Playing heads-up is the closest you’ll ever get to feeling like you’re playing Russian roulette with Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter. There might not be a gun to your head, but going toe to toe at the poker table is a high pressure situation.
And if you can’t conquer this aspect of the game then there’s no chance that you’ll be able to pull off your dream win, like American Chris Moneymaker.
Moneymaker busted opposition out through a number of online satellite tournaments on his way to winning the World Series of Poker Main event in Las Vegas in 2003, scooping more than $3.5 million when he knocked out his last opponent on the final table. Neither Moneymaker nor this year’s winner, Australian Joe Hachem, had played in major US tournaments before but both proved that as well as playing the cards they were skilled at bullying an opponent in single combat.
Heads-up is much like a game of chicken – you don’t need the fastest car or, in this case, the best hand. The nerves to stay on target and not deviate from the line once the pedal has hit the metal are far more important qualities. This kamikaze attitude could get you into trouble if you crash your Route 66 racer into a King Kong pick-up truck, but without it you may as well set off in a cross-Country race with your shirt on burnout.
The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need the best hand to win; it doesn’t matter what cards you get dealt if the other person folds. If they toss in their 10-8 and you’re sitting there with an 8-6 you still pick up a pot, if they toss in their A-6 and you’re staring at a 4, you still pick up a pot. And if they toss in a 8-4 and you’re staring at a Q, you still pick up a pot. And if they toss in a 3-2, you will not win the pot.
Heads-up is much like dewapoker; you need to play to win. If you’re up against an opponent who is a more experienced and alert player, it’s going to be difficult but if you’re up against a young ambitious player, best of Luck.
Sitting around picking up pots is about the same as playing tight, waiting for a big hand to go all in on. The difference is that when you’re in the blinds waiting for a big hand you’re not invested in the hand so you don’t feel the pressure of it not happening. This pressure changes when you’re “in the money” and your won blinds add up to a substantially bigger stack.
Sitting on the blinds doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be making a move. Sure, you should be folding most hands, but showing them fear can help you get a much better read on players and take advantage of mistakes they make. If you’re in the blind and the chip leader is raising, but everyone else folds, this could indicate he’s holding a big hand. If everyone folds and the pot is yours, be aggressive with a view to taking it down.
Players who are aggressive and play a lot of hands could be sent off early on, whilst players who are scared to risk their chips on risky hands could be satiating themselves in the hopes of a better hand and hitting big.