Puzzling with Heads-Up Zoom

When I came back home from Vegas last week, I opened the PokerStars lobby and couldn't help but notice the increased number of available Zoom poker tables. Heads-up Zoom was now available, so I just had to give this a try and jump right into the cold water head-first!

The pools are not very large as of now, but that actually comes in quite handy as it is a bit
easier to collect reads. I had a lot of fun during my first couple of test runs and was actually
quite successful:

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HU Zoom has quite a unique feel and dynamic to it that needs to be experienced and explored all by yourself. I used it as yet another opportunity to work on my heads-up game and had a lot of fun doing so.

As it is the case with all Zoom and regular table cash games HU Zoom has its advantages and disadvantages. What I really like about it is that you can just jump right in and play a long session without worrying about getting enough action. You are being put up against everyone who is willing to play HU and will be facing a new challenge in every hand. On the other hand, it becomes tougher to build up an individual dynamic and history with a single opponent, which in turn makes it tougher to collect reads.

However, I do find this form of poker to be very enjoyable and convenient. It feels like I'm
trying to solve a new puzzle every hand while looking for the missing pieces all over the place over a longer period of time.

Here's a sample hand from my database with some of my ideas and approaches to solving such a HU puzzle:

Had I played this exact same hand in a 6-max or full ring cash game, I would probably have leaned towards folding the turn according to Baluga theorem. Here it's different: The villain is a regular, has position and we have deep stacks in a heads-up situation which may cause him to be defending with a very wide range of hands pre-flop. On an innocuous flop. I c-bet and get called, which both don't look like much of strong plays for both parties. Turn brings a straightening card and a possible flush draw. I bet again, looking stronger now, and villain puts in a fearless min-raise. Although this turn may well help the caller more than the aggressor, he only represents a very small assortment of strong hands like slow-played 4x, 55, 77 or 86.

On the contrary he may well have picked up a hand like a pair plus a draw and decided to put more pressure on me with a well-timed semi-bluff. Once I call his turn-raise and the river brings a blank to all the drawing hands, he may figure that his mediocre showdown value won't be enough, so he decides to bet big again.

The key for me is to begin with the puzzle at a corner, not anywhere in the middle. The best corner to start with is pre-flop - and this is where people have the widest possible ranges in a heads-up situation.

I will have this fun format on my playing schedule for the upcoming days and weeks as it not only keeps my poker brain rotating, but also makes for a refreshing change from a grinder's daily routine.