What Is The Isolation Play?
The isolation play is simply that: a poker moves that isolates your hand against just one opponent. When you make a bet so big (usually moving all-in) after at least one other play is pot committed (or all-in), your bet is attempting to get other players to fold and gets you heads-up or "isolated" against that one pot committed opponent.
When To Use The Isolation Play
An isolation play is best when you have a hand that does better heads up, like pocket pairs. When you raise as an isolation play you need to make a large enough bet to force other players to fold.
An isolation play can be also be used to isolate a bluffer, a maniac, or a player on a draw.
Examples of Isolation Plays
In the middle to late stages of a tournament, use the isolation play with small to middle pocket pairs.
You have pocket 8's in middle position. It is late in the tournament. The blinds are $3,000-$6,000. You have $100,000. A player in early position with $20,000 moves all-in. A second player, with $120,000, calls this raise. What should you do?
You don't want to call since you would have to beat both players with your medium pocket pair. Since the second player did not re-raise, you can assume that his hand is not strong. The isolation play will get you heads-up against the all-in player...unless the caller is trying a trap with pocket Aces.
You have pocket 3's. It is the middle of the tournament. The blinds are $500-$1,000. You have $22,000, and are in the big blind. Everyone folds to the button. The player on the button only has $2,000, and moves all-in. The small blind, with $18,000, calls for half a bet. What should you do?
Again, calling is not a good play since you have to beat two players with a small pair. You want to isolate yourself against the all-in player.
The isolation play is an excellent play since it shows strength and usually forces other opponents to fold. By competing against one opponent with a hand increases your chances of taking down the pot significantly. It can be a risky play, but winners take smart risks.