How to plug your heads-up poker leaks (part 2)’s Christy ‘casy151’ Keenan looks at major sit-and-go heads-up poker leaks in the second part of this fantastic strategy series

(Not read part 1? Click here!)

Leak 3 – The ‘LAG fish suck’ fallacy

Now here’s an interesting one, because it is counter-intuitive. We will start with a question: what opponent type will be the most problematic for you heads-up: the nitty Supernova Elite grinder who beats the games for a modest win-rate, or the LAG donator who spews like crazy? Versus the winning nitty reg, you will be able to multi-table effectively and the cards will pretty much play themselves. 
You should min-raise most buttons, limp the rest, bet fl ops relentlessly, play draws strongly, and do your damndest to snaffle up every orphan pot going. Most TAGs are one-bullet-wonders who will cause you surprisingly few problems on later streets. Contrast this with the LAG fish. Yes, their game will be ridiculously exploitable, but you most certainly will not be able to bully this opponent. And when it comes to heads-up, aggression is key. They will be raising every button, three-betting relentlessly, raising your limps, donking out, check-raising wet fl ops, chasing draws and generally taking you out of your comfort zone. These are all those characteristics that make this villain a dream to have in your games from nine-to-three handed, but they are the exact same ones that ensure he’s a nightmare to tangle with heads-up.
The main difference is that in the early stages of a nine-handed sit-and-go you can play as slow as a week in Dundee. There is little pressure to tangle, due to the low blinds. When you do confront the crazy LAG, it will be with a strong range of holdings. As such, their spewy tendencies work directly in your favour, for your tight range will generally crush whichever garbage they happen to feel like playing.
However, when it gets to heads-up, you have nowhere to hide. As we have established, open-folding your button and waiting for a strong starting hand is not an option. The villain will simply open up a big chip lead as you sit there thinking ‘just you wait!’ And this, in a nutshell, is why the LAG fish are such tough heads-up foes. You are going to have to fight fi re with fire, and out-muscle this type of villain with your own aggression.
Be prepared to ramp up your own aggression and get it in thin. 

In conclusion

Reaching the heads-up stage of a sit-and-go is not a green light to kick back and have some fun while splashing your chips around. It is a war, and one in which the aggressive route is almost always the superior one to take. Fortunately, poker is a zero sum game (for every chip I win, you lose one), and this theory transfers to the common, weak heads-up strategy too.
As I get more aggressive, you become tighter in a mistaken desire to ‘trap’ me. When it comes to the heads-up stage of a sit-and-go every pot is one worth winning. So make sure you are the one who goes out and claims all those chips, rather than the one who waits until their opponent is drawing dead before contesting. PP

Beating the LAG fish

How do we combat the LAG fish’s heads-up aggression?

Playing against LAG fish, hand values go way down and must be played faster. Flat-calling raises from the big blind loses a lot of its appeal unless you are willing to check-raise plenty of flops with air; otherwise you simply will not hit the flop hard enough, often enough, to make it profitable. Value-towning the villain is the order of the day, so you must not shy away from going for three streets of value with weak top pair or second pair type hands.
Let’s take a look at an example hand:
Big Blind: 200
Hero: 6,000
Villain: 8,000
Hero holds the K-J
The villain raises to 600. The hero three-bets to 1,800 and the villain calls.
The flop comes K-10-7. The pot is 3,600
It is important that before we decide on our line, we first analyse the villain’s range. Their preflop raise means very little, but the fact that they flat-called our three-bet suggests they have a playable hand that is probably not a premium one. In reality, we know that flat-calling our re-raise is not a profitable move. With these stack sizes, any hand worth continuing with should be four-bet. However, these spewy tendencies are a hallmark of the LAG fish. His most likely range is something along the lines of 2-2 to 6-6, A-2 to A-8, K-7 to K-J, Q-8 to Q-J, J-9, J-10, and perhaps a few medium suited connectors like 8-9s, 7-8s. Stronger hands would have probably four-bet, and weaker ones would likely fold to our three-bet.
Our first thought should be that we are going to commit to this hand. Not only have we flopped top pair, but we dominate a fair chunk of the villain’s range. Crucially, we want to get the money in now, on the flop, while we are very confident that we are ahead. As such, we have three options: C-bet large, c-bet small, or check-raise.
In this instance, I lean towards the small c-bet to induce a raise from our LAG foe. A bet of 1,300 may give the illusion of fold equity, and we must think about his tendencies. If he has K-x or better it is irrelevant, for the money is going in one way or another. The villain holds Q-J, J-10, 9-8 and random gutshots enough of the time in order for you to use their aggressive instincts against them.
A ‘rope-a-dope’ bet will often induce a shove over the top, whereas a check-raise will often prompt a bet-fold from the villain that prevents from stacking them. A bigger continuation-bet will obviously pot-commit us and could potentially scare off some of the bottom pair or gutshot hands that may otherwise call or, ideally, shove. It is a risky strategy, but as we have established, any edge is a good edge heads-up. Don’t be afraid to get it in thin and prepare to run the risk of getting outdrawn. You will miss out on so much value if you just sit there nut-peddling.
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