Playing Heads-Up Poker online requires a lot of nerve, cunning and a different playing strategy. The key to successful heads up poker strategy is controlled aggression where you have to be prepared to steal and bluff much more often. Aggression is vital and passive players will get eaten alive in head to head games.
You may have gained some experience of head to head play when you are heads-up at the end of a regular poker tournament. Playing a heads up tournament means you have this level of pressure constantly throughout the tournament.
Head-to-Head poker is an entirely different strategy then that of a normal six to nine player table game. There are a few things that you should realize when heading into a H2H sit and go, and maybe even take some of these strategies into a close heads up match at the end of a big tournament.
1. You never know exactly what your opponent actually has
It is very hard to read your opponents in a heads up match like this, as they could be playing weaker hands then you (10-2 against K-3), but it is whoever hit’s the flop that gains the big advantage.
2. Much of the game is bluffing
When the flop comes a lot of people bet acting like they have something, because if you play tight enough where you only play when you have something then you are never going to accumulate chips because you are giving your hand away.
3. Never give up when short stacked
Most likely you will get called when you have a hand, so this could be an easy way to double up and get right back into the thick of things. Many opponents will grow impatient and try to knock you out with almost anything.
4. Take advantage of the low blinds
At the beginning use the lower blind levels to get a feel for your opponent. It is easier to make up for a mistake easier at the beginning due to the fact that the blinds are so small compared to your stack that you don’t need to worry about them.
5. Do not be afraid to fold
It’s is very important to realize that it is alright to fold if your cards are not very good (10-3, 5-2). Do not waste chips when you don’t have to, and if you fold and do not call every time it will be easier to bluff your opponent later.
6. Pocket pairs can be your best friends
As you probably realized upon playing for a little bit heads up that the odds are not very good that you, or your opponent, will hit the flop most of the time. Use pocket pairs to your advantage and raise larger (3-4 times the blind) then you normally would compared to a tournament with nine people at the table.
7. Do not get frustrated
This might be the most important tip I could give you. You will take some hard beats (10-3 outing you’re A-10), but that is part of the game in heads up. Some of these beats are just unavoidable. You raise to gain more chips, not push them out of the hand, so you want a call. You just can’t get mad if they get lucky once in a while.
8. Try not to leave while playing
In online poker it is pretty obvious that you have to step away from the computer at times, but it is critical to avoid this in heads up. It is easy to lose 5-6 blinds easy depending on how long you are gone, but only if your opponent is smart enough to raise each time while you are on auto-fold.
However, if your opponent leaves then take full advantage of this raising every hand (just the minimum) until they return. It is an easy way to get a lead on them or get some chips back.
9. Slow the action down
The action is very fast paced during heads up matches, and can easily get over whelming if you stay with the mindset that you need to keep that pace. Sometimes it is best to regain your thoughts and take a deep breathe. The slowed down pace can be utilized when you think you have the winning hand at the showdown (after the last community card) and your opponent bets, to give the impression that you are thinking about a very tough call and instead you re-raise.
10. Do not get in the heads up mentality afterwards
You will see how it easy it is after playing for 30 minutes constantly and are involved in every hand so intimately (if you call you’re in the hand but if you fold you give your chips up). After you may have the same mentality at a larger table and play hands that you probably should not have played.