Patience in Heads-Up Play

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In heads-up play one normally wants to play a very aggressive style as this gives the greatest chance of being able to force an opponent to bend to your will, continually surrendering blinds and small pots to you in fear of a big confrontation. However, while playing aggressive is normally the way to go, what about when you are fortunate enough to enter heads-up play with a large chip lead?

When holding a big chip lead in heads-up play the temptation is to finish the match quickly. Oftentimes your opponent will be moving all-in with just about any face card or any two cards kind of connected, or just any two cards. It is very tempting to make the call with marginal hands, such as J-8, in order to finish the tournament, as you know very well that your opponent could be holding anything. However, your opponent can double up very quickly and fight their way back to a decent chip stack if you give them the opportunity.

For instance, say that you are holding onto 9,000 chips while your opponent is holding onto 1,000 chips. If you double them up once, your 9:1 chip lead will be a 4:1 chip lead, 8000 to 2000. Then, if you double them up again you will only have a 3:2 chip lead, 6000 to 4000. After only two double ups in this situation your opponent has turned what looked to be an impending victory back into a battle for first place.

After seeing how quickly your opponent can get back into the match, despite whatever odds they may be facing, it becomes obvious how patience is the key to success. You want to give yourself the best odds of taking them out, so wait for a hand that is more likely to be significantly better. Don’t call with jack-high, call with ace-high. Give serious though to folding pocket twos. Try and tilt the odds as much in your favor before making a call. With how difficult it can be to pin a short-stacked opponent on a hand range in heads-up play, you must be patient and wait for a good chance.

As always there are exceptions, the most notable being when the size of the blinds are nearly as much as your opponent’s stack, when they truly will be forced to move in with any two cards and try and get lucky. The only hands you can fold here are the most miserable of the dregs.

Patience is the key when holding a large chip lead heads-up. But if that large chip lead should dwindle or gets so large that your opponent has trouble putting up blinds, the word patience changes to a different word. Attack! If you know when to attack and when to be patient, you should enjoy a lot of success in heads-up play.

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