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Playing heads up

Playing heads up is a lot different to playing on a full table. It is imperative that if you have only played larger tables, you do not change thinking that playing heads up is the same because it is not. Even some of the best multi table tournament player's struggle to play heads up because of the differences between the two styles. Here, we will explore this game type in more detail.

Revalue your hands based on your stack

If you are playing a heads up tournament, then it is important that you do not rush your play and pick your spots. Too many players think that because they are playing heads up they need to push it in with a mediocre hand, and this will work to your advantage. Remember the basics of poker and keep an eye on your chip stack at all times. Only when you start to fall into the range of 10 times the big blind should you start worry about shoving.

If you are playing heads up in a tournament, then the chances are the blinds are high in comparison to your stack. Say you are 10 times the big blind which is not uncommon if you are playing a sit n go or MTT, in this situation you should shove with;  any ace or king, Q4+, J9+, T9+, 98+ and any pocket pair.

Now, you might think that is a huge range, but the chance of the other player having a better hand then that is less than 50%, and unless the other player has a good hand or is willing to make a call with a mid-range hand you should be able to take the blinds. Showing the initiative will allow you to win in one of two ways, stealing the blinds or winning the pot outright. If you are calling a shove the rules are slightly different; any ace or king, Q6+, JT+ and any pocket pair. As you can see here the range is less, but you should not be afraid to call an all in bet heads up with Q6.

Reading your opponent

One thing you will find that you do a lot in heads-up poker is to play the player rather than the hand. If you are not, then you are not playing correctly. The best way to work out how to play your opponent is to watch them and make notes. If you are thinking about starting as a heads up cash player, then you will come across the same players repeatedly, and you can really use this to your advantage.

In this situation, take a few days to sit there and evaluate the regulars at your intended limit. In this time, you will find the players you think you will be able to have a better chance of winning against, and evaluate their styles. This will give you a huge advantage over them, epically as they will know nothing about you when you start out.

Gaining information on your online players

When you play offline, you can tell a bit about a player by their facial expression, body language and any other tells. Even the newest of players can spot flaws in how people play, and this will go some way to giving them an indication of what they are up against. In fact, some of the expert body language readers could almost tell you your exact cards based on your reaction to them. With this in mind, when you move on the internet, how can you keep this advantage? Surprisingly enough there are several online tells that people ignore as irrelevant. Here, we will explore gaining information in more detail.


Here is one of the most valuable tips any player can give a newbie, never use the chat box. Good players will constantly be analysing any move you make, so chatting is not advised. However, that is not to say you can’t use it to your advantage. If there is a player who is being aggressive in the way that they are chatting, because they have been caught out by a ‘bad’ player, then they may be on tilt.

Auto Actions

If you are in a hand, and you realise that a player is instantly acting (without delay), then the chances are they have selected an auto action. Say you are on the button, and the action has folded around to you. You limp into the pot with 4-4 and the small blind folds and the big blind instantly checks. This signifies that they either had the check or check/fold button selected, and what you can take from this is that they are not happy with the strength of their hand.

So, say the flop hits Q-10-K, you have missed this board completely, but the fact that the big blind had checked instantly suggests that they have none of the board either. In this instance, stick out a continuation bet and the chances are that you will take it down there and then.


Players always act at a certain speed. Some act slowly and some act quickly, there is nothing wrong with either as long as they have analysed the play, but if this changes, then you should pay attention.

If a slow player decides to put in a raise quickly, the chances that they have a big hand are high. At the same time, an instant check would signify the opposite. If a quick player is taking their time to make a move, then they probably have a decision to make. This signifies that they could be working out pot odds or even trapping you into thinking that they have a big decision.

These are three of the main ways that you can work out a bit more about the players you are up against when sitting at an online poker table. In any case, make sure you are always paying attention and that you take notes about players you feel are relevant because this could give you the small advantage that makes a big difference.


How to Bluff

Every player has pulled off some sort of miracle bluff that made them feel temporarily invincible, but this euphoric feeling is dangerous because if it was really a miracle bluff, it probably means you had no reason to be trying to pull off the bluff, and you just got lucky and playing like this is risky.

There are certain situations when bluffing can be worthwhile, but they are few and far between. Bluffing is not something a beginner should try, nor should it be regular. Any player who bluffs frequently regardless of how justifiable they think it is will lose in the long run.

With the above in mind, it is not about how to bluff it is about when to bluff:

When to bluff

In a late position when you have a good chance of stealing the hand.

When the community cards are strong, and you feel the players in the hand do not have good cards based on betting patterns.

