Most NL Holdem players are not comfortable when they get heads-up. In this example, I am not talking about just solely playing heads-up, but once you get heads-up in say, a SnG or MTT. There are a couple of easy things to bear in mind when you find yourself in these situations that will help you finish 1st more times than you finish in 2nd.
First of all, most players display way too much willingness to become involved in big pots heads up when they have the chip lead or when the chip stacks are about 50/50. Especially if you have the lead, lets say $9500 and your opponent has $3500. Think about this point: why would you want to get into a big pot with a marginal hand? The only way your opponent can get back into the game is if you let him double up. He would have to win many multiple hands in a row by just taking the blinds to make a dent in your chip stack, so why give him the chance to double up when you have something like K-6? This is the time to become selective. Big Aces and pocket pairs play great in this situation, but do not let yourself get dragged into calling all-in plays with something like Q-T when you have your opponent stacked.
The best thing to do when you are up, heads up, is play small ball. Take small pots, take the blinds, it is ok to stay aggressive, but as soon as he comes back over the top of you with an all-in and you do not have a great hand, FOLD!! The objective here is to keep chipping away until you do get a big hand, and then put him away. The worst thing you can do is let him double up and get right back into the game.
So, don’t call an all-in and do not raise all-in unless you feel you are way out front in the hand. The temptation is there to make a big all-in raise to steal the blinds, but again, you never know when he will hit a monster or when he will just plain luck out. You do not need to take the chance when you have the chip lead.
Conversely, when you are short stacked to your opponent, you need to try and force him to make tough decisions that can potentially double you up. You are looking to get all your chips in because it is the only way that you can get back into the tournament and win it. Hands like K-8 now become worth pushing all-in with for 2 reasons: fold equity or the fact that your opponent could make a snal call with the worse hand and double you up.
Remember this when you get down to a heads up game. How you played to get there pretty much goes out the window. What becomes important is adjusting your style to fit your chip stack. If you do not, you will find yourself in 2nd place more often than not.
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