Thursday Poker Blog! Heads-Up Lessons Gone Terribly Wrong!

Hello all, and welcome back to Poker Blog Thursday!

First off, yesterday’s most interesting search engine quip goes to “jury duty embrace it.”  (Ya just wonder what someone was trying to accomplish when they entered that — maybe teaching a lesson to their 18 yr old son who is complaining about getting his jury duty summons!).

Ok, so for nearly a month now, I have been weaving a 6-lesson opus on how to succeed in heads up play.  Predictably, in my home game’s annual heads up tournament, in which College World Series double-elimination style competition was employed, I was the first one out!!  Two matches, two losses, in bed by 10:15!!  And no bad beats!

Time to re-tool the playbook?  Of course not! 

Here are some details of what happened, and how normally sound strategy didn’t pay off here. 

Match #1 was against a relative newcomer to our game, a guy who’s showed a relative tight playing style but clearly a thinker at the table.  Not afraid to fold a strong hand but also not afraid to make a move once he picks up a pattern.  Here are the key hands that led to my demise:

1) Top pair loses to flush.  About 5-6 hands into the match, I have a slim lead purely based on aggression.  On the button I have TJ unsuited, and make my standard small raise from the button, he calls.  The flop is T-8-6, all clubs.  I have no club.  After my opponent checks, I continuation bet, to which he makes a large re-raise.  I’m putting him on a high club draw here, or perhaps a draw and a pair.  I am NOT putting him on a flush; a flush is a huge hand in heads up play and more often calls for a slow-play, especially against an aggressive opponent.  I call.  The turn brings another 6, for a T-8-6-6 board, with 3 clubs.  He checks, I welcome the free river, which brings another 8.  On a T-8-8-6-6 board, he checks into me.  Suddenly, I start thinking my T is good here, and that my opponent either missed his draw or was just bluffing on the flop.  I bet out big for value, and he calls with the 9-4 of clubs for a winning flush.  Bad bet by me, as the pot was big enough.  A case of still getting to know my opponent.

2) All-in pre-flop and dominated.  After the hand above put me in approximately a 3-1 or 4-1 hole, I attempted to claw back.  However, a pattern developed where after my small raises from the button, my button re-raised me about 3 times out of 4 hands, forcing me to fold.  To me, clearly he had picked up on my betting pattern and decided that I was raising with modest hands (which was largely true).  Eventually, I picked up A-6 suited.  After my standard raise, his suddenly standard re-raise, I now push all-in, a layered strategy figuring that he is now pushing me back with modest hands like Q-T or K-9.  I’m confident that I’m ahead and/or that he will fold his hand.  My confidence is torn up, however, when he quickly calls and turns over A-Q.  Neither the miracle 6 nor the miracle flush arrive, and I find myself in the loser’s bracket.  So, my opponent apparently was getting hot cards when he suddenly began re-raising me, or just got a nice hand on that one unfortunate occasion.  Oh well, time to try and claw back.

Match 2 is against our game’s most erratic player, a guy who can play super-tight for stretches or who can simply get bored and start playing hyper-aggressively.  In a previous experience I found that trying to get him to put money into a pot was like trying to draw blood from a stone.  I’m hoping for a different experience, but wouldn’t get one.

After about 20 minutes of just betting at most every pot, I grind my way to about a 3:2 chip lead.  Ominously, I had pocket aces twice early in the match and could get no action with them.  Literally the only times my opponent played a hand is when he had a pretty large holding, either pre-flop or post-flop.  He’s starting to chirp about my aggressive style so I’m expecting a push back at any time.  Here are the two hands that ended my night:

1) 8-8 vs. QQ.  With the blinds starting to raise, I find 8-8 in the big blind.  My opponent raises, and, holding the 7th strongest hand pre-flop, I push all-in, happy to either get a fold or to be all-in pre-flop almost assuredly ahead.  No luck on either front, as my friend quickly calls and flips over a pair of queens.  No help to me and I’m suddenly crippled.  After another 15 minutes of stealing pots, I’m back to approximately a 2:3 deficit.  After a limped pot on the button with k-4 off,  (I started limping some with weak hands rather than folding as I felt confident in my ability to outplay my opponent post-flop), the flop comes A-K-Q.  My opponent bet out.  I call with my K, not sure if I’m ahead or not, but a little worried.  The turn brings my 4, which has me pretty convinced that I’m ahead, at worst facing an ace.  My opponents bets into me again, and I simply call instead of pushing.  Again, this is an opponent-specific strategy.  The blinds are going up, I need to double up here, and getting my opponent to put money in has been a challenge.  This may be my best shot despite 2-pair being a vulnerable hand.  The river brings a 5, he open shoves all-in, I call, and he reveals A-5 for the better two pair.   DANG IT!   So, I made a bad call on the flop, got lucky on the turn, and then really UNLUCKY on the river.  I probably would’ve folded to another strong bet on the turn if I hadn’t turned 2 pair, so this one gets chalked up to some bad luck.

I still stand by the heads-up strategies we have discussed over the past few weeks.  Like any strategy in poker, all these tips do is give you an edge.  Sometimes the math gets overcome in the short-term. 

Explore posts in the same categories: Poker Tips and Tales

9 Comments on “Thursday Poker Blog! Heads-Up Lessons Gone Terribly Wrong!”

  1. FLOP Says:

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