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扑克 A guide to Heads up poker

Heads up poker



The final showdown





This is what it’s all about. Making the final two is Nirvana for the tournament player and it’s your reward for some seriously good poker. If you’re regularly finding yourself at this stage in tournaments then your game is right where it should be.



A lot of players find themselves struggling when faced with a heads-up poker situation, simply resigning themselves to it being, more or less, a 50-50 shot and relying on luck to try and win it. Taking this approach to the final two is really selling yourself short. After all, the jump in winnings from first to second is normally the biggest in the tournament structure.



Head-to-head in a multi- table tournament is at least as big a psychological leap as making the final table – and it’s even harder to cope with because now you’re going to be involved in every hand. The first thing you’ll want to do when a tourney goes head-to-head is mentally change gears – eye up your opponent and draw on every ounce of strength and concentration at your disposal.





Strategy





Finding the best strategy will largely be determined by three factors: your chip stack relative to your opponent’s, the blind size relative to your chip stack and observation.



There is no single approach to the final table that is universally effective. If you’ve used a tight –aggressive style to get this far then a lot of what’s got you here is going to have to go out the window. With only two players at the table, every hand you’re dealt that is above average is probably a winner – the higher above average it is the better it s chances of winning. The vast majority of hands are going to be decided either before or right after the flop and the ability to steal your opponent’s blind is critical.





Observation





By the time you’ve faced off against your head-to-head opponent you should be pretty familiar with his game. After all, you’ve spent a lot of time at the same table by now. This is very useful, though it’s critical to remember that everything changes when a table goes head- to- head. Specific tendencies like bullying may disappear because the table situation has changed, but deeper characteristics are likely to remain the same.



Use the first three to five hands to make as many observations as possible and take note of any new tendencies that may appear, then use them to counterattack.



  

Start with a plan





If you’re a sports fan you’ll know that a forward with a break away facing only the opposition goal keeper has a much better chance to score if he decides early what he’s going to do when it’s time to shoot.



Heads-up in a tournament is a very similar scenario. It happens suddenly and the action is fast and furious. If you go in knowing your options, however, you should be able to make some quick decisions that will help you score.



Of course the cards you draw are going to inform those decisions, but you can’t always guarantee they are going to come (or that your opponent will want to mix it up when they do) and the blinds are so high by now that you won’t have the luxury of folding endlessly while you wait for monsters.



So, if you’ve pegged your opponent as tight then it might be worth deciding that you’re going to double the blind pre-flop on two of the first five hands. This will achieve a few things. First, it gives you the chance to gain a big advantage right from the start. If your opponent folds regularly to your pressure, not only have you taken a lot of chips from him but you know that it’s going to be relatively cheap and easy to steal from him down the road. Plus, he now knows he’s going to have to make a major commitment to stand up to you (or steal from you) – it’s going to cost him two or three times as much to either keep you from seeing a flop or to steal from you. If he’s unlucky enough to do this when you have a strong hand, there’s your chance to take a big pot or even win the tourney right there.



The second advantage this play gives you is information. If your opponent reacts to your raises by going super-aggressive then you’ll know to back off a bit and look to tempt him with a slow-play.



Either way the idea is to make players pay over the odds for their cards.





Big stack





This can be tough, but now is the time to show some patience. Especially if the blinds are really hurting your opponent. All the pressure is on them and the last thing you want to do is let them off the hook with a cheap double-up.



The only hope your opponent has of winning is to take more pots than you do. If he’s tight, keep constant pressure on him by raising the blind regularly with better than average hands and try not to betray your strongest hands. Call or raise modestly when you have big strength in the hope of springing a trap and don’t be afraid to pull the trigger with any A with a kicker down to nine or pockets if he bets big. Unless he’s very lucky or very aggressive he’ll be forced to fold most times to your bets and bet well over the odds to win with his stronger hands.



If he’s aggressive you should still keep the pressure up, but avoid frittering – especially calling the small blind with weak drawing cards. Better to let those go in the hopes that your opponent is holding the monsters he’s been waiting for. Keep the pressure up and let him know he’ll have to bet over the odds to defend his blinds when you do have strength. Avoid his all-in unless you have strong cards (see above).



  

Short stacked





Your situation is as described above but in reverse. You need to win more pots than your opponent. This means you’re going to have to play your hands aggressively. Any decent hand will require a commitment if you’re betting first. Feign weakness on your strongest hands to try to induce the bluff or a bet on a weaker hand.



If he’s tight it’s time to get stealing, but don’t over-commit so much that you can’t back away if you happen to bluff into monsters. If he’s aggressive then, as much as you can, bide your time – though you’ll soon have to re-raise or go all-in with cards that may not be your first choice. The good news is that you’re probably only a double up or two from drawing even. This can happen very quickly in head-to-head and you need it to – time is not on your side.

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