Ten Heads Up Poker Tips
Heads-Up Poker games, where you face just one opponent, are an exiting and
demanding variation of the usual ring-game format. This article contains 10 tips
that will get you winning at heads-up poker.
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Heads-Up Poker Tip #1 – Position
Acting last after the flop is a huge advantage in poker. You get to see your opponent’s action before you make a decision on what to do. This allows you to win more with your good hands and lose the least when you are behind. In heads-up poker you will have position (the small blind / dealer button) half of the time – make sure you use this to your full advantage.
Heads-Up Poker Tip #2 – Aggression
Pre-flop your opponent will not have a strong hand most of the time. Combine this with the fact that unpaired hands will only hit the flop 1/3rd of the time and it is easy to see how aggression will win many pots when playing heads-up. After all, if you do not raise then you have not given your opponent an opportunity to fold!
Heads-Up Poker Tip #3 – Pot Control
Over time everyone gets their fair share of good and bad hands. Winners in poker make sure that they win bigger than average pots and lose smaller than average pots. Decide whether you have a ‘big-pot’ hand during play and plan your bets to win as many of your opponents chips as possible. Conversely manage the pot with a vulnerable hand so as to lose the least if you happen to be behind.
Heads-Up Poker Tip #4 – Reading Your Opponent
Work out as early in the heads-up game as possible what hands your opponent raises, checks and calls your bets with. Is this opponent likely to raise strongly with a flush draw? Will this opponent check a monster hand looking to check-raise or lead straight out? Will this player raise a marginal hand on the river if you have shown weakness, or instead call and see a showdown?
Heads-Up Poker Tip #5 – Adapting To Your Opponent
In order to take advantage of your reads on an opponent you must be ready to adapt your play. If they are too tight then raise more, if they call too often you should reduce your bluffs but raise larger amounts with a solid hand. If your opponent is too loose then you need flat call more often, sometimes re-raising as a semi-bluff when you suspect they missed the flop. What ever type of opponent you face, think through the changes to your play that will take maximum advantage of their style.
Heads-Up Poker Tip #6 – Folding
If you bet a medium strength hand heads-up and your opponent calls then there is a reason for this. It is up to you to work out whether they have a made-hand, a draw or is simply calling with the intention of bluffing later in the hand. If your hand is weak and your opponent continues to show resistance then you must be prepared to fold. Move on to the next hand with a minimal loss of chips rather than trying to force opponents off of hands when you are weak – it will make more in the long run!
Heads-Up Poker Tip #7 – Bluffing
Always look for profitable bluffing opportunities. If the flop comes with 2 suited cards or 3 to a straight then look out for those ‘scare cards’ on the turn. The next suited card could provide an excellent opportunity to steal the pot with a bluff. Remember in a heads-up match your opponent will not have a strong hand too often.
Heads-Up Poker Tip #8 – Vary Your Play
Just as you are trying to work out what your opponent’s bets, checks and calls mean – your opponent is trying the same thing on you. Become difficult to read by varying your play from time to time. This can include how you act with certain hands, your bet sizes or even the time spent making a decision. Varying your play means that your opponent is more likely to misread your hand, leading to greater profits for you.
Heads-Up Poker Tip #9 – Play Within Your Bankroll
Many situations in poker involve taking relatively small edges. A long term winner needs to be able to take every advantage available. Playing outside of your bankroll, at a level you would be uncomfortable losing at can lead you to play hands incorrectly. Make sure you are in the best possible winning position by playing within your bankroll.
Heads-Up Poker Tip #10 – Learn from Mistakes
Once your heads-up game is over you should take some time to analyze the hand-history. Look for what hands you played well and – importantly – hands you could have played better. The time spent here will quickly pay for itself as you improve to win future heads-up poker games.