I love shorthanded games. That means I love it when there’s only two, three, four, five, or six players at the table.

I especially love heads up or three-way action.

Aggression is repayed in spades (and every other suit, although flushes are just a bonus).

I’ve discovered that if you bet heavily with good hands, bet heavily with medium hands, and sometimes bet heavily with nothing, then most players will fold regularly. The players I like to go up against in shorthanded games think they need a hand of sorts to win. Any hand will do. Which means I punish them when they don’t have a hand, and when they have second best. The times I get stuck attacking with a second best hand are an unfortunate expense, basically, if they play back, you back off. If they keep playing back, you leave, they’ve grown some cohones and are no longer a good opponent to play against.

So, the penguin’s guide to low-limit heads up:

Pre-flop:
Raise or fold.

It’s almost a cliche now, but it works for me. Folding pre-flop (even when it costs a blind) cheaply establishes a reputation for playing solid hands. Attacking pre-flop means that the mental pressure is on my opponents to make some sort of a hand on the flop. Calling or Checking just does nothing.

Flop:
Raise or fold.

While betting first allows my opponent to just call if he has a goof hand, it also makes him think if he really wants to play that Q9 (especially if an overcard has come on the flop). Often, they’ll save their money. If they check into me, that suggests they want a free card and I’m going to dissapoint them. Of course I run afoul of slowplayers sometimes, but most heads up hands are not great.

Turn
Raise or fold.

If I’ve checked on the flop and not been bet into (I rarely check when acting second), then I will almost always bet. My thinking is that I’ve pretty much told the guy that I want out of the pot, and if he doesn’t take my invitation, then he must be more worried about the showdown than me.

If I get checkraised or re-raised on the turn, I will often fold. If I have nothing, and don’t even have a decent high card, then it’s not worth even taking on a bluff.

Sometimes, I’ll try to throw a check-raise at my opponent. Usually I will have a hand – it’s to buy credibility for the times I don’t and to get some respect for a check

River
Raise or fold.

If I see the river, then I’m 90%+ committed to seeing the other guy’s cards. I don’t see much point in subtlety. I bet unless I’m absolutely sure I’m beaten.

Of course, I don’t stick to this game plan 100%. Although I would probably do better if I did.

I’ll slowplay sometimes and I won’t re-raise unless I’m sure I’ve got the best hand.

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