Shawn's Turn: How to Play Heads Up Poker

Screen shot 2012-04-05 at 2.23.51 PMWhen it gets down to two players in a tournament and you're at a disadvantage, you need to look for premium hands to make your move. But having a good hand isn't a guarantee of winning. Sometimes it depends on what your opponent does.

PRE-FLOP: I'm down to the final 2 players of a $10,000,000 chip Sit'n'Go. My opponent has a 2:1 chip advantage. The way the blinds are structured, I have just a little over 10 big blinds left.

Shawn_1In this particular Play of the Day, I luck out with an Ace Queen (AQ) offsuit. I have a good hand. When you’re in a heads up situation like that, a huge range of hands suddenly becomes very playable for you.

My opponent basically limps in and calls the blind. But I’m not going to let him get off that cheap. If you feel you have the advantage over your opponent, you want to punish them for calling you. In this particular case, I have no reason to think that my opponent has anything stellar because they simply limped in, so I raise and they call.

FLOP: This is an amazing flop (2-2-Q). I have top pair. In fact I have 2 pairs with an ace kicker. I feel like I'm in really good shape. 

If my opponent has a 2, I feel very sad. But he called my raise pre-flop. I have no way of putting him on anything other than a queen. But if he has a queen, I have the ace kicker. I feel really good about this hand.

I check because I'm acting first, and I feel I can get more information and see what he does. Sure enough, he bets out $200.

$200 into a $1200 pot with so many chips is really a probe bet. He’s making a bet to see whether or not I hit that. I call the flop.

My plan is if he does another squirrely bet like that at the turn, I’m probably going to spring on him.

THE TURN: A queen! That's huge for me. I check and he bets out a small bet again. That's like an 8:1 bet into a $1,600 chip pot. I might as well seal the deal here, but I don't want to scare him off.

I make a raise of $800 into a $1800 chip pot now.That’s a big raise for what he bet out. But I want to tell him that I have something.

It gets interesting now. In a million years I would not have expected him to re-raise here. I honestly don't know what he is thinking. If he has a queen, we're going to chop the pot because we both have a full house. Maybe he has 3-2 suited, but I'm more than happy to just do another bump.

Sure enough he pushed me all in, and I call.


THE RIVER: The 3 is irrelvant. My opponent has a 2-8 offsuit. He had 2s over queens, and I had queens over 2s. That's a tough position for him to be in.

More than anything else, this was less about me making the right move and my opponent making a bad move, which started with the pre-flop.

A 2-8 offsuit is the second worst hand in poker. This doesn't matter if there are 9 players or 2 players at the table. Limping in is a bad move. It's a chip leak. People often put money into a pot as a small blind thinking, 'I have a 3-9 offsuit, but this only cost $100 into an $800 pot. Who knows, something magical can happen.'

Chances are with a 3-9 offsuit, nothing magical is going to happen. One of the best things a player can learn to do is fold your hand. If your hand is stinky, and you're up against 5 other players, fold!

You know what happens next hand? You get a brand new set of cards and you can try something with those.