Texas Holdem Poker Heads Up Rules

A Stripper Stack for Heads-Up Texas Hold’em. Currently, the most popular form of poker is Texas Hold’em, which has quite a different format to straight poker. Two face down hole cards are dealt to each player, then between rounds of betting, five communal cards are dealt face up on to the table. Ultimate Texas Hold’em is played with a standard deck of 52 cards. To begin the hand, the dealer places five cards, known as the community cards, face down on the table. Each player and the dealer are dealt two cards. Players look at their cards and make a decision to check or raise the ante bet. Texas Hold'em No-limit and pot-limit games, without exception. In limit games, when there are three or more players involved and all players have not gone all-in, games with two betting rounds (draw or lowball) will allow a bet, plus four raises. In a game which involves three or more betting rounds, the maximum raises allowed are three.

Heads-Up Rules for Texas Hold’em Poker

Heads Up in NL Holdem – How to do it Right. 7 Most Common Suckouts in Texas Hold’em. The ‘Any Ace’ Concept. You may have heard that you will want to raise with any ace in heads-up play. The reason behind this is that most heads-up battles will be a battle of two random cards.

Heads up Texas Holdem is one of the most fun, challenging and misunderstood variations of holdem. The thrill of playing a friend or foe in a battle of heads up holdem is unmatched in all of poker. Is he bluffing? Does he have the nuts? Should I value bet my second pair? Well, I will not get ahead of myself just yet. Before you can play Texas Holdem heads up against an opponent, you have to know the rules, right?

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Texas Holdem Heads Up Rules – Button Position

Without a doubt, the single heads-up rule that creates the most confusion is who has the button and who has which blinds?

The first thing that confuses people is that the rules are different if you are playing at certain online poker site or playing live poker. It doesn’t make any sense, but some online poker rooms started setting the blinds backwards from what was generally accepted in live heads-up poker games for decades. I am going to explain the heads up rules for live poker for the sake of simplicity. The following Heads-up Texas Holdem rules apply to both tournaments and cash games.

Proper Preflop Head-Up Blinds Setup:

Heads-up Button Position and Dealing:

  • The button has the small blind when playing Texas Holdem heads up.
  • The person who is the dealer has the button and also posts his/her small blind. This means that the other player (without the button) is the big blind.
  • The small blind acts first on the first round of betting before the flop (pre-flop).
  • The dealer (button) deals the small blind the first card, and the second card to the other player (big blind). Deal the 3rd (total) card to the small blind and the last card to the other player. This leaves each player with two hole cards and the first round of pre-flop betting can begin.

Heads-up Pre-flop Betting:

  • The small blind can fold, call or raise.
  • If the small blind just calls, then the big blind (non-button player) can either check and see the flop, or raise.

Texas Holdem Poker Heads Up Rules How To Play

All Other Rounds:

  • The flop is dealt (3 cards).
  • The person who was big blind pre-flop is first to act on the flop. (In case you forgot, this is the player who does NOT have the button – the button acts last on all streets except pre-flop.)
  • The player who is first to act can bet or check. If that player checks, the button can then bet or check.
  • If both players check, then the dealer deals the turn.
  • Repeat the betting sequence for the turn and the river. (the 5th card)
  • After all rounds of betting are complete, both players show their hands and the person with the best hand wins!

Now wasn’t that fun?!? If you think you got the hang of Texas Holdem heads up rules or you would just like to practice for free or for real money, I would suggest downloading Full Tilt Poker. Full Tilt is the poker room I rate the highest for heads up play. There are at least one hundred Texas Holdem heads up tables available 24/7.

Stripper Stacks

Strippers are cards that are shaped in such a way as to allow them to be easily controlled by pulling them out of the deck, no matter where they are located.

Texas Holdem Poker Heads Up Rules Card Game

A stripper stack uses this concept, along with carefully chosen cards, to enable a cheat to easily stack the deck in their favour.

