Pre-Flop Odds for Heads Up Poker

In heads up poker games the rank (or strength) of starting hands change when compared to a 6 or 10 table game. This is due to the decreased likelihood that you are facing an opponent with a hand which dominates yours (is a 70% or more favorite against you). This article looks at how to calculate your odds pre-flop in heads-up poker and gives a list of the common pre-flop odds which every player should know.


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There are a total of 1326 starting hands in Texas Holdem poker, this is calculated by taking 1 of the original 52 card deck and then one of the remaining 51 cards:

(1/52)*(1/51) = 1326 combinations.

If we leave aside the different combinations of suits then these can be reduced to 169 distinct starting hands. 13 of these are pairs, 78 are suited unpaired cards and the remaining 78 are unsuited unpaired cards.

The cards that you are dealt affect the probability of your opponent having the same holding. For example if you are dealt an Ace before the flop there are only 3 remaining aces in the deck – the chances of an opponent holding an ace has been reduced by 25%.

The table below shows the odds of being dealt specific strength holdings before the flop.

The relative strength of pre-flop hands in heads-up poker can be calculated by assuming that your opponent has a random holding. That is to say that the chances your hand will win a showdown if all the chips went in to the middle immediately can be ranked in terms of your holding compared to the whole range of your opponent’s possible cards.

The table below gives the pre-flop odds of selected head-up poker hands