. If you also have a solid post-flop game strategy in place, which takes into account the possibility of folding, you can make sure to routinely meet the opponent’s moves properly and provoke him to make errors.

When your opponent is tight
If you’re comfortable playing aggressively, you’ll find it easy to play the final heads-up confrontation when the person sitting across from you at the table is a tight player. A “rock” who rarely is involved in hands, probably made it to heads-up play by getting lucky cards. This kind of opponent doesn’t really feel comfortable in hand-to-hand combat, acts defensively, and folds his junk cards every chance he gets. Against this type of opponent, don’t miss an opportunity to steal the blinds. Never fold if your opponent has not raised pre-flop. Every now and again raise and re-raise to test the strength of his hands. But be careful with the raises, as a tight player could have a winning hand that will beat you.

When your opponent is hyper-aggressive

If your opponent is one of the many loose-aggressive players common to online poker, especially in No-Limit Hold'em, he will try to push you around, and this style rarely changes. He will frequently try to steal the blinds. Therefore, you need to be ready to shove at the first good opportunity. This of course involves some risk, but is absolutely necessary in order for you to keep your stack at a healthy level. It is also recommended to see the flop as often as possible, if it’s affordable, and to slam on the gas if you have good cards.

When your opponent is good

If you’re sitting opposite a player with skills similar to yours, heads-up poker could develop into a tough struggle that will last for hours. This can even be more of a problem in live tournaments. Take the Main Event of the 2011 WSOP, for example. It took Pius Heinz six hours to triumph over Martin Staszko and earn the title of World Champion. If you’re in a similar situation, stick to your strategy, don’t make simple mistakes, and keep on playing aggressively until your opponent folds.


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