- Heads Up Poker Strategy
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Well, that's my quick and dirty tips to heads-up limit poker and effective strategy in the game. Playing this type of 1 vs 1 poker will definitely be a difficult and struggle at first, even for the seasoned texas hold'em player, but it's a skill that becomes very valuable for almost all players, as tournament poker players benefit substantially. A winning player's heads up poker strategy consists of a malleable game plan ready to go from the onset. Solid ranges they’ve developed that they look to adjust as new information is learned about their opponent. Playing against a past challenger allows you pick-up where you left off in your previous encounter. Looking for ways to get an edge. When playing poker online in a standard single-table sit & go, for example, the payouts typically have 50 percent of the prize pool go to the winner and 30 percent to the runner-up.
If you're new to the heads up game, you can really get crushed by rushing in blindly. Proper heads up strategy is vastly different than normal No Limit Hold'em Strategy, and you need to make the correct adjustments in order to beat your opponents and make money. I recommend following the 10 tips below to help you get started and learn the basics, then read the rest of our heads up poker strategy to fine tune your game. Good luck.
Tip #1 - Open it Up
The first tip you need is to open up your starting hand ranges. Since you only have two players at the table, the average starting hand that sees the flop is going to be much worse than at a normal 9-handed table. Because of this you should open up your starting hand range.
You can't afford to wait for premium hands while playing heads up because you're in the blinds every hand. I recommend playing the majority of your hands as the big blind, and playing damn near every single hand when you're the dealer. Learn more differences between heads up and 9 handed poker.
Tip #2 - Play Your Position
Position becomes a huge factor in heads up poker, because you are either in the best position or in the worst position every hand: there is no in between. Like I mentioned before, I recommend playing every single hand when you're in dealer position. When you're the dealer, you'll post the small blind, act first preflop, and act last on the flop and beyond. When you're the small blind, you'll post the big blind, act last preflop, and act first on the flop and beyond.
Because of this, you want to be really aggressive preflop as the dealer, and raise with a wide range of hands (think any pocket pair, any suited connector, and two big cards, etc). Also, you should be more conservative as the big blind, and respect raises from the dealer.
Tip #3 - Remember Hand Values
As I mentioned in tip #1, the starting hand values go way up in heads up poker. The same goes for showdown hands. The average winning hand in heads up poker will be much worse than the average winning hand at a 9-handed game, so adjust accordingly. Even hands like middle pair or second worst pair are still decent hands and will probably win an uncontested pot, so bet them out.
Tip #4 - Semi-Bluff When Possible
Heads Up Poker Strategy
A great way to pick up a bunch of pots in heads up poker is by firing out smallish bets into un raised pots. When I'm playing heads up I like to bet a ton of flops as long as I get any piece; even a straight draw or bottom pair is worth taking a shot on the flop. If my opponent calls I'll slow down, but most passive opponents will toss basically any hand but top pair or maybe second pair to a bet.
Tip #5 - Spot Bluff Attempts
This is basically the opposite of the above tip. If you're playing an aggressive opponent, you'll have to make a stand to prevent constant semi-bluffs and preflop raises. I like to re-raise on occasion preflop, and to call the majority of the flop bets to see if my opponent will bet again on the turn and river. Even if you only have middle pair you should look him/her up to keep them honest, or he/she will continue to pummel you in every pot.
Tip #6 - Make Value Bets
This relates to tip #3 because with lower winning hands you'll have to extract value from hands you normally wouldn't. For example, when you have middle pair on the river you should bet because it is likely you're ahead and will get called by third pair or worse. Also, when you have an extremely strong hand I like to make small bets on the flop, turn, and a larger bet on the river to get maximum value out of my opponent by reeling them in.
Tip #7 - Adjust to your Opponent
Throughout the course of a heads up battle, you'll gain reads on your opponent, and he/she will gain reads on your play as well. As you pick up common plays and tendencies of your opponent, you need to make adjustments to counter their most used moves. For example, if you notice that your opponent is always checking the flop and betting the turn when he/she flops top pair, make sure to fold more on the turn if that same situation comes up.
Tip #8 - Switch up your Game
This is just the opposite of the last tip. As you're picking up reads on your opponent, he/she will be doing the same. Because of this you need to switch up your play to keep them guessing, especially if you are in a long heads up battle that spans over an hour. To keep your opponents on their toes, make sure to alternate between betting flops and checking them when you hit, and throw in an occasional strange play like a big bluff or a check-raise. Learn more about switching up your game.
Heads Up Poker Odds
Tip #9 - Be a Finisher
This is an important tip for heads up players. When you battle your opponent down to a small stack, you have to finish him/her off and not let him/her back into the match. To do this, you can't give them any easy double ups or get lazy and call off big bets. The easiest way to let a crippled opponent back into a match is to call preflop all-ins with a poor hand just to try to knock them out. Continue to play your normal game, and you'll finish them off quickly.
Tip #10 - Stick to Your Bankroll
One common mistake that new players make is playing heads up cash tables with their whole bankroll. This is a big mistake, and will almost surely leave you broke. I recommend never playing with more than 1/10th of your entire bankroll if you're a casual player, or more than 1/50th of your stack if you're a professional or serious player.
More Heads Up Poker Strategy:
Heads up poker is the purest form of the game and is one of the most profitable game types for skilled players.
Heads up poker format means that you will have to play the blind every hand and hence will have to play LOTS of hands - in some cases 100% of the hands you are dealt.
It's a high-pressure environment, that's for sure.
For a proficient player, this gives the opportunity to impost their skill set onto weaker opponents every single hand and can mean higher win-rates when compared to 6-max and full-ring games.
