The showdown

Our panel of poker pros discuss their varied approaches to heads-up competition


With blinds of 150/300 against a tight player, I would raise four times the big blind to get rid of weak holdings pre-flop

You’re heads-up at the end of a 50-player no-limit Texas hold’em freezeout. You have about 25,000 in chips but your opponent has double that. He has been chip leader from the start and has used his chip stack to bully both in and out of position. The blinds are at 1,000/2,000, going up to 1,500/3,000 in 20 minutes. When the heads-up started, you had equal chip counts, but you’ve been surrendering blinds for the last six successive rounds. The best hand you’ve had is 10-2os and you’ve felt compelled to fold each time because your opponent has either raised by four or five times the big blind or put you all-in. On the seventh hand, you pick up Jh-7d in the small blind and you decide to make a stand, making it another 6,000 to go. Your opponent calls. The flop is Ks-7h-10s. What now?


I would check and if my opponent bets, I would either pass my hand or reraise him three times what he bets. If he moves back at me, I would consider passing, depending on my stack size. If I’m left with a small stack, I would call; if I had a large enough stack to come back in the game, I would pass.


Fortunately, you caught a little piece of the flop and if you don’t already have the winning hand, you can hit another 7, a Jack, or runner-runner for a straight to win. Additionally, you only have 17,000 left and there’s 16,000 in the pot, so you don’t have enough chips to bet a little to find out what he has. As you’re pot-committed, your only play is to call an all-in or push all-in yourself.


I would check here. My aggressive opponent has just flatcalled pre-flop with a 2-1 chip advantage, so he’s unlikely to have an Ace and more likely to have caught this flop either with a pair or a straight or flush draw with overcards to my 7s and is planning to checkraise. I would hope to improve on the turn and if he checks to me twice and I smell weakness, I would move all-in.


It’s a similar 50-person freezeout tournament and you find yourself heads-up once again. The only difference this time is that not one hand has yet been played. Your chip count is 34,000 and your opponent’s is 41,000. Your opponent on this occasion is a rock who only seems to play premium hands. The blinds are still at 1,000/2,000. You’re the big blind, and you hold 7D-8D. Your opponent calls and you reraise to four times the big blind, and your opponent calls again. The flop is KD-4D-8h. Your opponent bets half the pot. What now?


If I’m against a rock who plays premium hands and he called my raise before the flop, I have to be extremely wary. He obviously has a very strong starting hand – for example, A-K or A-Q.

With a flop of K-4-8, and he comes out betting at me, then I would throw away my hand or reraise him back double what he bet. If he moves all-in, I have all the information so it’s an automatic fold for me. In my opinion, the reason my opponent came out betting half the pot is because I would figure he had a hand like A-K or K-Q and he didn’t want to give me a free card with a flush draw on the flop.


You might already have the winning hand with your middle pair. If not, you have a heck of a draw with the flush, another 8 or a 7. So it’s all-in on this flop each and every time.

I think it would have been a better option to check with the 7-8 suited pre-flop. This could be a powerful hand and you want to make sure you’re not reraised before the flop in case your opponent is trapping you with a monster hand.


Assuming I am the big blind, he has called and I raise to 8,000, and he calls again. On this flop, as first to act, I would move in for 26,000 to pick up the 16,000 and reverse the chip positions.

The correct play pre-flop with this hand out of position would be to check, leaving the pot at 4,000. After the flop, I would checkraise his bet of 2,000 to 10,000, leaving me 22,000. If he reraised me, I would call as a pair with a flush draw always has outs no matter what his hand is.


You’re heads-up in a ten-man sit&go. The blinds are at 150/300. There are 15,000 chips in play, of which you have 6,350 and your opponent has 8,200. Your opponent has been playing tight all game and from what you can recall, he only seems to bet when he has a hand. You pick up Js-Qs in the small blind and raise to three times the big blind. Your opponent simply calls. The flop hits 8D-Jh-AD. You bet 1,000 and your opponent reraises another 3,000. What now?


If I have a good read on my opponent, I might call this reraise on the flop, believing that I have the best hand. Basically, I would put my opponent on no hand whatsoever, meaning what comes on the turn and river is irrelevant. So now if he bets on the turn, I would call or move all-in. The other option is to become a calling station and just check call, check call. This move is called ‘letting the opponent hang himself ’.


Raising 2.5 times the big blind would make for a better pot size. That being said, the initial play was fine. It’s correct to bet 1,000 to try to find out where you are with your Jack, especially since he’s a tight player. By calling his flop bet, you might buy yourself a free river card. If you hit another Jack or Queen, you might get big money. Calling such a bet on the flop will often slow him down enough to check the turn and sometimes even the river.


With blinds of 150/300 against a tight player, I would raise four times the big blind to get rid of weak holdings pre-flop. He knows I know he’s a tight player, so he’s unlikely to be representing the Ace and more likely to have it. Assuming he has an Ace, then, he can’t also have the flush draw, so if I don’t pair my Queen or make trip Jacks, but the flush comes on the turn and he checks, I would move all-in for my last 2,600 representing it. If a blank comes and he moves in, I would pass, as I still have 2,600 to his 12,400, which is only two double-ups from chip leader.

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