Sit-and-Go Essentials Part 4: Heads-Up

The end game for the elusive WSOPC bracelet

In parts one, two and three of this series we went over the skills you need to put yourself in a position to play for the win.

If you read those articles and apply the techniques properly, you'll absolutely find yourself playing for first a whole lot more than you have previously.

But once you get to the end game, you still need to seal the deal.

You've learned all the tools; now you just have to apply them one-on-one. So our focus in part four is heads-up play.

Still Room to Exploit Your Edge

Unfortunately, the way most sit-and-gos are designed online, by the time you get to heads-up play the blinds are so big the game doesn't allow for much play.

I hope you've accumulated some chips, because if the chips are even it will be a very tight match.

Neither player will hold much of an edge over the other because of the structure.

The match usually comes down to whoever gets the best cards in the shortest period of time.

That's not to say it's completely out of your hands though; there's still room for you to exploit your edge.

Watch Your Hand Values

When you're heads-up, hand values change from what they were pre-flop in the earlier stages.

Depending on how aggressive your opponent is playing, it may be +EV to get any ace in pre-flop.

Phil Gordon, Erik Cajelais
If your hand is decent shorthanded, it's a monster heads-up.

Think of it this way: if your hand is decent when the game is short-handed, then it's a monster heads-up.

Pocket pairs are very robust. Hands are usually won with just one pair at showdown, so if you are dealt one before the flop then you're already ahead of the game.

Hands that also increase in value are big broadway hands, like K-Q, K-J, Q-J, K-T, etc. - ones that when they hit the flop make top pair with a good kicker.

Top pair is a massive hand heads-up and it's almost always worthy of getting all-in.

Hands that decrease in value are weak speculative hands, like low suited connectors.

While they may be decent hands to raise with as a steal, they should not be played against a raise.

These hands dramatically drop in value when the stacks are short.

Even if you flop a draw, there's little money to get paid off with. When they do hit the flop, they usually make weak second-pair type hands or gut-shot draws.

Nothing you'd want to risk your tournament life on.

An Example:

You have $6,250 and so does your opponent. Blinds are $250/$500.

You're in the small blind/button with J T and raise to $1,800. Flop comes J 6 3. Your opponent bets $3,200.

What should you do? Shove.

That's it, that's all.

This is the crux of heads-up poker in a sit-and-go.

The blinds are too big and there's so little play that if you flop top pair, you're destined to get it all-in.

Another Example:

You have $6,250 and so does your opponent. Blinds are $250/$500.

You have Q J in the small blind/button and raise to $1,800. Your opponent calls. The flop comes down T 2 9.

Your opponent checks and you bet $3,000. Your opponent shoves.

You? Call.

You have two overcards and an open-ended straight draw. You only have $1,450 in your stack and there's $11,050 in the pot.

To put it bluntly, you're pot-committed.

Building a Mountain
Continue pushing hard when in position.

Luckily you have a massive draw and are getting great odds. It's hands like these your tournament will come down to.

You should of course, as always in poker, be exploiting your position to the max. Continue pushing hard when in position.

Don't stop stealing or slow your aggression just because you're heads-up - the game is not over until it's won.

So stay on your toes and keep up the fight.

Remember if you always make decisions as best you can, you'll make money in the long run no matter what happens in the short term.

Just look long-term and always try and make the most +EV play you can.

* * * * * * * * * *

Well, that brings this four-part guide to becoming a sit-and-go champion to a close.

It's by no means comprehensive - I wrote it for the average player who understands poker but wants to take his or her sit-and-go game to the next level.

I hope it's given you enough information to go from merely playing sit-and-gos to understanding what it takes to be a serious winner.

More strategy articles by Dan Skolovy:

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