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How to Beat Passive Heads Up Poker Players

An important skill that all successful players must have is the ability to "classify" or "label" their opponents. Although every player will be unique in some way from the next guy, labeling players will at least give you some sort of idea or direction as to what strategy you should start with first. From there you just make adjustments.

This is going to be especially true in heads up matches. You're involved in every hand. The longer it takes you to figure out what kind of opponent you're up against, the more mistakes you can make thus resulting in more potential money lost.

So with that being said, in this article I'm going to explain how to classify loose passive opponents. More specifically, I'll show the differences between a loose passive and tight passive player and the different adjustments you should make depending on which one you're up against.

Playing Heads Up Vs Loose Passive Opponents

It's not very hard to identify a loose passive player. These guys are also known as "calling stations" or just "stations" for short. So as you can imagine, these guys like to call often and will do so with no real hand or draw to speak of.

Because they never fold, stations can be somewhat tilting to play against. But like any other opponent, it's important that you understand what their tendencies are like so you can figure out what adjustments you need to make. I've outlined a few already below for you.

Don't Bluff

This is pretty generic advice. After all, if a player won't fold, what good does it do to bluff? But it goes a bit deeper than that.

For example, many players don't look at their preflop opening range. Verses some players, you can open up really wide, sometimes as wide as 100% of hands. You do this because you expect your opponents to fold allowing you to steal the blinds. However, verses stations this is a bad idea. Stealing in this case is essentially "bluffing" if you don't really want to play your hand and/or it has no showdown value.

Continuation betting is another good example of this. I think many players will just c-bet because it's their standard flop play. But, again, often times this is done with a hand that missed the flop aka a bluff. If your opponent won't fold, then c-betting is going to be a waste of time and resources more times than not.

In short, trying to bluff a station, whether it's stealing preflop, c-betting, double or triple barreling, is going to be a bad idea.

Need to Value Bet Thin

We know that stations like to call and are capable of making light calls with hands like bottom pair or ace high. So it would only make sense that we should be able to bet hands like 2nd or 3rd pair for value verses these players. This is known as a thin value bet or value betting thinly.

Now, this doesn't mean we make smaller bet sizes (if anything, we can almost make them bigger). All it means is that we bet marginal hands for value because there is still worse that can call us.

A good example of a thin value bet would be a hand that you just check behind to a tight player because it has showdown value. Say you have second pair with A8o on a flop of K-8-5. If you c-bet and were called, you'd likely check back the turn and river. You have showdown value and not much worse can call you. But verses a station, you can still bet this second pair for value because a pair of 5s will call, as well as pocket 4s or below.

Avoid Hero Calling

Here calling is a term used for making thin or marginal calls. Verses aggressive players hero calling is necessary because they like to bluff frequently. So you need to adjust and make lighter calls.

But verses a calling station this is a bad idea. The reason being is that the tendency or characteristic of a calling station is to call, not bet or raise. When they do, they likely have the very best of their overall range - this likely beats you. So if you're bet into or raised on the river, it's probably a good idea to fold all of your marginal hands.

Playing Heads Up Vs Tight Passive Opponents

Tight passive players are known in most circles as "rocks." These players are easy to spot because they fold all but the very best of hands, don't defend their blinds and don't raise very often.

Here are some adjustments you should make when facing a tight aggressive opponent.

Open a Wider Range of Hands Preflop

Against a tight passive player, you can often times open as wide as 100% of hands preflop. Tight passive players don't defend their blinds aggressively enough and as a result, you pick up many uncontested pots. These pots are small since they only consist of the blinds, but it all adds up.

C-bet Frequently

Now, even if you are called preflop while holding something as trashy as 93o, you can still easily win the pot. Just make a continuation bet of about half the pot or so and you'll most often take it down. This works so well because rocks play what is referred to as "fit or fold" poker. They either make a hand and continue or they don't and fold.

Donk Bet

For the same reason as why you should c-bet frequently, you should donk bet. A donk bet is a bet made when you don't have initiative in the pot and/or are the first to act post flop.

The best flops to donk bet are going to be high card, uncoordinated and/or rainbow. It's just so unlikely that your opponent will connect on these kinds of textures that you should get folds more often than not.

Summary of How to Play Heads Up Against Passive Players

The first step to playing profitably against passive players is to determine whether they're loose or tight. As you can see from the advice above, the strategy is quite a bit different depending on which player you're playing against. But once you're able to do that, it's simply a matter of employing a strategy and making needed the adjustments to suit your particular opponent.

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