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The reasons why everyone is obsessing about Heads-up poker

There’s nothing quite like exciting heads-up poker whether its high-stakes online games, NBC’s Heads-Up Championship, or simply the final two contestants at each year’s World Series of Poker Main Event.

After all, with its lightning-fast pace, deep poker psychology, and wild bankroll swings, there’s nothing not to like. But how exactly do you play heads-up poker? And what is the best heads up poker strategy for maximizing your earnings at the table (or at the very least, not blowing your whole roll while trying out this exciting format)? Let’s take a look.

What Is Heads Up Poker?

Heads-up poker is a format of poker that is played between two players only. Although the name can apply to the final stage of a multi-table or larger Sit and Go tournament, it is most commonly used when discussing a game run specifically for exactly two players, be it in a cash game or SNG style.

Does heads up poker require more strategy?

Although some players may argue that heads-up poker doesn’t necessarily require more strategy but rather just a different type, the truth is most players would get destroyed if they sat across the table from a skilled heads-up player for a 1-on-1 matchup. That’s because players specializing in heads-up play have not only been actively involved in more pots than full cash game or tournament players will in a lifetime, they’ve likely faced nearly every opponent type possible and have built an incredible arsenal of strategies and counter strategies to optimize their play against each specific one. So, heads up poker strategy is required even more.

How to play heads up poker.

Speaking of adjusting to your opponents, although playing every single hand is not generally recommended in heads-up poker, at least not against competent players, there may be certain situations (like facing an overly tight player who does not understand the need for increased aggression in this poker format) where playing every hand can be a profitable strategy. Most commonly though, one should aim to play no fewer than 75%-80% of hands in a heads up poker game, with many heads-up professionals playing closer to 90% of hands.

Should you play every hand in heads up poker?

Speaking of adjusting to your opponents, although playing every single hand is not generally recommended in heads-up poker, at least not against competent players, there may be certain situations (like facing an overly tight player who does not understand the need for increased aggression in this poker format) where playing every hand can be a profitable strategy. Most commonly though, one should aim to play no fewer than 75%-80% of hands in a heads up poker game, with many heads-up professionals playing closer to 90% of hands.

Dont Play Every Single Hand In Heads-Up Poker

Who is small blind in heads up poker?

In heads-up poker, the player that is the button will post the small blind while the player opposite of the button will post the big blind.

How do blinds work in heads up poker?

As mentioned, in heads-up poker, the button will always post the small blind, while their opponent will post the big blind. After the flop, the player who was the big blind will act first (aka be ‘out of position’ or OOP), and the one who was the small blind will act second (aka be ‘in position’ or IP). When the hand ends, the positions of the blinds and the button will switch, making the player who was the big blind the hand before the small blind and button now. In heads-up poker, the button acts first preflop and last postflop.

How do you deal heads up holdem?

In heads up hold em, the first card is always dealt to the big blind, the second to the small blind (or button), the third to the big blind again, and the fourth to the small blind once more. Preflop, the small blind will act first, while the big blind will act first on the flop, turn, and river.

What is a heads up poker tournament?

A heads-up poker tournament features just two players per table, with many tables running simultaneously. Each round, the two players at every table battle one another until one of them has amassed every chip in play. Then, each table winner is reshuffled and placed against another table winner for another winner-take-all battle. This process repeats as many times as necessary until there is just a single remaining player, who is crowned the heads-up poker tournament champion.

How to play heads up online poker with my friends

To play heads-up online poker with friends, you simply need to select a site that offers heads up games and coordinate with your friend which table you would like to sit at. Just make sure to time your registration well if you’re planning to play sit and gos, as anyone can hop into the action if only one of you has registered. Note this is not a problem at cash game tables, where you can simply sit out until your preferred matchup is present.

Heads-Up Poker With Friends

How do you win heads up poker?

According to heads up hold’em rules, the only way to win a heads-up poker tournament or SNG is to collect every single chip at the table, for as many tables as there are. Alternatively, when playing a heads-up cash game, there is no ‘winner’ per se as either opponent has the option to stand up and quit the game at any point of the match.

What hands should you play heads up?

This is a complicated question with far too many variables in strategy for the scope of this heads-up poker introduction. However, in general, the answer to how many hands you should play in a heads up poker game is…… more! This is especially true in tournaments and sit and go’s (as opposed to cash games), where ever-increasing blind levels necessitate heightened aggression.

