Heads up cash games are very popular online. The come in a variety of different formats and can be played at various stakes usually all the way up to $50/$100 and even higher, although you will find that most of the heads up action is focused around the low to mid stakes tables even though the rake playing low stakes heads up cash games online can be pretty brutal.
The best heads up cash games players don’t just know how to play their two hole cards extremely well. They also know when and when not to bluff, and pay careful attention to the sizing of bets and their opponent’s tendencies.
Heads up is such a complex form of poker, so you will need to be patient if you have hopes of improving your game to become one of the best players at the stakes you’re playing. Considering that players are playing with wider ranges, this means you will be playing marginal hands much more often. However, you will need to adjust your hand values as well, it’s hard to make a pair in hold’em, and since you’re playing against just a single opponent, any pair after the flop is usually going to be the best hand, and you will need to make your opponent pay to out-draw you. The more experienced you become, the more confidence you’ll have in your decisions and playing weak made hands like middle or bottom pair.
Position is crucial when you’re playing heads up and being aggressive in position is even more important. When playing from the button, you have position and by virtue of this you will have more information than your opponents, and if you feel that your opponent is weak you will be able to pick up a lot of pots uncontested even when you don’t have much of a hand.
In heads up cash games online, more often than not, because players are playing with wider ranges, your opponent is not going to have a strong hand the majority of the time. Hence, it goes without saying that bluffing is an essential part of heads up play.
But many heads up players become far too aggressive and feel like they need to be the table captain and win every pot. The truth of the matter is that you don’t need to win every hand, you just need to win the key pots and look to steal pots when you sense weakness! Whenever contemplating a bluff, you need to consider the board, your hole cards and the possible hands that your opponent might have.
A good bluff is when the range of hands you’re representing beats your opponents and they feel that you have the best hand, when in fact, you actually don’t. You don’t just do this by raising pre-flop, all your moves during the hand have to match the story you are telling you opponent, and you obviously should attempt bluffs against players who are capable of folding.
Although pre-flop aggression to pick up small pots on a regular basis is important, mastering post-flop play is where the money is in heads up cash games. Stealing pots after the flop when in position (and sometimes out of position) will help you to accumulate a lot more chips, but if the story you are trying to tell doesn’t add up, then your opponent is much more likely to be suspicious of your bets and look you up when you wanted a fold.
If for example you flopped an open ended straight draw, for example, against a lot of heads up opponents, you’ll want to stay aggressive with your draw. You’ll have your draw outs to fall back on if you get called, but you’re looking to take down the pot right there and then without much of a fight because there is a good chance your opponent failed to improve his hand.
Your playing your opponents as much as your cards, and that’s why today’s heads up poker cash games are so much more aggressive than normal full-ring games and even online six-handed cash games. To be a strong heads up cash game player, you need to have lots of weapons in your arsenal including aggression because passive play doesn’t get the job done.
The higher the HU cash game limits you play at, the more aggressive the game is, and generally the more aggressive of the two players will win in the long run if they keep playing against eachother. But you also need to know when to slow down as well. Finding the right balance is key when playing against competent players who are looking to exploit you.
For example, if you’re opening every button and always continuation betting, a good player can exploit this and will begin to three-bet you more frequently with a wider range, or just call pre-flop and check raise you on the flop, especially when they can be confident that you will fold. But you also don’t want to assume all your opponents are playing perfectly and adjusting accordingly. If for example a player has re-raised a number of times in a row, he may just be getting hands, you still get hands in heads up poker, meaning they aren’t necessarily adjusting to your over aggression which is probably the case if they are a weak player.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Your opponents will grow tired of your relentless aggression and will be more willing to play back at you eventually even if they are naturally passive by nature. But the concept is sound and will make you a lot of money. At least it’s a profitable strategy for today’s heads up poker cash games.
Playing heads up poker can be heavily based on reads and experience you have with the opponent. Once you get to showdown with them a few times, you’ll get a better idea of what lines they’ve taken and what level of poker thinking your opponent is on. This information will give you a game plan to work with, and if you execute your heads up strategy well, you should come away with a profit more often than not.
But it’s also crucial that players learn to accept variance is part of heads up poker cash games. You can be playing well and lose money at poker and vice versa, and it can be extremely frustrating at times. But you will need to prevent yourself from tilting when you’re running bad, as it is only going to contribute to the negative variance you’ll experience! Although it’s player dependant, generally speaking, playing fewer heads up tables should help in controlling your tilt and spewing badly.
If you’re interested in playing heads up poker cash games online, many online poker sites offer micro stakes heads-up cash games starting from as little as $0.01/$0.02 for NL Hold’em, but the lowest stake for HU cash at some online poker sites is $0.10/$0.25 or even $0.25/$0.50.
Playing at the low stakes tables, you’ll be able to gain confidence in your heads up cash game, which is super important considering that heads up is a completely different game, and at low stakes HU cash you’re not risking a significant amount of money. However, when you feel more comfortable adjusting to heads up play and feel like you have an edge in the games you’re playing, you should move up in stakes where there is more money to make playing the bigger games.
The sites with the most traffic will feature better heads up action with games typically running all the time, but you choose to grind tougher games because the good heads up players will stick to sites where there are always games running at the stakes they prefer to play.