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Some Thoughts on Heads Up No-Limit Hold'em (Micro-Stakes Version)

Unlike Gnome, I'm actually finding heads up poker much more enjoyable than the 6-max grind. Of course, I haven't played as many hands of HUNL as Gnome nor have I played against knowledgeable opponents. I'm sure that variance is waiting for me just around the corner, ready to knock me on my ass and put me on full-blow hiatus tilt. Until then, I guess I'll just keep rocking the $50 HU tables at Full Tilt and Titan Poker.

Having played a (small) number of HUNL hands at the micro-stakes, here are some observations that I have on the game:

  • There are very few players who understand HU poker at the micro-stakes.
  • Most of my opponents are either too loose, too aggressive, or too tight. Surprisingly, playing an extremely passive game seems to be the lesser of all evils.
  • It's very important to choose when and how a big pot will be played. Patience is critical since it's best to get a solid read on your opponent before committing too many chips to a pot with a marginal hand.
  • Making obvious mistakes in small pots can really help you get paid off in big pots. For example, throw in a pot-sized river bluff or a river bluff check-raise to help you get paid off when you've got a monster.
  • Don't walk into a heads up game hoping to play a particular style of poker. Instead, poke and probe your opponent's game from the get-go and look to adopt a style that exploits his game. For example, if your opponent plays loose and passive, stop raising with garbage and start value-betting big. Or if you're opponent insta-mucks to most c-bets, starting raising and c-betting any two cards from the button.
  • Try to empathize with your opponent. If you can imagine how your opponent feels (angry, scared, shell-shocked, cocky, etc.), you've taken a solid step towards delivering the death blow to your opponent's stack and mental health.
  • Short-stacked players at the micro-stakes do not employ proper short-stack strategy.
  • Most micro-stakes players do not have multiple "gears" or facets to their games. You can pidgeon-hole these opponents quickly and start exploiting their many flaws.
  • Do not go on tilt if your opponents suck out on you. Always be happy to get your money in good.
  • It's best to look for a new opponent if you find yourself getting outplayed or working too hard. I guarantee that there are easier tables out there - especially at the micro-stakes.
  • Don't be ashamed to admit defeat and find an easier opponent. Poker's much more fun when you're able to exploit your opponents and make lots of money doing it. If you're really desperate to move up in limits, I'd recommend looking for an easier game at a higher buy-in as opposed to playing tougher competition at your current stakes.
  • Heads up poker is still poker. Pot odds, implied odds, pot-control, SPR, and other theory still applies.
  • Rakeback is crucial to your success as a heads up poker player. It can be very hard to beat both the rake and your opponent. I use RakeTheRake to help me improve my edge in these games and so should you.
  • Table selection is critical to becoming a winning heads up player. Even if you're only able to identify and avoid winning regular players, you'll be well on your way to success.
  • Don't be afraid to push a hand that you believe to be best.
  • If you're sure that your hand's a loser, muck it. It can be very hard to do but it's the biggest money-making tip that I can give you.
  • Have fun! Heads up poker is fast and exciting. If you're looking to play mindless poker, go grind out your hands at the full-ring or 6-max tables.
I'm sure there's lots of stuff that I'm forgetting to mention. Then again, I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination so it's probably best that I try to keep my opinions obvious and pointless.

As for me, I'll continue my education in HUNL this evening at Full Tilt. Then again, a little Force Unleashed might be nice too!

Have a great day!

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