The key skill in heads up poker is the ability to adjust to your opponent and exploit them - that is what we will be covering in this article as we try to adjust to another professional player and target his leaks and weaknesses.
Adjusting Your Heads Up Strategy
A winning player's heads up poker strategy consists of a malleable game plan ready to go from the onset. Solid ranges they’ve developed that they look to adjust as new information is learned about their opponent.
Playing against a past challenger allows you pick-up where you left off in your previous encounter. Looking for ways to get an edge. Exactly what I was doing in a recent heads-up poker SNG tournament battle where I was pitted against a coach from Japanese poker site, www.pokertrainingjp.com.
I had won 2-1 in the previous bout of HU SNG’s, but Akinori issued a new challenge. He was keen for revenge since the games would be recorded for content on the Japanese poker training site.
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The key to defeating Akinori again was all in the adjustments. His style was ‘TAGish’ which leaves you particularly vulnerable in short-handed and heads-up games.
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My plan was an aggressive blitz. Constant aggression allowing me to win the majority of the pots. Chipping away at him until eventually, I’d finish off his dwindling stack.
This is also a very common scenario when heads-up in an MTT.
MTT poker players often lack a heads up poker skill set and are easily exploited since they aren’t used to playing the wide ranges necessary to be competitive heads-up.
Check out the video of the match and then we will discuss the strategy involved:
Heads Up Poker Strategy: Preflop Starting Ranges
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I planned to open around 5% wider than I would against a tough opponent. In hindsight, I think opening 100% of hands would have been a reasonable strategy. This would allow me to exploit his tendencies to over-fold preflop, and 3bet at a low frequency. A style which was confirmed in the replay as he made some questionable folds.
Conversely, against his open raises, I didn’t plan on folding much at all.
Versus his 2.5x open raise I was calling more than 5% wider than I would against a tougher player. The pot odds would be 2.3:1 to call. Around 30% ‘straight-up‘ equity required. When considering the all important equity realization, with some of the weakest calls in my range like 63o, I’d need to realize equity as follows;
Equity realization required = pot odds / equity = 0.3 / 0. 334 = 90%.
I was fairly confident I’d be in this vicinity given Akinori’s tendency to be a little passive post flop, especially on the later streets. This is common for a lot of ‘TAGish’ players when they get to heads-up.
They know a good strategy is to open a lot of hands preflop, but this translates to them being out of their comfort-zone on later streets when they’re frequently left with much more marginal holdings then they are used to. Typically resulting in a lot of turn and river checking.
This passivity on later streets would allow me to realize a reasonable share of my equity OOP. Again evident in the replay as some of my weaker out of position floats did get to the river where I was able to steal some nice pots (Q2, J9, etc).
Defending The Blinds Heads Up: 3betting
Part of the HU strategy to defend frequently from the big blind included 3 betting a lot.
A typical strategy might include a mix of:
- weaker suited hands,
- premium hands,
- and a mix of suited connectors mostly for board coverage protection.
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All at a frequency.
Equating to around a 15-20% sort of range spread. I planned on pushing this a bit further to 20%+ by including a mix of high-low holdings (as we saw with Q2s, J4o), and some weaker combinations at a low frequency. Aiming to profit from my opponent's over folding ways.
Key Strategies To Beating Heads Up Poker
Overall the adjustments pointed out are not huge. However, they help set the tone of the match, as well as lay the foundation for post-flop play. Increased opens, more defending from the big blind including a lot of 3 betting.
This style makes it really tough for a 'TAGish' type of opponent to get into a rhythm as it keeps them constantly under pressure. Their likely response is to attempt to steal less, which has the profitable result of allowing for more walks from the big blind.
This tough preflop play is then backed up postflop with frequent cbets and barrels, as well as a good mix of raises and floats. Which will be the topic of next article as we continue this heads-up series! Hey google download free casino slots.
What About VS Loose Heads Up Opponents?
Each type of opponent presents different challenges to overcome. Loose opponents allow you to me more patient with your offense. Reducing your bluffs whilst increasing your value bets - Since your opponent will be doing more calling.
You can 3 bet wider for value if they aren't folding to reraises preflop. Proceed post-flop by cbetting less, but look for 'thinner' value. Especially on the later streets when you have more accurately identified your opponents range.
Floating out of position which works well against tighter opponents, should be used carefully. When calling a flop cbet with a marginal hand, along with some hope of improving to the best hand, the chance to steal the pot on a later street often makes this play profitable. However loose opponents often call the river with a wide range. So bluffing in a lot of spots can be a futile play. Stick to solid holdings and contest the pot more aggressively in position.
Positional advantage offers you the opportunity to take more free cards, value bet confidently, and fire small ball bluffs. Remembers a loose opponents range will often be wide, so timely bluffs should be an important part of your strategy. Attack when their range consists of numerous weak holdings, and the board heavily favors your range. Don't push the aggression but rather look for boards that develop favorably when firing multiple bullet bluffs. Moves like this can be quite risky against a loose opponent!
Summary: Strategical adjustments made this match
Having played against my opponent previously, I'd gained a good feel for the way Akinori was playing. Overall a little too tight, in, and out of position. This provided me with an opportunity to make some adjustments to gain an edge in the match.
Starting with preflop. Raising more on the button and defending more aggressively from the big blind. Setting the tempo of the match, I kept my opponent under pressure and was clearly winning the majority of the pots. By adjusting and gaining an edge in the game, I was again able to claim a 2-1 victory in this heads up poker match.
Make sure you check out the video below for some more heads up poker strategies:
Get Access to Lesson 5.8 From the Road to Success Course which is a 45 minute video covering important heads up strategies.
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