Note: This guide assumes that you are playing Texas Hold’Em, as it’s the most popular poker game online. Of course, you could adapt these tips to just about any poker.
Let’s get down to it — heads up is a pretty different chunk of the poker process. You might think that you can handle poker …until you get down to that final table and it’s just you and the other person. You want to brush up on heads up play because if you don’t, you’ll end up finishing second when you could have finished first.
Don’t rely on the skills you’ve learned playing full ring or 6 seater Hold’Em games. Heads up is a bit different because you don’t have the benefit of other people. You have to navigate things on your own.
One of the first things that you’re going to have to realize is that money travels very quickly. Don’t get emotionally involved, even when things get frustrating. Your opponent will sense that you’re getting tired and they will use that against you. It’s very easy to lose your chips in the heat of the moment because you got tired of battling. You have to think about your short game – playing more hands versus just sitting on the hands that you think are good. This too is easy to spot — the player that seems to always call until they get something, then it’s time to raise and raise some more. You can’t live on bluffing though — again, the opponent will tell when you don’t have anything.
Remember our piece on flop structure and analysis? Studying the flop will become more important than ever before. You’re also going to have to get aggressive — you will need to play more hands, but you also want to make the other person work for it. You know that the blinds will begin eating them alive, so why not make sure that you dig in deep? Why not make sure that you handle things in a different way? Why not make sure that the other person has to work to keep up with you?
The button is the small blind and the other player will become the big blind. So if you’re on the button, you will need to act first. Don’t let this throw you off. Sometimes you’ll have to play what would otherwise be known as marginal hands. That’s okay — it’s better to play and catch the opponent off-guard than to fold and have them take a pot that could have been yours.
Don’t forget the psychology of poker in all that you do. Your opponent isn’t a machine — they’re human. They can make mistakes. They can be intimidated. They can be challenged. Don’t ever let a player get in your head to the point that you don’t challenge them. Good luck!