Generally speaking, in an online heads up poker match, you want to play all but the very worst hands (think J2o, 93o, 62o etc) from the small blind, equating to about 85%-95% of all starting hands. And you’ll want to go a little tighter when in the big blind, perhaps reducing the percentages to around 80%-85% of hands. However, the key to success in heads up poker is undoubtedly adjusting to your opponents, so if you’re playing an overly-tight cash game player who isn’t well versed on heads up hand selection, playing 100% of hands can be an option. But when playing a super savvy heads-up regular, you may want to tighten those ranges by 10%-20%, particularly out of position.

Who makes the first bet in heads up poker?

When it comes to official heads up poker rules, the first bet goes to the button/dealer/small blind when playing preflop, and to the big blind when playing post flop.

Where can I play heads up poker online?

Although the exact offerings might be slightly different depending on the platform, pretty much all online poker rooms will offer some version of heads-up poker, be it cash games, sit and go tournaments, or even multi-table tournaments. Additionally, many rooms will have heads up sit and go’s of varying speeds (deepstack, regular, turbo, hyperturbo) to allow you to focus on the format that works best for your unique poker style.

What hands are good in heads up holdem?

Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good answer as every hand can be valuable in heads-up hold em depending on the opponent and situation. However, when considering 3-betting from the big blind (an issue many inexperienced heads up poker players struggle with at first), consider composing your range from a mix of premium hands, weaker suited hands, and some middle-of-the-road suited connectors that will give you board-coverage protection. This means your opponent will need to fear all post-flop board types as opposed to just the ones that work with premium/weak holdings.

Do you make the most playing online heads up poker?

Although games can sometimes be tough to come by depending on each site’s heads up traffic, heads up poker, particularly heads-up holdem hyperturbo sit and go’s, have consistently turned out the biggest winners in online poker, making it the perfect game for players looking for a format that is as exciting as it is challenging.

Play More Hands On The Button

What are the most important heads up poker tips?

  • Play more hands on the button. As discussed above, the heads up poker format is one that requires a wider range of hands than any other format. Therefore, make sure to open up your game by playing nearly every hand when in position.
  • Defend more in the big blind. Similarly, knowing that your opponents will likely be playing very wide ranges from the button, it is paramount that you widen the range of hands you defend with from the big blind with a strong mix of calling, 3-betting (reraising), and isolating (raising preflop when your opponent just calls the big blind).
  • Stay aggressive post-flop. One of the biggest mistakes a beginner heads-up poker player makes is not recognizing that increased aggression preflop requires similarly aggressive action post-flop. Imagine how easy it would be to play against an opponent who always played their cards before the flop but then shut down post-flop or gave up at the first sign of resistance. We have a name for this type of player: loose-passive, and it’s one of the quickest ways to blow your roll, so make sure you remain aggressive throughout the entire hand.
  • Call down light until your opponent gives you a reason to stop. Another mistake new heads up players make is failing to realize just how difficult it is to make a strong hand in poker and overfolding post-flop against aggressive action. Avoid this common error by not giving your opponent too much credit for made hands when you’re holding one with decent showdown value, at least not until they’ve proven themselves to be on the tighter side of the player pool.
  • Adjust, adjust, adjust. On a related note, always keep in mind that, more than any other poker format, heads-up poker is all about adjusting to your opponents’ tendencies. So, while it may be fun to blast away in every pot, or hero-call every all-in hoping to catch your opponent running a huge bluff, the key is to use the early moments of a heads up matchup to analyze your opponent’s playing style and strategy. How often are they opening from the button? How often are they defending from the big blind? When they enter a pot, how often are they continuation betting on the flop? What about the turn and river? How often are they folding to big bets? Small bets? How light are they calling double and triple barrels (when you bet either the flop and turn or the flop, turn, and river)? These are all important questions (as well as about a thousand more) that you’ll need to become nearly automatic at assessing in the early stages of a heads up match if you’d like to build the type of edge the game’s top players enjoy.
  • Understand variance, avoid tilt. This is perhaps more important than anything else. Make sure you understand that although heads-up poker may have relatively low variance over a long-enough timeline, when it comes to the day-to-day, particularly in the turbo and hyperturbo SNG formats, the swings can be brutal. So, if you’d like to take your heads up poker game to the next level and avoid blowing up your roll, make sure to accept each result as it comes and use every match as an opportunity to learn and grow, regardless whether you win, lose, suckout, or get sucked out on.

Remember to have fun. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?!

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