Playing Heads-up Poker: Basic Strategy

So you have leaned the basics of No-Limit Hold’em and have been playing it for a while, but want to know what heads up poker is all about? Heads-up poker is the most entertaining yet the most challenging type of poker game to play today. Unlike other poker games, you cannot play multiple tables online since you will need to focus a lot on just one table. Although up to 4 tables can be managed, it is foolish to do so. Considering all this, it is advised that you learn all the basics and tricks about Heads-up poker that are there on Judi online so that you do not end up losing as you play this challenging game with other players. 

What you will learn:

  • Preflop hands to be raised
  • SB and BB advantages
  • Bankroll Management
  • Downswings and Variance Expectation
  • Key Strategy to Win every heads up poker game
  • Reading opponents.
  • Post Flop plays and tricks.

Now let’s get straight to the strategies since I assume that you already know Hold’em hands and want to move on to heads-up poker. Some very basic yet complicated strategies for a beginner include:

  • Hand Values:

In heads up the hand values jump significantly. For example, a hand like A3s can be played profitably in heads up, and the pocket pairs are always an EV+(Expected Value). It is very important for you to realize that heads up is not the same as playing in a ring game or short-handed game because here your hands are worth a lot more, so you should expect the action to be over preflop.

  • Reading Opponent:

Reading the opponent becomes more critical because you will be risking your whole stack just against one player. You will need to use the notes section offered in many online websites or a diary for offline poker to record any possible reads your opponent might be giving away. Somethings to look for: Online / Live games (Casino)

  1. (Online/Live)- How many times does the opponent raise from Small Blind and how many times does he limp. The importance of this will be discussed in later articles.
  2. (Online/Offline)- The aggressiveness level of the opponent. Some times people get over aggressive and try to push you around by raising big and think that they are a shark, but they are actually being over-aggressive which will lead to their downfall soon enough. The more aggressive the opponent, the more careful you should be with your selection of hands to raise with.
  3. Online: The time an opponent takes to raise. Raising after thinking a lot can mean a dangerous hand, likewise if the opponent moves all-in without thinking he must have a really good hand, but be careful about this since many players will try to take the same amount of time every hand whether they are thinking or not.
  4. Offline: Physical Tells like shaking of hands (Good hand), laying back in the chair(A Draw).
  5. Online: Statistics or total profits of the opponent ( Allowed by the majority of poker sites and provided by many online programs.

Now let’s get into the actual Heads-up Game.

Preflop – The best position is to be in a Small Blind, also known as SB. From SB will react after the BB (Big Blind), on the flop, turn and the river. Which is a huge advantage since you will see the opponent acting first and you will react rather than act? Many hands can be played from SB profitably. The biggest mistake many heads up players make is that they fold too many blinds. You will be either SB or BB every single hand and many times the game is about stealing the blinds.

Hands that should be raised from SB (3-4 times Big Blind) For example blinds are $3/$6, the raise will be $18-$24

  1. All pocket pairs
  2. Suited connectors can just be limped in or raised (9Ts, 89s, 78s, 45s, 34s)
  3. AX ( Any Ace with any card)
  4. K Tos+ (King with ten or plus kicker suited or unsuited)
  5. QTLs( Queen with ten or plus kicker suited or unsuited)
  6. Any other hand can be raised with the intention of stealing a BB if the opponent is tight, but generally follow the hands listed above to benefit the most.

Key to winning: Aggressiveness. The most important thing is to be aggressive. You need to control the pots, the opponent, the action and the profit.

Being aggressive is very important and most pots are taken down by semi-bluffs or pure bluffs. Here is where a lot of fish win because they are for once playing close to the right strategy unknowingly.

Preflop tips:

  1. If the opponent limped in SB, then raise them almost every time if they just limp.
  2. If the opponent is in BB, put pressure by raising 4BB if you have one of the preflop raising hands.
  3. Avoid calling All-In with two high cards, since most opponents will only go all-in with very premium hands.
  4. Slow down your aggressiveness level if the opponent shows resistance every time or calls all bluff raises.

Post Flop Strategies:

  • If the flop was raised preflop by you in SB, and it is checked by BB then bet again and try to take the pot down. (This will take the pot down enough to compensate for the times it doesn’t work).

Mathematics behind strategy#1-

let’s assume the blinds are 5/10. You raise 4x preflop with AJ, opponent calls. The pot is $80, you bet $60 and opponent folds 3 times you do this. Which makes you have $240 if done three times successfully. Then one time the opponent raises you back. You lost $140 pot. So now you are up to $100 in total pot winnings (Not net profit). For this strategy to make you the maximum earnings, it has to work 1 in 4 times, which it will in the long run.

  • If there was no raise preflop, and you hit something in BB. You should bet 2/3 of the bet. Do not slow play a pair because it will very likely be drawn on a lot of times.
  • Fold if on the flop, the opponent bets in BB, and after you raise him back with a good hand, he re-raises you. A re-raise is very dangerous and a hand should be played down if it is not a top pair medium kicker.

Types of hands to be played post-flop.

  1. Two pairs, Pair, 3 of a kind, medium pair with a high kicker, flush draws, overpairs should be bet on the flop.
  2. Top hands such as 4 of a kind, the straight flush can be slow-played down to the river, or over betting the pot if the opponent is a maniac.
  3. Betting with absolutely nothing in SB when it is checked to you.
  4. A pair should be bet almost every time!

These are some tips that should serve as guidelines for low stake heads up players. If these strategies are followed, then they will pay off huge.

Downswings and Bankroll Management

In heads up poker, downswings are huge and the variance is great. You should expect to lose your whole stack when at a table due to the luck factor of poker. For downswings to not be a pain you need a solid Bankroll Management. General rule

For Sit and Go’s – Have 50x Buy in. So for a $5 heads up match ( Have $250)

For Heads up Cash Games – Have 20 stacks for the blind ( If you take $600 to 3/6 table, then you should have $600×20= $12000

* Remember that Cash Games downswings are a lot worse and need a more conservative Bankroll Management. You need money to earn money in poker, and you won’t be able to make any if you go broke by a bad beat.

Follow the above strategies to start polishing your heads up game. There are more advanced articles but read them only if you can use these strategies with ease.