More Holdem Basics – Isolation Play

This article was posted on July 12, 2013

Becoming a successful poker player is a complex journey with a truly lofty destination indeed. While we cannot hope to single-handedly get you there, what we can do for you is to provide a set of basic tools through which they will be able to better yourself as a poker player and to add enjoyment to the time you spend at the online poker tables. One of the basic Holdem strategy moves is the isolation play. The isolation play refers to the re-raising of initial raiser in order to get all the other players out of the way and to essentially remain heads up with the initial raiser. What is the logic behind the isolation play? By isolating a single opponent you will automatically radically increase your odds because instead of going up against 3-4 more starting hands, your starting hand will only have to beat a single pocket hand.

The isolation play is extremely useful in several situations. If you are a poker tournament player, and if you're familiar with the Harrington system, you have probably already studied short-stacked play quite extensively. One of the basic recommendations to tournament short stacks is that they should never ever get the last of their chips into the middle against several opponents. The best chance they stand to double up is to push all-in against a single opponent.

By isolating an opponent, you will not only increase the mathematical odds associated with your starting hand, you will also secure position over your opponent, an advantage that you’ll be able to use to take the pot down past the flop.

The isolation play can be applied in tournaments as well as in cash games. The most frequent targets of isolation play in tournaments are short-stacked players. It is common sense for someone aiming to push the short stack over the edge, to get everyone else out of the way, in order to maximize his odds, even though in this case the odds of the short-stack will also improve.In cash games, isolation play is an excellent way to neutralize limpers and maniacs.

Like every other Holdem strategy concept, the isolation play only works when the person employing the strategy understands exactly what he/she sets out to accomplish through it, and when he/she understands the nature of the opposition he/she is trying to isolate.


The classical isolation move is performed against tournament short stacks. Just imagine the following scenario: you're involved in a hand in which the cutoff is seriously short stacked. When the action folds around to him, he decides to make a move and he pushes all in. You're sitting on the button with an A,Jo, and you know the player you're targeting is not a bad player. He understands what it's like to play short-stacked and he is willing to take chances on marginal hands, especially when the majority of the table is already out of the equation. It is obvious that if you just call, you will give the two blinds the chance to make the call as well with reasonable pot odds. While such a course of action would draw two more players into the pot and thus it would deal the short stack’s odds quite a major blow, your priority is to watch out for Mr. Number One, which means you should definitely raise in order to get the two blinds out of the way. This way, you will be in a much better position to score a knockout blow.

The reason why you're looking to isolate maniacs in cash games is a no-brainer. You want to allow yourself to be able to keep that guy honest because he's obviously playing a much too large range of starting hands way too aggressively. By getting the other players out of the way, you will be able to ensnare the maniac and to make him pay for his mathematically incorrect moves. The logic is the same behind isolation play when the target is a limper.

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