Let’s examine the different player types we’ll meet at the tables, as well as look at some basic heads-up strategy that we can employ against each one.
But before we do that, it’s important to note that the strategies we discuss below will make big inferences and generalities in order to highlight certain concepts or ideas. However, since poker is a fluid game where each person can vary their strategy at any time (be it consciously or not), the idea is to work on building an understanding of the thought process that leads to our adjustments, not the specific adjustments themselves. With that said, let’s begin.
This is the final installment of a 3-part series on heads-up hyper turbos. Part 1 covered the make-up of a Heads-Up Hyperturbo (HUHT), and part 2 discussed important traits to develop to become a successful HUHT player
Player Type #1) The Tilt Monkey
Although we don’t know if this opponent is actually tilting, they sure play like it! Although the majority of Tiltmonkeys do still have a folding range, it’s often extremely small. For the most part, they are essentially just looking to get it in as fast and as often as they can, particularly when they have the initiative.
First off, since we already know how narrow their folding range is, the most important thing is that we don’t put it to the test very often if we can help it. It’s not so much that we don’t want to bluff them, but we want to make sure we do it with a ton of equity or in spots where our range is very clearly dominating theirs like, for example, on an AK3 flop after we limp a 10bb stack.
As an aside, it’s important to note that in this particular situation (10bb on the button against a Tiltmonkey), we’d likely be limping a huge part of range; which would be composed almost exclusively of hands that are willing to get it in. If we’re up against a true tiltmonkey who could be shoving anywhere from 65-80% of hands in this spot, all the hands in green make profitable limp-calls at this depth (though obviously some are better played as shoves).
That aside, our overall heads-up strategy against a Tiltmonkey essentially boils down to vastly expanding our calling range in pretty much every situation, while taking advantage of however many opportunities we can find to force folds from a player who is not exactly fond of doing so. And on a related note, it’s important not to be afraid of getting it in dead. If, for example, we call a three streets with a weak 2nd pair (as we’ll often do against this type of opponent) and get shown a better hand, it’s critical that we quickly shake it off and get ready to call down light again next hand if the board should dictate it.
Player Type #2) The Aggro Monkey
A direct relative of the Tiltmonkey, the Aggromonkey is a negative EV player after my own heart! Simply stated, this type of opponent believes they can run you over. And the truth is, they’re often right! Their primary weakness, however, is the inability to take their foot off the gas. Lost in their “just keep firing away” mindset, they consistently fail to pull back the reigns at the right times, even if it clear their opponent has made the necessary adjustments.
What separates them from the Tiltmonkey is that they’re not going to call a 20bb all in w Q7o, but they’re also never not check-raising their weak draws, regardless of how locked down the board might be.
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Similar to our plan against the Tiltmonkey, when playing the Aggromonkey we want to give our opponent plenty of rope with which to hang themselves.
Preflop we should look to employ a widened value 3betting range, with the exact bluffing frequency determined by each specific opponent’s tendencies. Meaning, if they are 4-bet-shoving over a lot of 3-bets, 3-bet bluffing will not be a big part of our heads-up strategy; but if they prefer to just call 3-bets in position, we can include quite a few more bluff hands into our ranges while avoiding getting too “out of line” against this otherwise aggressive opponent.
Postflop we’ll often just be planning to check-call our mediocre to good holdings all the way to the end. Against this type of player we want to make sure we never move them off their hand unnecessarily when we have value. So when the flushdraw shows up on turn and you’re holding a weak two pair, resist the impulse to check-raise and instead just sit back and wait for the Aggromonkey to blast off another buyin drawing to 4 outs.
Player Type #3) The Nit
The Nit is a player who is either way too risk-averse for the HyperTurbo SNG format or simply not educated enough in the game to understand just how disastrous waiting for a “real hand” actually is. The Nit can, and often will, stay deluded about their poker abilities for a long time while hiding in the crowd of a full-ring cash-game or tournament, but they generally don’t last long in the HyperTurbo games. They often don’t raise enough in position, they definitely don’t understand how to 3-bet properly in a heads-up game, and are always over-folding postflop (on pretty much every street). In fact, if you ever find yourself across from the table from this wonderful creature, make sure to glue your ass to a chair and keep clicking the rematch button until your fingers bleed!
- Get the hell out of the way when they’re being aggressive.
- Put max pressure on them in every single other hand.
- Play faster! Not for any of these reasons, but because we want more to see more hands against a player who is literally folding his or her money away!
