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Heads Up Poker Strategy

Heads-Up Poker Strategy
by K. Swope of

Playing different types of poker games requires eclectic strategies, planning, knowledge, and reasoning. Becoming a quality player at Hold’em, Omaha, or Stud; however, does not mean you have mastered the ability to play any of these games in heads-up form. When a tournament reaches the final two contestants or perhaps is structured as a Heads-Up format the style in which you play any type of poker must change significantly. As a complete player you should be able to change between aggressive and passive play without allowing your opposition to notice. This is crucial in surviving when winner-takes-all and loser gets the runner-up pat on the back.

When play begins the dealer should become the small blind. This is important since the dealer will the have the benefit of acting second. On a contrasting note, most of your moves or steals will come from acting first [as the small blind] and raising the big blind since players will not cold call a raise on a garbage hand while playing out of position (or acting first post flop).

Typically, your opponents will just make feeble raises to try and muscle you into folding, but do not get caught up in playing power poker.

When playing an opponent that does not slow their aggressive style do not become agitated from losing big blinds. Wait for quality starting hands and trap these over-bettors. Once the chip lead is in your favor you can match their raises with re-raises of your own and win more pots while eating at their small stack.


It is possible, though, in heads-up play to see flops or raise pre-flop with hands that you would fold at a full table. Hands such as Ace/rag or King/rag (rag meaning anything under a ten) now hold much more power since you will start the hand with a high card. Raising pre-flop in this situation often yields good results. Also, keep in mind that any raise pre-flop grants you power over a cold calling player. If you choose to raise on garbage cards like 3-8 off-suit and the flop produces an ace it is in your best interest to make a continuation bet or follow your pre-flop raise with another bet or raise post-flop since your opponent would likely re-raise your pre-flop move if in fact they held any ace.

If the time comes that you find your way behind in the game and starving for a hand don't panic and begin rushing to push your chips into a pot. It is easy to spot players in desperation mode frantically going all-in to steal any chip they can muster. Take heed as to what level the blinds are in relation to your chip stack. If you still have seven to eight bets left your in good shape and are capable of a resurgent bounce back. However, if you notice that you are down to only three to four bets now would be the time to push all-in on any suited connectors or straight connectors you receive.

Pushing all your chips on queen or jack high is not a great decision in this position because your opponent may have you dominated and dead to three cards. Moving on lower connecting cards offers you more outs and a greater chance of having to live cards to win with instead of just one.

Heads-up play is the farthest stretch from a coin flip when determining odds of victory. Good players win and bad players lose. Aside from the inevitable moron that gets lucky if you are a bad poker player you will be a bad heads-up player and vise versa.

Remember that playing heads-up does not mean being more aggressive than your counter-part. It requires you to be more tactical and calculated choosing the proper times to attack and retreat.

Over-aggression may work for a short period of time, but eventually your opponent will adapt to all your raises and react by pushing all-in on your every attempt to steal. Out play the “fish” do not just try and out bet them.


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