Heads up play or single player against single player is rapidly becoming one of the most popular forms of poker online at this time. The gladiatorial process of playing every single hand against the same opponent appeals to many and it is the ultimate in poker combat.
SNG’s provide players with the opportunity to be able to play heads up against the same opponent without having to incur a potentially large amount in rake. In this article we will look at basic strategy to combat your opponents in this very exciting form of poker.
The game is totally different to almost any other form of poker in existence both live and online. With a carefully detailed study of all of the stages of play a player can become proficient in a very short space of time.
The early stages
When the blinds are low this is where you are essentially trying to figure out your opponent’s style. Many players at the low stakes levels will start off with a certain style of play and then stick to that without deviation. So losing a few chips to your opponent during these early stages can pay huge dividends in terms of the information that you gain back. For example you want to know how passive or aggressive your opponent is and if they prefer certain lines of play over others.
You need to ask questions like “do they like to check-raise the flop rather than lead out” and other questions of that nature. Information is power in heads up SNG’s and you need to pay for that information when it is cheap. In general it is not a bad play to call on the river to see your opponent’s hand even if you know that you are losing the hand. To see how an opponent played pre-flop, on the flop, turn and river is very educational and potentially very rewarding information to have for when the blinds increase.
As a broad general rule you really do not want to be folding if you are first to speak pre-flop. The reason behind why that is the case is simply to do with position. Your positional advantage is so important in any form of poker that you really shouldn’t eliminate this advantage by folding. You can raise with almost any two cards and because the hand is heads up you only need to get through one opponent to win the pot. Or you can also use your position to limp in before the flop to see what your opponent does and if your opponent begins to aggressively come after your limps then you can fold.
Remember that you are looking for situations to use your position. This does not automatically mean to bet and raise at every available opportunity. It is a solid poker play to check behind post flop simply in an effort to try and improve your hand. If you find an opponent that folds too much from the button then whatever the result of this particular HUSNG you have found a fish and you need to engage them in action in as many games as possible.
Hands that you raise with
When you are on the button then you can raise with a very wide range of holdings. This includes any pair and certainly all Broadway hands (hands that involve two picture cards). You can also raise any hand with an ace in it and also any hand with a king as well. But nothing is set and stone and you need to try and get a feel for what your opponent is doing and the overall flow of the game.
If you feel that your opponent is very tight then you can start raising with suited connectors and even suited one gap hands.
You need to pay very close attention to the flop texture because this will have a huge impact on whether or not your opponent will be able to stand up to any more pressure beyond the flop. For example if you raised before the flop and your opponent merely called and the flop came J-4-4 then they have unlikely connected with a board like that and aggressive play will likely take it down.
Quite often you can go through an entire HUSNG and your opponent will not make a single flop or hand that they can play aggressively. In these instances it will be your aggressive play that will win these marginal pots and be the difference between success and failure. It is always a good policy to dovetail your strategy around what your opponent is doing and this means that if they are playing passively then you can be aggressive and if they are playing very aggressively then passive calling can win the day for you.
Written By: Carl “The Dean” Sampson