This is Part Two of our series on beating lower-limit heads up sit and go tournaments. For Part One, which covers the benefits of learning HU strategy as well as an overview of preflop decision-making in heads up play, click here.
Instead of playing the hand this way, let’s say that you move all in pre-flop, in either position. If your opponent folds, you’ll win his blind, plus some strategic advantages as well. By making this move, you’ll often strike fear into your opponents, causing them to play you more cautiously, allowing you to steal more pots than he normally would. This puts the ball in your court and sets you up to play a more aggressive and punishing style later.
If he calls your pre-flop raise, you’ll most likely have an advantage over him. In the long run, having a 60/40 advantage will make you a large profit in a very short amount of time at the tables.
Why would anyone be stupid enough to call your pre-flop all-in bet so early in a tournament unless they hold a premium hand? First, anyone who moves all-in pre-flop looks like an idiot trying to steal the pot. Knowing that your opponents will often think this, moving all-in pre-flop will often generate a call by a weaker hand such as Q 10, J 10, K 9 or a weak ace. Let’s get a little more into the details.
Let’s say you sit down for a $10 heads-up match. On the very first hand, you look down and see A10 offsuit, what do you do? Here are a few numbers to consider:
A10 os versus Q8 offsuit, you are a 64/36 favorite to win the hand.
A10 os versus A7 suited, you are a 66/24 favorite, with a 10% chance of a chopped pot.
A10 os versus KQ offsuit, you are a 60/40 favorite.
A10 os versus any pocket pair of 9’s or lower, you are at worst a 45/55 underdog.
A10 os versus pocket 10’s, you are a 30/69 dog.
A10 os versus pocket jacks, queens or kings, you are a 29/71 dog.
If he holds AJ, AQ, or AK, you’re about a 24/70 dog, with a 6% chance of a tie.
So, with 13 pocket pairs, plus AJ, AQ, and AK beating you, your opponent must hold one of only 16 hands to have an advantage over you. Of those 16 hands, only 5 pocket pairs and AJ, AQ, AK have a significant percentage advantage over you, for a total of 8 hands. Virtually any other hand he could have leaves you as either a very slight dog, or a favorite.
The vast majority of hands that he is likely to hold are going to make you a 60% or better favorite to win. On top of this, you’re playing a $10 match, where you know that a lot of people play poorly, tilt badly, and drink alcohol while they play. Beyond this, if your opponent is first to act pre-flop and he moved all-in in front of you, you already know that he is likely to be expecting you to fold to his all-in bet. So, what do you do?
This is an easy one…you call.
Before I go any further with this topic, if you want to employ this strategy you must first use a reliable poker calculator to record a number of hand versus hand values, keeping that record close to you while you play. After you’ve done this, use this information to decide if you likely have a 60% or better chance to win the hand.
Why is this strategy so powerful? Let’s run some numbers.
Let’s say you play in 1,000 matches where you and your opponent get all of your chips in when you believe you are a 60% or better favorite. Sometimes you’ll be a bigger favorite, sometimes you’ll be a dog, but in general if you do a decent job of finding these situations the numbers will work themselves out in the long run.
1,000, $10 + .50 matches will cost you a total of $10,500 to enter. If you win 60% of these matches, you will win $20, six hundred times, for a total win of $12,000, or a $1,500 profit. If each match took an average of 3 minutes, you will have 3,000 minutes invested, for a $.50 per minute profit. That equates to $30 per hour.
Now, compare that to 1,000 matches that take 20 minutes each, which is not a long match by any means considering that some matches will go as long as 45-60 minutes. If you were to win 60% of your matches that take 20 minutes each, you will make $1,500 in a total of 20,000 minutes, for a profit of 7.5 cents per minute, or $4.50 per hour. Even if you have a 70% win rate, you’re still only making 17.5 cents per minute, or $10.50 per hour.
Using the strategy I’ve outlined above, you can win $1,500 in 50 hours of play, versus 333.3 hours of play at a 60% win rate, or 142.86 hours at a 70% win rate using traditional strategies.
To be the most successful poker player you can be, you must think about time versus profit. Maximizing time versus profit is exactly what this strategy is all about. Now, once you have committed more time to a match, you shouldn’t be using this strategy. You don’t want to invest 20 or 30 minutes into a match, then risk your buy-in with a small advantage like this. At this point, you should be using traditional strategies to give yourself a more surefire chance of winning.