Heads up poker play is something that really scares off a lot of would be awesome poker players. They think that heads up is going to be their weakness, so they tell themselves that. They tell themselves not to get too excited about heads up play, because they’re going to lose. Well folks, I hate to break it to you but if you keep telling yourself that you aren’t going to be good at something…you’re not going to be good at it at all. So this means that you must make sure that you are completely and utterly focused on the road ahead of you. Otherwise you’re going to have big trouble and that’s not a good thing. You just need to think carefully about what you have to achieve.
Heads up play really isn’t impossible once you think about it. Yes, it’s a battle of wills between you and your opponent. Your opponent wants to knock you out, because there’s a lot of difference between first and second place. You could be leaving a lot of money on the table if you’re not careful. I think that you really need to start looking at how to get into first place.
Keep in mind that a lot of players bluff the daylights out of you when it’s head up play. They don’t want you to know that, of course. So they’re going to hit you with a big play so that you aren’t going to do anything else but fold. You could be folding a really good hand and not think twice about it. Watch how they play before you get too rash though. They could catch you off guard. But if you have any suspicion that all they’re really doing is playing trash, you need to step it up. Don’t be hesitant in shoving them back. They will usually fold or re-raise. If they re-raise when you know that they have a pattern of playing trash, make sure that you call them out. They will expect you to back down. Try seeing what they do when you put another re-raise on the board. That could change everything. Just letting them see what you’re going to do can make the difference as well. If you present yourself as a very strong player, then you will look like a strong player.
The truth is that heads up play is really what you make of it. Don’t bring your doubts into that final table. You have all of the ability in the world to take home that first prize. If you want to really sharpen your skills before you do a lot of tournaments, that would be a good thing. But the truth is that if you really want to get better at tournaments, you just have to keep entering them. You have to keep playing tournaments. This is something that’s hard to deal with, but it definitely makes sense. All you need it to from here is to play. Let yourself go, and let yourself play. That’s really all there is to it. The more that you focus on this, the better off you will honestly and openly be.
From here, everything is really up to you. Do you want to enroll in a tournament to practice, or do you need to work on the emotional side? Don’t feel embarrassed if you say that you need to work on not taking poker personally. A lot of people actually find that they take the game personally, which keeps them from the big wins that they deserve. Once a paler has gotten you to connect mentally to the game, they know that they have you trapped. They know that they have you right where they want you. The more that they can unbalance you emotionally, the more likely it is that you’ll just make weird decisions for the sake of reacting. In order to play your best poker, you have to be pretty calm.
When I first started playing poker and getting into tournaments, heads up play made me so nervous. I found myself pretty afraid. I didn’t mind second place, so I took a lot of second and third place wins. But I really wanted to feel what it would be like if I actually took first place. It’s not something that I really wanted to think about, but I knew that over time, I would get to the point where I had to fight. The showdowns were hard, but over time I got better. I started tracking what my opponent folded and what he went in with. If he was playing trash, I called him out. If he was being too tight, I played that against him. Remember that every type of poker style has a natural weakness to it. You can break a rock; you can get into a loose player. Even the big wildcard guys that seem to be maniacs will play and make mistakes. You just have to set yourself up to capitalize on those things.
The way of poker can be pretty rough, but don’t worry — you are going to be okay. There’s no reason to fear this, no reason to panic, and certainly no reason to give up on any aspect of poker. If you’re already playing poker for real money, you can take notes of plays that you questioned so that all you have to do after the game is talk on the forum. This is a great way to learn the game from the angle of seasoned players. Sometimes a player can say something that really connects with you. This is different from reading theory because you know that you’re talking to someone that’s actually played.
Give yourself a chance, and then go heads up with someone — you won’t regret it, I promise!