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STT Strategy

  Surviving till the heads-up stages of a STT is one thing, winning one is a different matter altogether. The long term problem with STTs is, that they tend to break even. Even if you're a good poker player and you know correct STT strategy by heart, sometimes cards just don't go your way, and you end up with a few non-money finishes. A streak like that is very unpleasant – to say the least – for your bankroll, and it can set it back considerably.

This way, even if you do manage to squeeze in several money finishes and a few wins, you'll end up even, with tons of time wasted on the game. Since the object of poker is to win money, breaking even like that is the equivalent of losing because the time that you invest into the game is a valuable commodity too. The answer to beating this break-even syndrome is to win more tournaments. If you're the kind of player who reaches the heads-up stage often but loses more times than wins once there, you need to seriously consider doing something about it, because coming in second is costing you a lot of money in the long-run.

 Before we move on to actual heads-up strategy, there's one thing you need to know. In online STTs, the final stages of the game are turned into a coin-toss kind of situation by the escalating blinds.

Basically, sometimes, even if you do everything right you end up losing. That however, is no reason to give up on the EV+ and stop trying to force the coin-flip your way. The good old healthy EV+ exploitation is the game you should play in heads-up too. The difference is, that once there's only one guy left at the table to confront you, you need to redefine EV+ completely, as far as the relative strength of your starting hands and showdown hands goes.

 You know that in short handed games, starting hand values get a significant boost. Hands that you wouldn't play in a full game suddenly turn into reasonable calls. Well, in a heads-up game, you need to take this concept one step further. Starting hands like A,xo become good choices for an all-in. In the heads up stage, you shouldn't really fondle about with small bets because any sort of action will get you pot committed almost instantly, and thus you'll end up having to push all-in anyway. Pocket pairs (regardless of how high they are) become monsters. Pushing all-in on one of these is only natural.

 Regardless of whether you were a "farmer" or a "fox" in the earlier stages of the tournament, you need to loosen up and turn into a lean-mean bully. Given the circumstances, either you or your opponent will end up bullying the other guy around anyway, so you might as well be the one in control. Do not let the pressure off your opponent. Continue with your steal attempts, and let him know he's dealing with a real maniac.

Make full use of your position, and adopt a two-step strategy: first, build up your heads-up image. You can do that by just following the above recommendations. Never let the pressure up, and make him think you'd raise or go all-in on just about any two rags. Once there, you can begin trying to trap him. Try to get him all-in on a hand in which you know you have EV+. If you successfully pass as a maniac, sooner or later you'll get him all-in in a situation in which you know you can get the better of him.

That way, the decision won't have to be a coin-flip, but rather a 60-40% or even a 55-45% one. You probably won't be able to get him in on a 90-10% unless he's a complete newbie who got that far on account of blind luck alone.