It’s often said that heads up is the purest form of poker, and in a way can be viewed as being completed different to other forms of poker played online. In this article, we’ll look at various strategies that apply specifically to heads up matches.
Although heads up play is something that many players will experience at the end of a final table of a poker tournament, in heads up poker cash games online, it’s just you and a single opponent battling it out every single hand, until one of the players quits or has all of the chips. If you get a bad beat or bad run of cards, you can rematch player and get straight back into the action.
With heads up poker cash games and SNGs, prior history against certain players can help you understand their playing tendencies. You need to quickly figure out your opponents tendencies, and how they act and react in different situations. Observe how your opponent at the table plays from the very beginning of the heads up poker game and how analyse the difference in their play when they are in position and out of position.
If your opponent is playing very tight out of position both pre and post-flop, then you want to be opening close to every button because a lot of the time you will be stealing their blinds or taking down the pot with a continuation bet without much of a fight.
With that being said, early on in the heads up game, playing tight is probably the best bet as it will give you a chance to feel out your opponent prior to getting into any big confrontations with them that can prove to be very costly because of things you wrongly assumed about them. And if have a tight image early on a lot of ultra aggressive heads up poker players will feel they can easily push you around and by staying tight when you actually have the goods you can pick off their ill timed bluff and get their stack.
This is not to say you should always play tight in heads up games, adjusting is half the battle and it’s what separates the men from the boys. Only with the correct mindset and approach while playing heads up can help you gain more confidence in your heads up game. You will get better with experience.
Whilst the same is true in full ring games, if you approach heads up games the same way you would these bigger games, you’ll be a losing heads up player. Heads up games are hugely different to full ring games. You will quickly pick up on the fact that you should be playing your opponents just as much as your two hole cards, and this even more true when playing heads up. Heads up play is a lot more similar to the short handed version of online poker in the areas of bluffing and playing with a much wider range of hands.
When you’re playing heads up poker, you don’t want to get fixated on a certain playing style, but rather you should focus on the overall flow of the game and carefully consider previous history with the player. Game flow is crucial in the heads up format of the game, even the biggest nit is going to start to notice that you have been opening every button and will adjust by playing back at you. So you should consider folding the junk hands with no potential whatsoever post flop.
Observing the flow of the table, and especially keeping an eye on your opponent’s betting patterns and what if any adjustments they are making is incredibly important. By figuring out what level your opponent is on, you can make adjustments to your game based on that, and quickly establish a dominant position in the heads up battle. Try and look for weakness and when you suspect it punish them for it.
By playing fewer heads up tables, you will be able to pay more attention and pick up on the predictable patterns of play, which will tell you a lot about their hands. In heads up poker games, try to judge the strategies of your opponents on the table down to the very last little detail. Your strategy against some players may work wonders but against some other heads up players, you may find it is not working as you wanted it to.
As an example, let’s say the general feel you have about playing someone heads up is that they don’t like to fold very much. Although being aggressive with draws becomes more attractive when you’re playing a heads up no limit hold’em game because both players will not hit much on the flop a lot of the time. However, if you have little fold equity, then there is no point trying to semi-bluff because you know your opponent is not likely to fold better hands.
Generally, though, being aggressive with draws is the best way to play them mostly because it gives you to ways to win the hand. You can take down the pot uncontested, but you can also hit your draw on the turn or river even when you get called.
Obviously, when it comes to heads up poker, you would prefer to play against those opponents who are not very experienced in this particular format of the game rather than playing against heads up specialists. In other words, game selection is an essential component of being a profitable heads up player, you will increase your chances of winning the game, plain and simple. If you don’t like it on a table then you can move to another one, which is ridiculously easy to do when playing heads up poker cash games or SNGs online.
And if you play heads up SNGs, you must look out for the sharks as you will want to avoid too many heads up confrontations with them. For SNG’s, depending on the site, you can check out the stats of your opponents on Sharkscope.com, which will give you a pretty good idea about their skill level, especially if they have played a reasonable number of games.
The variance is going to be HUGE in heads up poker. If you can’t identify whether an opponent is a winning player or losing player straight away, don’t just assume you’re facing an experienced player simply because you have lost the first few games/sessions against them. That said, there is nothing wrong with joining another table and playing against a different heads up opponent if for whatever reason a player somehow makes it uncomfortable to play against them.
A heads up poker match is very much a psychological battle, and as a result, it can be a very exhaustive and a tense poker game where you have to keep your mind in a calm and composed state every second at the table in order to remain focused on the one opponent. This will force you to study his or her every move.
In heads up poker, there are no “mental breaks” in between hands, you are constantly involved in a hand as either the small blind on the button or when you’re in the big blind. If you think you are not going to play your best game then you should back off and finish your session there will always be a heads up game online waiting for you to join.