Alright, so you’ve made the final table. Then, slowly but surely, your opponents fall before your mighty stack until, finally, there is only one player standing in your way. As you tally up the chip count, you realize that the two of you are nearly dead even.

Here, my friends, is where the real mind games begin.

Heads-up is, without a doubt, my favorite way to play. It’s a true test of your poker skills, and the best way to improve your game.

While it may be nearly impossible to find a one-on-one table in a brick and mortar card room, online clients such as Poker Stars and Full Tilt offer it as a regular staple. They’ve even gone so far as to incorporate heads-up tournament play. It’s something that any aspiring poker player should check out.

Here are some advantages to the one-on-one game:

Variable Starts

When facing only a single opponent, you can dramatically lower your standards for starting hands. This means that you’ll learn to play a higher variety of cards in a wide range of situations. Not only will this broaden your experience, but it’ll give you better insight into how your opposition plays under different sets of circumstances.

More Hands, Less Time

You’re going to play a greater number of hands, which will give you little time to dwell on either a bad beat or a big win. The game will force you to move on and keep playing, whether you like it or not. In the long run, this should help even out your poker temperament.

Mind Games

More than in any other form of the game, heads-up is about playing your opponent. In fact, I’d say that the cards count for less than half of the total result. You have to not only consider what’s in your hand, but what your opponent thinks you have. And on top of this, he’s mulling over what you think he thinks you have. These mind games can go on forever, ascending level upon level. It can be tough to adjust to. But once you do, it’ll make you a much stronger player, no matter what form of the game you’re practicing.

Multiple Personalities

Not only will the variety of playable cards increase, but so too should the way in which you play them. Heads-up play offers limitless variety when it comes to aggression levels, slow play, trapping, and bluffing. You’ll need to become comfortable in a variety of roles in order to succeed at the heads-up tables.

Reading Skills

There is no better way to hone your people-reading skills than to play heads-up poker. You’ll be forced to concentrate on a single opponent, giving you time to study their patterns and posturing more deeply. This will translate into greater reading success at larger tables.

And last, but not least…

50/50 Odds

That’s right. If you sit down at the table with a player of equal skill, you have, at minimum, a 50% chance of winning. What’s not to love about that?

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Heads-Up: The Ultimate Art
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