You have the image on a table of being a player that only plays the very best hands (they see you as a rock.)

You are only in the hand with one other player.

You know that you are playing against a rock, and they will only call or raise you on a monster hand.

When you should avoid bluffing

When you are in the hand with a loose player because they will keep on calling hoping to hit something.

When your bluff does not make mathematical sense, for instance, if you put 400 chips into a pot with 2000, you are giving good odds to those who need to chase, or those with a mediocre hand.

When there are several players in the hand because the chance of one of them calling is higher.

It is important that you learn the above points to understand when you may get away with making a bluff, but remember not to get carried away. In the majority of cases, you will know when it is the right time, and if you don’t have this feeling you should probably avoid it.

Betting the Correct Size

There are many occasions when players either bet too small or big, and this gives away a lot of information about their hand. There is a correct way to bet that eliminates the risk of any chasers but still offers good value to those who remain in the pot. Here, we will explore this in more detail.

Why it is crucial not to bet the wrong size

If you bet too small, you are signifying one of two things, your hand is weak, or you are trying to trap, in any case, how you acted before, and how you act after will give your hand away. If you over bet the pot, then you are either trying to bluff, or you are trying to get paid. Once again, the moves you made before will give the other players a good idea of what type of hand you have.

The clue is on the table

The right way to bet is not hard to work out. In fact, the answer is always in front of you on the table. The size of the current pot will give you the best indication of what you should want to bet. There are three types of bets you can make; small, medium or large and there are different circumstances when they are considered right.


A small bet is half the size of the pot or less. In most cases, these bets are only correct as a continuation bet when you are sure you have the player scared enough to fold. The other time when it is acceptable to bet small is when you have the nuts, and you think that by betting small you will be re-raised or to build value in the pot to make it worthwhile.


A medium sized bet is considered any bet from about two-thirds to three-quarters of the pot. In many cases, a medium-sized bet is the right one. With a medium-size bet, you often price chasers out the pot, but you may give loose-passive players the chance to make the wrong call, and as long as you keep an eye out for any draws that could hit you should be able to win the hand. Furthermore, if you have a hand, a medium-sized bet makes the most logical sense.


There are only a few times when a large bet is acceptable. One of the times is when you are bluffing a big pot, and you are sure your opponent can’t call if you completely out price them. However, this is really risky.

Remember, it is important, regardless of your hand, to bet the same amounts consistently. If you are bluffing, then chucking in a different sized bet to normal is a rather obvious indication that you are trying to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes.

In the majority of cases, raising three times the big blind pre-flop and three-quarters of the pot after the flop is the best way to play a hand.

Playing the Player Rather than the Cards

There are many times in a tournament or cash table when you are tempted to play the player rather than the cards you have in front of you. It must first be noted that you should always be sure that your summary of the player is correct, and you must make the right moves, only then can you successfully play the player. Here, we explore this in more detail.

Never over play your gut feeling

When you do decide to play the player by bluffing a rock or trapping a loose player remember one very vital piece of information, you cannot say for sure what cards they have. This means sticking out a continuation bet on the flop against a rock or check trapping a passive player may be a good idea, but remember, if your player judgement is right and the rock calls your bet, you are probably behind, and you should give it up.

Furthermore, if you check trap a loose player, and they get to see a turn, then you are opening up the amount of outs, so you may start running into trouble.

You should not throw the rule book out the window when you are playing the player. Instead, remember that at any one point any player can have a monster, and you could actually be falling right into their trap.

Keeping notes is the best way to play the player

If you play poker online, then you will come across the same players repeatedly,  especially if you are a grinder playing a smaller site. Keeping comprehensive notes on players is the only way you will be able to make a real judgement when it comes time to trying to outplay them.

For instance, if you have played against a player several times and the most you have managed to come up with is that he slow plays pocket aces, your notes are not really good enough to make a judgement on their ability. If this is the case, avoid trying to outplay them until you have comprehensive notes.

Never play the player all the time

As mentioned before, even the worst player you have ever played against can be dealt or can flop a monster, and because they do not know too much about the game, they will probably play in the very same way that you would expect them to with nothing. By not playing the player all the time you limit your chances of being caught out.

Furthermore, if you do decide to play the player a lot, and they spot it, they will quickly make notes on you, and if they are sensible they will adjust their play so that you fall right into their trap. For instance, if a rock knows you see them as a rock, and you put out continuation bets all the time they could counter that with a re-raise, in which case your original plan goes out the window, and you lose your initial bet and your continuation.







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