Player Type #4) The ABC
The ABC player has a general understanding of what it takes to succeed in the hyperturbo games and will be generally be aggressive enough and relatively well-balanced in the most common HUHT situations (though much less so on turns and rivers). However, their primary weakness is that they are often too focused on playing their own ranges correctly and avoiding making big mistakes, as opposed to analyzing their opponent’s play and making the correct adjustments.
If the ABC player is not keeping track of what we’re doing, that’s great for us because it allows us to take some unbalanced lines without risking getting exploited. For this reason the best approach to beating an ABC player is often to do the exact opposite of what they’re doing, forgeting about protecting your own ranges (within reason) and instead focusing on attacking spots where their ranges are most vulnerable. Although in general terms that’s what we should be doing against any opponent, it is particularly useful against the ABC since only the Nit has a more “face-up” range. Selecting exactly which ranges to attack is going to be very opponent specific as their individual imbalances and weaknesses will, of course, vary widely.
Some common ABC player imbalances include:
- C-betting too frequently on dry boards like K84 and J55 without a plan of attack against anything but a fold. Calling a cbet and leading the river when they check back the turn can often be an extremely profitable play against an ABC player.
- Calling somewhat correctly on 2 streets but over-folding river. For this reason against an ABC player we should be playing our bluffs extremely aggressively on all but the worst of board.
- Conversely, playing aggressively enough on 2 streets but not following through on enough rivers. This makes it easier for us to call wide on the turn, knowing we won’t be put to too many tough decisions on the river.
- Nearly non-existent turn and river checkraise bluff range. If there are not a number of obvious drawing-hand possibilities present when the ABC player check-raises, proceed with extreme caution!
Player Type #5) Thinking Player
The Thinking Player-type pans the spectrum from recreational players who enjoy studying the game and have acquired a fair bit of knowledge through poker books, training videos, and maybe even private coaching to the “bad reg” who are essentially just the bottom x% of the reg population.
The Thinking Player has a solid grasp of their own ranges as well as how to analyze their opponents’ ranges. They will also have a decent understanding of the most common ways to adjust and adapt to different opponents and various.
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The Thinking Player is the first opponent-type where it is critical for us to maintain some semblance of balance (particularly at the mid-to-high limits) so that we don’t get exploited to death. Therefore, our gameplan against this type of opponent is to employ our default balanced strategy while systematically exploring their game for potential leaks we can exploit.
Always keep in mind that everyone is doing something wrong; and it is your job to find out what it is.
Are they Probing too often?
Not Probing often enough?
Iso-shoving too wide at shallow depths?
Not Isoing enough?
Do they over-fold vs check-raises?
Wherever the chink in their armour is, it’s on you to find it and figure out how to attack.
One of the best parts about playing a Thinking Player is that you can get a lot of information about your own play while not risking going broke like you do when playing against the Good Reg, who we’ll look at next. Therefore when we begin playing this type of opponent, it’s critical for us to study every spot we take a beating in and use that information to reverse-engineer the weaknesses in our own game. Although it never feels great, getting savaged at the table can be one of the best learning experiences for an astute and self-aware player.
Player Type #6) Good Reg
Ummm…they’re good. Really REALLY good.
Seriously though, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s not much I can outline in a couple of paragraphs that’s going to help you beat someone who’s spent the last 1-5 years of their life obsessing over every single spot you’ll ever see (remember, the HU Hyperturbo game-tree is significantly smaller than in most other formats). So unless you’re fighting to earn your seat in the lobby, playing a specialist in a format that is particularly catered to specialization is a highly -ev move.
Unlike against the Thinking Player who, although they might be able to exploit us in certain spots, gives up way too much edge in others, there is no edge to be had as an inexperienced player against a good reg, they simply know too much!
Trying to outstrategize them without a vast amount of experience of your own would be like trying to impress Harry Houdini by pulling a coin out of his ear. Or Lebron James by making a layup. Sorry guys, it’s just not going to happen. Because the truth is that only way to beat a Good Reg over the long-run, is to study your absolute ass off until you can elevate yourself to a similar level.
But hey, if you have equity and, more likely than not, money to burn and enjoy a trial by fire, by all means, set yourself ablaze. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you!
So my suggestion would be to stick to the lower limits on PokerStars, where even the “good regs” are still relatively inexperienced, until you get some solid experience and study-hours under your belt, or even consider playing on another site where the competition can often be much softer.
And on a final note, regardless of who you play, never forget the advice of one Mr. Johnny Cash
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Yaniv Son, known online by the poker moniker Sentin7, is a professional player and author with over a decade of poker experience who owns and operates the poker strategy site spinandgostrategy.com