The most frequent question I get asked is how do I play heads up. This is truly a difficult part of the game for most people because they have so little experience. All most all their poker play is based on tables with large fields. I haven’t even played that much heads up, but here are some suggestions.

You generally be heads up with 3 types of players.

1. A tight card player. This person has just had a good run of cards tonight and has happened to make the top 2. He is still playing cards however, but will fold all junk to small preflop raises. Lean on him every flop, usually the blinds are so high that if you can just get him to give you 4 or 5 blinds he is hurting. Never let this player rest. Make him tell you his cards with raises or reraises. Never fold to this man preflop without a raise from him. Don’t let him rest. He is playing prevent defense, trying not to loose.

This is primary style of people who hate heads up. They never seem to get any hands and they let the other person run over them, hence why i get asked the question so often.

2. Loose and aggressive play. This person is playing you just like you should be playing the tight player. Raising every hand, trying to push you around. In this situation, you are forced to push back somewhat. I would recommend an all in bet as soon as you get a little something, shove it right back in his face. Now you may lose if he calls you but you are definately going to lose if you let him shove you around everyhand. Most of the time he wont call because he is, of course, bluffing most of the time. Also try to see every flop he doesnt prohibitatively raise you out of. Your goal here is to catch something on the flop, let him continue to jam you and you push back and win the whole thing.

3. The player I try to be, you have absolutely no way to put me on hand. I raise sometimes, call sometimes, but always see every flop if reasonable. I know you only need one hand to win heads up and it usually really sucks. Doyle Brunson won the world series 2 years in a row with 10-2o. How do you play against this style? Hope you over me in cards.

If you need work on your heads up game, stars has heads up matches for as cheap as 5 bucks, go to irc, find someone to watch you play that knows how and then go play 5 or 10 for practice. It could well be worth you time as there is often several thousand dollars difference between 1st and 2nd place.


Similar to heads up is short handed play at the final table. The blinds are really big compared to your stack and virtually no one has enough chips to afford to be patient more than a few rounds. Now you know you have to win the blinds at least once every round to stay where you are in terms of chip stack size.

At this point you should have a read on every player at the table, so you should be able to make intelligent decisions based on their previous play.

First and foremost, try to stay out of multi-way pots unless you have a monster you can shove them all in on. Step back and allow any 2 of them to go to war. Every time someone busts out you make more money, a lot more.

Next, don’t limp any pot preflop without aces or kings. The blinds alone are worth risking your whole stack on a raise. Play every hand strong or stay out.

Vary your game, don’t just raise the button or 1 behind the button every round. That will become transparent after a while. Raise from middle position, sometimes even early position. You much more likely to capture the post with an early position raise sometimes, just because it is so confusing to the players.

Don’t be afraid to raise more than once in a row, if the table warrants it. I once stole 5 blinds in a row at a final table, right after my KK got cracked. Won that tourney.

Sometimes you will need to call in the big blind simply because the pot odds warrant it. Before you make this call be sure to consider whether this guy who is raising your blind can be outplayed and how. Do you have to bet into him, checkraise him, perhaps you are better off going all in before the flop.

I have always figured if you have to raise more than about one third of your stack to make a blind steal you might as well put them all in so they don’t get a chance to outplay you and you will make them consider the call more carefully.

Now hopefully, you will get a hand or 2 that really does you right and you double up at the final table a couple of times, the winner always does.


I hate losing to my very core. If I dont win on a particular night, I wake up mad. Yeah I say all the right things like keep your chin up, look at the big picture, its only one night, etc., but there is only one thing antedote to my pain. Winning. I spend the whole day reviewing flashbacks of losing hands, reflecting on what I could have done differently, how I could have avoided the big losses that crippled me. Wondering why my read was that wrong.

Then I look at results for the month, mildly encouraged but knowing I could have done so much better. Then mind starts to focus channel that discomfort, that anxiety. I think tonight I am really going to play well, they are going to have to beat my A game tonight, all you suckers who sit down with me tonight are going to have a tiger by the tail.

Then I get busy and take care of everthing that makes for good poker, get in a work out, clean up the playing space, maybe take a nap, take care of business details, play with the kids for a while. I make sure that when I play I can focus and concentrate because i have not procrastinated on lifes other little details that will distract me while I play.

Let’s get real here. When you play you are always fighting your emotions a little bit. If you dont feel something you are either dead or have too much money. When you are done playing, that is when you hash it all out. You have to clear the RAM to make optimize your performance.


In Summary

Point 1: Tight is right in the first hour of a MTT.
Point 2: Shut your pie hole unless you are eating pie.
Point 3: Play where you belong.
Point 4: Stop telling bad beat stories.
Point 5: Specialize
Point 6 Be a Big Picture Person.
Point 7: Have Some Guts With the Nuts.
Point 8: Two Special Situations to Tighten Up.
Point 9: Thou Shalt Not Steal From the Wounded.
Point 10: Give Yourself 2 Ways to Win Every Hand You Play.
Point 11: Count to 10 Then Begin.
Point 12: Consider the Blinds.
Point 13: Consider the Implications of an All-in Bet.
Point 14: Analysis of the Weak Lead.
Point 15: Thoughts on the Rebuy/Addon Tournaments
Point 16: Analysis of the Strong Lead
Point 17: Let the Biggest Hands Bring Home the Bacon.
Point 18: Ace on the Turn and Chips to Burn.
Point 19: You Got to Know When to Fold ’em.
Point 20 :Use the Chat Box to Your Advantage.
Point 21: Remember to Remember What They Remember.
Point 22: Trip Talk, Trip Talk
Point 23: You’re Not Invincible, Stupid.
Point 24: Celebrate Your Bad Beats
Point 25: Bankroll Management 101
Point 26: Consider Draws Carefully.
Point 27: A Common Mistake – Overbetting a Good Hand
Point 28: Like Offering Candy to a Baby.
Point 29: “In Order to Live, You Must be Willing to Die.” -rilla
Point 30: Artificial Intelligence Can Be Deadly
Point 31: What’s in your toolbox?
Point 32: Busted Flops
Point 33: The Biggest Lie in Poker
Point 34: Bizzaro Poker: Betting into Strength, Checking to Weakness
Point 35: One for the Mathoholics and Rippy
Point 36: A Really Big Secret, ssshhhhhhhhhh
Point 37: The Secret of Macbeth
Point 38: Do You Have Worms?
Point 39: Implied Odds
Point 40: What Do They Have, That You Don’t?
Point 41: How and Why to Bluff and Thoughts on Rippy
Point 42: Heads Up
Point 43: Short Handed Final Table Play
Point 44: How to Properly Go on Tilt?

Next chapter:

Find all the chapters by soupie here.


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Win MTT Poker 14 - Final Table, Heads Up
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