So far, four heads up opponents have been laid out.
1) Loose Passive
2) Loose Aggressive
3) Tight Passive
4) Tight Aggressive
Know these players and be able to recognize them at the table but also realize that most of the opponents that you play will probably combine many charateristics of these four player types. Some also might have new tendancies unlike any discussed.
My next few posts will examine some of these player types that don't really fall into any of the main four catagories. Today's player profile, entitled "The Maniac" was actually written by Taylor Caby last summer.
Name: The Maniac
Playing Style: This Player raises on the button at least 80% of the hands. This player could raise any hand, ranging from low suited cards, to big pocket pairs. After the flop, this player will continue to bet out and probably on the turn if they have any sort of hand. If "The Maniac" has any sort of hand he will call your reraise, sometimes rightfully so because his opponent may start to play back with nothing. This type of player offers a huge money making opportunity for the great heads up player, but comes with an extremely high variance in profit/loss.
Strength: This player’s strength is the fact that he is constantly putting pressure on the other player. If the other player folds too much, the aggressive player will win pot after pot, accumulating tons of chips. This player can also hit many ‘unseen’ hands that the other player just cannot put him on. For example, if he raises the pot with 36 suited, and the flop comes A36, if the other player holds an ace he could be in serious trouble. This player forces the opponent to make borderline decisions, which often results in long calls at the end of the hand. The aggressive player has a tendency to frustrate the other player, which can easily put him on tilt.
Weakness: If the maniac is not careful, he will run into a slowplayed monster by the other player. If the maniac is doing all of the betting, the other player just has to sit back and get paid off, before making a re-raise near the end of the hand. The maniac may also over value hands such as top pair or middle pair, due to the fact that it looks like such a strong hand because he is betting with nothing most of the time. He may run into kicker problems in some of the large pots, or may flop top pair but be beaten by a high pocket pair.
Plan of Attack: The maniac must realize that he cannot have his way raising every pot. If you want to beat this player, you must be willing to ‘mix it up’ with him. Remember, his cards are probably just about as bad as the ones you want to continually fold. The best thing to do is show aggression and don’t let up. If you have an ace, a pocket pair, or even suited connectors, don’t be afraid to re-raise him preflop. The proper re-raise here is usually the size of the pot, sometimes even more. If he is folding to your re-raises, start doing it with more frequency. He will start to realize what you are doing, but this is not bad. Remember, the key to heads up is to make the other player react to you. By using the re-raise, you are forcing him to react to you. If he starts calling your re-raises with marginal hands, you have basically turned the tables on him. What HE wants to do is make you call his raises with marginal hands, but now you are making HIM do this. This is the key to beating this type of player. Once you see the flop, you need to bet out at least ¾ of the pot no matter what the cards are. Put the pressure on him. You can reevaluate after the turn if he is still in the hand, but remember by this point he knows you would do this with any hand, so he may be calling these raises and bets without much of a hand. One thing you need to remember about this strategy of playing back at him is the fact that you are going to be the aggressor, but he will have position on you in the hand. Having the button for the rest of the hand is a huge advantage, so you must become proficient at playing a marginal hand well, out of position. There will be times that you just want to take a flop against this player. These situations can be tricky and involve much thinking. When you take the flop, check your hand, and he bets, you have a few decisions to make. If you have nothing whatsoever, fold. If you flop a monster, you should probably just call (such as holding KdKs on a Kc 4h 8d board). The tough hands to play are the ones where you flop bottom or middle pair. After this player bets, you should probably raise with middle pair and top pair almost every time. If he bets the pot, sometimes a min raise is all you need to get him to fold. If he calls these raises often, you should probably lead out on the turn with a ½ of the pot sized bet. The important thing is that YOU are making HIM react to your play, which can’t be stressed enough. Another example of a play you can make is raising on the draw. If you flop a good flush draw, straight draw, or both, check raise him on the flop. Lead out with a pot sized bet on the turn, and you will probably take the pot down. If not, you still have a chance to make your hand. Another thing you need to make sure you are doing to play this type of player is being almost as aggressive as he is when it is your button. You now will have the advantage of being the aggressor, as well as being in the best position on the hand. Although you won’t be limping in too often, there are players who will raise every time you limp in. Get a feel for if he is one of these players, and then react accordingly. Limp with anything, let him reraise you, and then raise him huge. He will give you credit for a monster, and will only call with something big himself. If he does call, you can give him credit for some sort of hand, but remember, you are the aggressor and he probably is giving you credit for a top 5 hand. Bet out on the flop regardless, and you should take it down unless he has a set or AK and hits an A or K.
Notes: If this is the type of player that raises over 80% of their hands preflop, and usually folds the rest, be VERY careful if he just limps in. Do not proceed if he starts betting with out 2 pair, a good draw, or better. Its just not worth it due to the fact that there is so little in the pot, and he has played the hand so differently than the way he normally plays. If you see him start to limp a lot, then you can start to make some looser calls as he probably does not have a big pocket pair. There are some advanced plays you can make against this type of player. You know he is going to be betting with anything on the flop, so you can effectively ‘take the pot away’ from him, without even making a raise. If there is a flop including an Ace, a pair, or other ‘scare’ cards, think about doing the following. He will probably make a bet out at the flop. Pause for a moment, and just smooth call. When the turn comes, if he bets again, check-raise him with whatever you have. He will only call here with a huge hand. If he checks the turn, you need to get gutsy. When the river card hits, bet 2/3 the size of the pot minimum, and try to ‘take this pot away.’ This looks like you have an enormous hand due to the fact that you were just smooth calling, making him think you were TRYING to look weak. To give this play its best effect, you should play one of your real hands this way, and then a few minutes later try this bluff.
The most important thing to remember is that you can’t let this person run you over. You need to make him know that you aren’t going to lay down and play passive. If you flop top pair, you cant give them a chance to hit an over card, you need to raise them and make them pay more to see the next card. The same should be done with middle pair, and big draws, in order to add deception.
I've gotten some feedback from some of you who are implementing The Heads Up Doctrine as well as heads up play into your poker aresenal. I have 100% confidence in these methods but at the same time realize it is a huge transition from full nl ring games. I also realize that I do not explain things as thoroughly as I could. If you are having success or trouble with any of the information I have covered, please post a comment or shoot me an email. I'd love to hear from you.
As always, thanks for reading.