Everything is magnified when you play online poker heads-up at PokerStars. If you are up against a player better than you it will be more difficult to record a win than if you were playing on a full ring table. However, if you are lucky enough to find yourself in a heads-up match where you have a significant skill edge then your probability of winning is higher than ever. Once you find yourself in a situation like this it’s crucial that you make the most of it. Here are some useful tactics for dealing with a weaker opponent heads-up, whatever their style of play…
Passive, calling stations
This is the most common style of weaker player, and the easiest to play against. They can be characterised by calling bets far too frequently (often with weak hands), and by a tendency to only be aggressive when they have the nuts themselves. There are two main methods we can use to ensure that we come out on top in these heads-up battles.
The first strategy you must use is to make frequent value bets whenever you feel you have the best hand. If a player is suspicious and calling down too much – even when they sometimes have little more than a high card – they must be punished! You don’t have much to fear against these players; they aren’t ever going to bluff-raise you so you can bet away with confidence whenever you have something, even if it’s nowhere near to the nuts. Occasionally you will be called with a better hand (and kick yourself that you bet in the first place!) but in the vast majority of occasions this type of weaker opponent will either fold or call with a worse hand. You can then ship the inflated pot and enjoy their chips as you wish!
The second strategy to use is quite an obvious one; don’t bluff. When you have deduced that a player doesn’t like to fold it would be madness to go against that read and start bluffing. It just won’t work. If you do bluff then your opponent’s major weakness – calling too much – will actually start to work in their favour instead. Following this advice can be quite frustrating because if you are getting dealt bad hand after bad hand then there is little you can do to win. Changing strategies and attempting regular bluffs might be a good idea against a strong, thinking opponent – but in this situation you’re very likely just to lose more money or chips. Have some patience and wait for the cards to fall in your favour. When they finally do you will more than make up for those small pots you lost in the meantime.
The other main type of weak player you will encounter heads-up is the aggressive maniac. These are undoubtedly tougher to play against than calling stations but they are still highly beatable as long as you are prepared to take some risks.
Aggression is definitely a valuable skill to have in your poker game but it only works when used in the right places. Strong players will know when to put the pressure on and steal pots they don’t deserve whereas weaker players will be aggressive too often when their bluff doesn’t make sense. The best counter-strategy to use versus these players is to revert to a passive game and let them bluff. Check on the river a lot with your strong hands in an attempt to induce them to pile chips into the middle…and when they do make sure that you call!
This strategy is easy to follow when you have a good hand but more difficult when you something average, such as middle pair. It’s worth sticking to your guns and calling a lot anyway, even if doing will raise your stress levels! When an opponent is bluffing all the time it’s important to play policeman and call them down.
The good news is that players like this will rarely adjust their strategy, even when it appears not to be working. Keep doing the same thing over and over again until you find a reason not to. Heads-up poker against these two very different types of weaker players is so easy precisely because you are not required to constantly alter your strategy. Once you have worked out your opponent is a weak player (and in what way) just apply the relevant strategy listed above and keep pounding on them. It’s one of the more sure fire ways to consistently win at online poker on PokerStars.