Poker for Beginners: Head-Up Aggression & Starting Hands

A good No Limit Hold’em player can win a lot of money if he is superior to his opponents. This superiority is most evident in the heads-up. Here he has only one opponent and can at best play against an inferior player. He doesn’t have to share the opponent with other good players. But how do you play heads-up in the No Limit Hold’em Cash Game? 

Head-Up Aggression
Aggression is always a key component in poker, especially in Texas Hold’em, and even more important in heads-up. Patient or reserved players who are successful are usually referred to as tight aggressors. In heads-up (HU) cash games, even successful tight-aggressive players have to adapt and play a loose-aggressive style.

Selecting Your Starting Hands
Simply put, you can play all hands in heads up. Many players who come from the Ring Games have problems with this concept. Just why? From a basic heads-up strategy point of view, an aggressive player will win more hands than a player with good starting hands. An illustrative numerical example: A player buys himself at a full ring table and in a heads-up game with 100 big blinds each. In the full ring cash game it is normal to fold several hands one after the other, you only pay 1.5 big blinds in ten hands. With the same number of hands in the heads-up game, you have to pay 7.5 big blinds.
So while you can wait longer for good starting hands in the full ring game, in heads-up you have to be able to generate money without a hand – aggression beats made hands.
The only problem is that the opponents also understand this concept. Otherwise, you could simply raise and pass every time the opponent wakes up and plays back with one hand. Ultimately, you would be blinded out. Against weak players, this should be the basic strategy in your game.
Since better players will also play back with weaker hands, aggression becomes even more important. You have to raise, re-raise and check-raise in some spots, as well as build up pressure with the knowledge that the opponent will also often not have a made hand. This makes it a fun cat-and-mouse game and is the reason why many players consider heads-up Texas Hold’em for poker in its purest form. Who will give in first? You shouldn’t be too often yourself.