A well known example of a stripper stack is the ten-card poker deal, which is a concept often used by magicians.

The Ten-Card Poker Deal

The ten-card poker deal came from the card table; it originally used nine cards and was specifically designed for a 5-card straight poker heads-up scenario.

The cheat would take nine cards from the deck, and cut them in such way that they could be stripped out when required.

In play, after the mark had shuffled, the deck would be passed to the cheat to be cut. The cheat would use the motion of cutting the cards to strip out the nine target cards and place them on top.

The result of this would be that the nine cards are dealt between the two players, with the mark’s final card being a random card from the deck.

The nine cards consisted of three sets of three-of-a-kind, which we will denote A, B, and C.

So the nine cards are: AAABBBCCC. As such there are a relatively small number of possible outcomes:

Blackjack traders ltd. The table shows the probabilities that either party will win, given the way the nine cards come out, and whether the random card is helpful to the mark or not.

In most cases the random card is not useful, and the cheat will win. But occasionally the random card will improve the marks hand, and in some cases that may be enough to beat the cheat.

Overall, the cheat will win 96.01% of the time, whereas the mark will only win 3.99% of the time.

The advantages of this particular method of cheating, are that

  • It only requires a single “cut” type action, which is built into the game’s procedure,
  • It’s done on the opponent’s deal,
  • It has a very high success rate.

The main disadvantage is that it requires stripped cards, which need to be put into the game somehow.

Getting Strippers into the Game

Cutting cards to make strippers is not generally something that can be done at the table, which leaves three options:

  • Making sure the deck in play has already had the cards doctored
  • Switching the deck or the required cards during play
  • Cutting the cards from the deck in-play

The first method could be achieved by stocking the local shop with a large number of doctored decks and then insisting that a new deck is purchased before the game begins. Another method would be to have an accomplice who pretends to purchase a deck, but in fact just provides a prepared deck.

Alternatively, the deck could be switched before the game; again with an accomplice that has access to where the decks are stored.

A deck switch could also be done by the cheat during the game, either when they handle the cards to deal, or when given the cards for a cut. In some cases an accomplice may be used to provide a distraction whilst the decks are switched.

Depending on the style of strippers used, it may actually be only the target cards that need to be gimmicked. In this case they could be slowly switched out, one at a time, throughout the night as game play continues.

Finally, the cards in play could be cut, which would require stealing them from the deck, taking them somewhere private to put the work in, and then reintroducing them back into the pack.

A Stripper Stack for Heads-Up Texas Hold’em

Currently, the most popular form of poker is Texas Hold’em, which has quite a different format to straight poker.

Two face down hole cards are dealt to each player, then between rounds of betting, five communal cards are dealt face up on to the table. The players must make the best 5-card hand using their hole cards and the communal cards.

The aim would be to find a set of cards that can be stripped to the top in a single cutting action, and provide a high win rate, when playing heads-up Texas Hold’em.

The introduction of communal cards means that in many cases the winning hand is not decided until the final card comes down. This means that, selecting a set of 11 cards, such that the river card is random, makes the final result highly variable. So this is not a particularly effective strategy.

If the rules were loosened slightly to allow two ‘moves’, then 7 cards of one suit could be stripped to the top in the first action, and the ace of that suit stripped to the top in a second action. So, instead of ensuring that the mark is dealt a bad card, it’s ensured that the cheat is dealt a good card. In this case, both players would make a flush, and the cheat would win with the ace. This scenario produces a 100% probability of the cheat winning, as the ace high flush can’t be beaten, regardless of which cards are dealt on the turn or the river. However, there is the risk that the cards the mark ends up with are not good enough for them to want to bet on; so whilst the cheat will still win the hand, it may not be the biggest pot.

An alternative would be only controlling the hole cards, risking the fact that the 5 communal cards could completely change the winning hand.

By stripping three aces to the top on the mark’s deal, the cheat will ensure a pair of aces for themselves and the mark will be dealt at least one ace.

