Feb 15 2010

Heads Up Poker – Exploiting Weak Players

written by: John under Poker Strategy Comments: Comments Off

Heads up poker has become popular largely due to the fact that players can “have the fish all to themselves.” When you are playing in a ring game you will hope to get involved in bigger pots with the weaker players at your table, but you will inevitably get into confrontations with the stronger players as well.

There is nothing wrong with playing against solid players, in fact you could still have a significant edge, but it is much easier to beat up on your weaker opponents. When you play heads up poker you will have the opportunity to battle weak opponents one on one. Many poker players frown upon a tactic known as bum hunting, where players will only play heads up against particularly weak opponents, but that is a discussion for another day.

Pretend that you have already landed a weak player at a heads up table. Now is your chance to make what should be some easy money, but you won’t win if you don’t know how to capitalize on your opponent’s weaknesses. There are two ways that amateur heads up players tend to play, either over aggressively or too passively. Once you are able to identify how someone is playing, you will be able to combat your opponent in the most effective way possible. In the example below we will be facing an aggressive player who is generally incapable of any type of advanced moves.

Hold’em, $1.00 BB (2 handed) @ Bodog

SB ($83.65)

Hero (BB) ($187.05)

Preflop: Hero is BB with Kd, 8c

SB calls $0.50, Hero checks

Pre flop we are dealt a pretty rough hand. Generally we will try to put in a raise whenever possible, but after our opponent limps in we are better off simply seeing a flop. An argument can certainly be made for raising in this situation, but this particular player is prone to making a re raise. Knowing this, we decide to head to the flop.

Flop: ($2) Jh, Kc, 2c (2 players)

Hero bets $2, SB raises to $7, Hero calls $5

The flop gives us top pair and what is almost certainly the best hand. Since we have a relatively strong hand and are facing an aggressive opponent, we will want to make a bet in an attempt to build the pot. Our pot bet is raised 3.5x and we now have a decision to make. We are never folding, particularly against this opponent, it is simply a matter of determining the best way to extract the most money possible. In this case the best plan is to flat call the raise and head to the turn.

Turn: ($16) 7h (2 players)

Hero checks, SB bets $11.55, Hero calls $11.55

The turn brings a 7 and our hand is unimproved. The odds are, however, that your opponent is unlikely to have improved their hand either. We know they are overly aggressive and we were probably ahead on the flop, so we check hoping to induce a bluff. Worst case scenario is that we are behind, in which case we will be saving money by check calling. There are all kinds of benefits to check calling in this spot, so of course we do.

River: ($39.10) Ks (2 players)

Hero checks, SB bets $18.45, Hero calls $18.45

The river is a great card. Now we can be almost positive that we have the best hand, but we still want to make some more money from it. If we bet we will get raised by hands that beat us and fold out most of his weak hands and bluffs. Instead we decide to check with the intention of calling almost any river bet. He does decide to make a river bet that looks like a value bet, but we call and see that he was indeed bluffing the entire way.

Total pot: $76 | Rake: $0.50


SB had 9c, 6s (one pair, Kings).

Hero had Kd, 8c (three of a kind, Kings).

Outcome: Hero won $151

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