Heads up poker

Important concepts in Heads up play

Heads up play is often considered to be the ultimate form of poker. If your opponent loses a pot then they lose it to you and vice versa. Game selection is critical in this form of no limit hold'em and the best players in the world often choose online heads up play.

When you are playing heads up against an opponent then only one of five possible situations can happen. Situation number one is that both of you are identical in ability and so the EV is roughly neutral. The second and third possibilities are that either of you are slightly +EV but not enough to combat the effect of the rake and the fourth and fifth possibilities are that you are substantially better than your opponent.

The amount of rake you pay is key

Only one scenario out of the five is a good result for you. Being neutral EV means that you have no long term edge in the game and can only lose if the game is raked! Because you are forced to play a large percentage of hands then you are paying a large amount of rake. So to offset the effect of this then two things need to happen and they are that you have to play high enough so that the rake isn’t an issue or you have to be significantly better than your opponent.

It is clear then that opponent selection is critical to your success as a heads up player. You not only have to be better than your opponent but significantly better. This then knocks on to another pre-game factor as well and that is the optimal time to play poker. There are more fish online during peak times and so your hourly rate will rise or fall commensurate with the number of weaker opponents that you can find.

Timing is important too

Just like in warfare, the timing of battle is pivotal to your success. If you play poker during quiet times or if you play poker during times when you do not feel at your best then your results are going to suffer. Also they will suffer even more if you are playing heads up. In full ring games then the large amount of folding that you do often means that you do not get exploited when you are playing badly. However this is not the case in heads up play where every percentage point that you drift away from your optimal game can go to your opponent.

So it is clear then that there are two major areas that you need to consider when you are going to play a heads up session. Choosing the right opponents is literally the biggest hurdle towards winning and losing. You can get away with sitting on a table with better players in a full ring game or a six max game but you absolutely cannot get away with this in heads up games.