Heads-up no-limit hold’em is poker at its purest; the cards have the least bearing and your reading skills need to be spot on

What will our pros do in the following tough spots…?


You’re playing in a $500 no-limit heads-up match. It’s very early on, maybe the third hand. You’ve won the fi rst two hands and have 1,620 to his 1,380 in chips. You are on the button with 10-5. You call and the big blind checks. The flop comes 5-5-K. He checks and you bet 40. He calls. The turn is the 3. He checks and you bet 100. He calls instantly. River is the 2. He checks, you bet 250 and he raises all-in. Now what?


You are in a really tough spot. You just need to take a read and go with it. It does not look like you have the best hand, but he could be bluffi ng or overplaying a King. I would not have limped the button. I would have either raised or folded. Maybe about 50/50 to do either.


Did you get raised because of your weak bet, or because your opponent really hit the flop? You will never know by calling

I would be more tempted to lay down the 10-5 or raise with it pre-flop, rather than just call. Nonetheless we go to the flop. I have no issue with the turn and river bet. The all-in raise seems suspicious. Had he been on K-K, K-5, 5-3 or 5-2 he would most likely value-bet the river. The all-in bet can only be called by a player with a made hand and he would have to have put you on the 5 or a big King in order to think you are calling.

Based on this play I would most likely put my opponent on a busted draw or a weak King. The right play is to call. However, it is very early in the tournament and you have no information regarding this player. I am not averse to waiting for a better spot when you can dictate the action.


In heads-up you obviously can’t wait for premium hands to get involved, but limping with 10-5 on the button is very weak and would be my third choice after raising or folding. Having hit the dream rainbow flop and turn, I like the pot-sized bets, and also the value bet on the river. The re-raise all-in is bizarre and I’d call pretty quickly.

Of course there are hands that beat me, but is my opponent trying to tell me he called with 6-4 or A-4 on the flop, with no hand and no draw? Given that he checked the big blind, we can discount K-K, and if he has K-5 or any other bigger 5 than ours, then we’ve been cold decked and were always going to do our money. It is possible he housed up with 2-2 or 3-3, but the way he’s played it, I don’t think so. At the very best he’s got a King.


You’re in round one of a $1,000 no-limit heads-up tournament. The second level of blinds has just started, 15/30. You have 1,590 in chips, he has 1,410; the lead has been chopping and changing but neither of you have been imperilled at any point. Your opponent is aggressive and almost always seems to raise when he has an Ace, King, or Queen in his hand. You’re on the big blind with J-J. Your opponent raises to 75. You re-raise to 270. He calls. The flop is 5-6-7. You bet 400, he calls. The turn is A. You check, he bets 333. This is the first time he has done an unusual bet like this. Now what?


I don’t see how you can get away from this hand. You need to move in and hope for the best. If he has an Ace, so be it. There’s nothing you could have done differently.


There are several things in this hand I do not agree with. First of all, the 270 re-raise seems excessive and may be misconstrued as a bluff. Second, just because our opponent has been firing away does not mean he did not wake up with a real hand. Third, and certainly not least, why would you ever check the turn?

If he has an Ace I need to know here and now where I stand. I would bet the turn and put him to the test. If I get called or raised, I am pretty much done with the hand. But to check the turn, without any intention of check-raising, you have simply conceded the hand to your opponent.


The re-raise pre-flop and bet on the flop are both pretty good, and by the time the ‘dreaded’ Ace comes, we’ve created a pot of 1,340, leaving us with 920 and our opponent with 740. Our check has given him the chance to represent the Ace on the turn, an obvious scare card, and he has bet almost half his stack, which may be an attempt to tell us, ‘I’ve put so much in I’m going all the way with this hand whatever.’ Given the call on the flop, I think he caught part of it, perhaps with a draw as well, something like 6-8, 7-8 or 7-9.

The Ace has given him the chance to semi-bluff, while also knowing he probably has all the straight cards and two-pairs or trips to win the hand. I’m happy to call on the turn. I don’t put much emphasis on the unusual bet size – if he has the Ace good luck to him, and I’ll check-call his probable all-in on the river too. This check-calling strategy does give him the chance to hang himself – we’ve already established he’s an aggressive maniac so he may just be betting because our checking is allowing him to.


You’re playing in a $200 no-limit heads-up match. The blinds are 15/30. You are equal in chips. You pick up 10-10 on the button and raise to 90. Your opponent calls. The flop is 4-J-7. He checks, you bet 90 and he re-raises to 240. You elect to just call. The turn is the J. He checks – now what?


I think you need to move in. He could have too many hands that don’t contain a Jack. There is not much else you could have done except possibly folding on the flop if you took a read that he had the Jack then.


Your pre-flop raise is insufficient. With large pocket pairs, I usually like to raise it up a bit more in an effort to chase out weak Aces and other similar hands. The bet on the flop is also weak considering the size of the pot. Where this causes a problem is when the raise of 240 comes in. Did you get raised because of your weak continuation bet, or because your opponent really hit the flop? You will never know by calling.

The two obvious hands you may be up against are a flush draw or a strong Jack. His check on the turn tells us nothing. If your opponent was on a Jack he is trying to induce action. If he was on the flush draw, he is hoping the second Jack scared you and he can get a free card. As I don’t like to give free cards, I would bet out here and see where I stand. If I check the turn, I will certainly be facing a large bet on the river.


The flop is not great for our pocket 10s – an overcard, a flush draw, a couple of reasonable straight draws. His raise on the flop shows he has probably connected with one of these, but the Jack on the turn is actually a good card – none of the draws have hit, and it’s now less likely he has a Jack in his hand, and if he did we were behind anyway.

I think we’re probably still ahead here, but the secret of good heads-up play is not to create big pots unless you’re certain you’re winning, so I’d check and see a river. If it’s not a club I’d check-call if his bet isn’t too big. If he does bet big, I’d be left with a tough decision – one I could only make based on his previous play. If the club does come I’d probably have to check-fold.

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