There are two advantages to this; firstly, giving the mark an ace may entice them to stay in the hand longer, giving the cheat the opportunity to win more. Secondly, the cheat holds the other two aces, which makes it unlikely that the mark will pair their ace. Furthermore, if the mark makes a hand with their ace, then in many cases the cheat will at least be able to equal the hand, and in some cases beat it.

To illustrate this advantage, the cheat’s pair of aces against any other two random cards, gives the cheat a win rate of 84.93%, the chances of drawing are 0.54%, and losing is 14.52% [results from wizardofodds.com]. Whereas, when the cheat’s aces are up against an ace and any other card, the cheat’s win rate is increased to 88.67%, the chances of drawing is increased to 3.17%, and crucially the probability of losing is now only 8.15% [results calculated with the help of cardplayer.com]. So by giving the mark an ace, the cheat’s chances of winning are increased, as is the chance of the mark making a bet.

Whilst this 88.67% probability of winning is not as high as 96.01% for the straight poker game, or the 100% for the flush scenario, it is still gives a reasonably high guaranteed edge.

To take this further, in The Mathematics of Poker, by Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman, a near optimal strategy is given for heads-up play when both player’s stacks are less than 50 big blinds. This strategy suggests that the only two moves in this scenario should be to jam or fold. The details of this strategy are described by a table, which give all possible hole card combinations, and assigns each a value. For the attacker, this value is the stack size in big blinds at which your play should switch from fold to jam. A second table is given for the defender, which dictates at what stack size their strategy should switch from fold to call.

When heads-up it’s common for the order of play to change. In standard multiway tables the player to the left of the dealer posts the small blind, the next player puts up the big blind, and the next player is the first to act. In this manner when heads-up, the dealer would put in the big blind and their opponent would act first. However, the change in play for heads-up means that the dealer acts first and their opponent puts in the big blind.

As the cheat is stripping the cards on the mark’s deal, then if the special heads-up order of play is enforced, the cheat is considered the defender. Whereas, if this change of play is not introduced, then the cheat would be considered the attacker.

Whilst the jam-fold strategy was developed for the alternate heads-up order of play, with the dealer acting first, results were calculated considering the cheat as both the attacker and the defender.

The following graph shows the cheat’s probability of success for a given opponent’s stack size. Where success would mean that the mark did not fold, and the pocket aces won the hand.

The cheat’s actions are clear, with their aces, they should jam if they are the attacker or call if they are the defender. However, the mark’s actions will depend on their stack size and what random card they get with their ace.

The graph shows that the cheat is more likely to succeed if they are the defender, which suggests that the alternate heads-up order of play is beneficial for this method of cheating.

As an example, if the mark has a stack of 40 big blinds, then there is a 60.64% chance of the mark going all-in and the cheat winning the pot.

For a 50% or greater probability of success, the cheat should use this technique when their opponent has less than 42.6 big blinds in their stack. Or 29.2 big blinds if the alternate heads-up order of play is not used and the cheat is the attacker.

Texas Hold'em Heads Up Rules


The nine-card poker deal was designed for a game of straight poker, and gave the cheat a 96.01% chance of winning the pot. The required cards could be stripped out in a single cutting action, meaning that the play would take place on the mark’s deal.

Applying the same methodology to the game of Texas Hold’em is made more difficult with the introduction of communal cards. But by stripping only three aces, a similar outcome can be achieved; although the win rate drops to 88.67%.

Furthermore, using the near-optimal jam-fold strategy when the players are down to less than 50 big blinds, the cheats probability of success can be determined. These results suggest that the cheat has a greater than 50% success rate when their opponent has a stack of 42.6 big blinds or less.

As a final thought, after the mark calls all-in and the cards are flipped over, they will likely realise that they are a severe underdog. This opens up the opportunity for making a deal and potentially dividing up the pot in a cash game, or deciding finishing positions and prize money splits in a tournament. Making a deal negates the risk of running the board and losing, for both players.

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