Many players would agree that when you get down to heads-up in a tournament, luck can play an awfully big part in the game. Many times it can seem to be a matter of who gets the cards at the right time, or who happens to hit the flop. Often, though, the way you bet your hands can make all the difference in the world.
Last night I was heads-up at the final table of a 90 player Sit-n-Go Tournament on Full Tilt. I had a read that my opponent was a pretty good player, so I knew I would want to play relatively mistake free poker to beat him, even though I had a significant chip lead. My stack was about $186,000 and his was only about $84,000. While this may seem like an insurmountable lead, all it takes is one bad read calling his all-in, and our positions are reversed.
The first heads up hand I was in the Small blind, binds were $8,000/$4,000 respectively. I had something like K-7 and made a raise of 2x the Big Blind. Many times in heads up you will see a player fold to most raises, unless he feels he has good cards. My opponent called without hesitation for another $8,000.
The Flop came 2-3-3. He bet out with a pot sized bet and I folded. He then showed me his hole cards of 2-3!!!
This is very important as it told me 2 things: 1) he is smart enough to know to call me pre-flop raise even with a poor starting hand, as any 2 cards can win after the flop. 2) he is not smart enough to hold off on making a bet to string me along in the hand. If he had not bet after the Flop, I may have wasted some chips making a play for the pot later on.
Armed with this information, we played 3 more hands, 2 of which I folded to his raises and one hand that I won when neither of us hit the flop, and it went to the River with me having the high card of the two of us.
The 5th hand we played I was in the Big Blind with J-8 off suit. My opponent called from the Small Blind, allowing me to check.
The Flop came A-7-T rainbow.
Again, he checked, so I checked as well with an inside straight draw. The Turn card was a 9 completing my straight. My opponent made about a 2/3 pot sized bet which I called.
The River was an inconsequential 2. He went all-in, I called and won the tournament when he flipped over A-K!
You can analyze this hand by saying that I lucked out hitting the inside straight draw and that is why heads-up is mainly luck. I am sure my opponent analyzed it in just this manner. But the fact is, head should have raised pre-flop and he DEFINITELY should have bet out post flop after he hit his pair of Ace’s with top kicker. There is no way I would have called an all-in or any kind of significant bet with only an inside straight draw if he would have.
So, you can call it bad luck if you like, but that “bad luck” could have been avoided if my opponent would have bet his hand properly .
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