Home » How To Play Heads-Up Poker: Strategies and Tips

How To Play Heads-Up Poker: Strategies and Tips

Home » How To Play Heads-Up Poker: Strategies and Tips

How To Play Heads-Up Poker: Strategies and Tips

A poker player takes a look at their hole cards. There are two aces next to the player’s stacks of poker chips. There are also five community cards already on the table.

Heads-up poker is often mentioned in the same breath as Texas Hold ’em or Omaha. However, unlike these popular variants, heads-up isn’t actually another poker format. 

Instead, heads-up is a way of playing these variants. Read on below to find out exactly what heads-up poker is, how to play heads-up poker, how strategy is an integral part of this play style and why it needs to be played aggressively. 

What Is Heads-up Poker?

Heads-up poker refers to any form of the game in which the hand is played out between just two players. In other words, it’s head-to-head poker. Virtually any type of poker can be played this way. 

It might be played during a larger cash game session, where the game is breaking up and only two players remain on the table. Heads-up online poker tournaments are very popular on sites that offer poker online games.

This style may also occur when two players who are trying to start a regular poker game play heads-up poker while they wait for other opponents to join.

What Are the Rules of Heads-Up Poker?

Although the rules for most forms of poker don’t change when playing heads-up, there’s one key adaptation. When playing community card poker games such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha Heads-up, the normal positions of the small and big blinds are reversed.

Usually, the player positioned clockwise from the dealer (or the nominal dealer in online poker) posts the small blind. The player to the left of the small blind would then post the big blind. Betting begins with the player who sits to the left of the big blind. All subsequent rounds of betting begin with the player who posted the small blind.

However, in heads-up play, the dealer posts the short blind while their opponent posts the big blind.

Why Does the Dealer Post the Small Blind?

The position of the blinds is reversed in heads-up poker in order to ensure fairness. If the position of the blinds wasn’t reversed, the player who isn’t dealing would get to act first in the betting rounds, both before and after the flop (because only two players are involved.) This would give them an advantage.

Additionally, if the dealer was the big blind and decided to fold, he would be folding his big blind to the small blind. This would be another violation of the basic rules of the game. 

How Heads-Up Poker Allows for More Strategic Play

A poker player placing down a stack of chips for his next poker bet. He is bending his hole cards so he can see them.

With only one opponent to beat in heads-up poker, players have a high chance of winning each hand. As a result, they tend to play aggressively. Bluffing is also more likely to be successful.

Once this one-on-one gameplay is understood, you can make targeted adjustments based on your opponent’s style of play. The biggest adjustments revolve around how often you raise and call and how assertive you are when fighting for pots

As tables become more short-handed, your levels of aggression can increase. You have to get less involved in later streets. A high card will often be the best hand on the flop in a heads-up battle, so you don’t need to play fit or fold with only one opponent.

How To Deal With Aggression in Heads-up Poker

If the tables are turned, facing aggressive opponents in heads-up poker can be stressful. These players can apply constant pressure to the game by raising, three-betting and using a lot of check-raises or bluff strategies. 

Instead of trying to come up with a new heads-up poker strategy, players often get flustered. They find it easier to focus on counterproductive actions and sometimes lose control. To better respond to an aggressive player, you can make subtle changes to your strategy by doing the following.

Do the Opposite of What Your Opponent Is Doing

How wide you open or defend postflop is the first thing you can adjust, which is basically trying to adapt an opposite style of play. You can narrow your opening range by asking yourself if the hand is good enough to call a three-bet, which will most likely happen. If the answer is no, then it’s better to fold and move on.

Limit the Number of Times You Bluff

This is based on the belief that, to confront aggressive players, you would need to ensure all actions are valuable since you’re taking the passive side. If you bluff too much, you are exposed to this player calling your bets and re-raising you most of the time, so a lot of money can go down the drain.

Try Out Your Heads-Up Strategy at BetMGM

Heads-up offers both professional and amateur players a chance to pair off and compete head to head. Being successful at heads-up requires a slight change in strategy and a more aggressive style of play while dealing with aggressive players forces one to think differently about calls and bluffs. Register with BetMGM to play online casino games and get the edge in a poker duel.

Heads-up isn’t a poker format as much as a style of playing. Read on to discover the best tips and strategies for adopting this style of playing.