Introduction to Heads Up Poker Strategy
Heads up poker is the most aggressive form of poker that is played today. The action is nonstop and it is not for the weak hearted. The swings in heads up poker are never ending and can sometimes be devastating. Even the best heads up players, take Phil Ivey for example, will endure swings of 10 or 20 buy ins on a somewhat regular basis. Enough with the negativity, though. Heads up poker also happens to be the most profitable form of poker.
When you are playing at a 6-Max or Full Ring table you will generally be competing with a few solid players for the money of a few poor players. Heads up affords players the opportunity to have the poor players all to themselves. The learning curve in heads up poker is steep, however, as there is incredible competition as you work your way out of the micro stakes.
A quick glance at the lobbies of online poker rooms will paint an ugly picture for the potential heads up player. Heads up games are easy to find (and beat) at the lower limits, but as you progress to mid stakes you will see that the tables are absolutely flooded. These tables aren’t flooded with heads up matches either, they are usually tables occupied by one player just waiting for a fish to sit down. This is a growing problem in online poker and these types of players have been labeled as “bum hunters.” Some people feel that bum hunting is ruining heads up poker, while others feel that it is simply strategic game selection, but the fact remains that not many heads up games are running these days at the mid to high stakes levels.
Playing Heads Up Poker Successfully
A successful heads up player will require a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the game as well as a superior ability to hand read. Hand reading is more important in heads up poker than any other form of the game. So many decisions will come down to two options, “he has it,” or, “he doesn’t.” 6-Max and Full Ring games will create many situations where a player has to decide if someone has them narrowly beat, and while this holds true in heads up play it is much more important that big decisions are spot on.
Profits for a session of heads up play will often come from a player’s aggression pre flop. Stealing a few blinds at a time will allow a heads up player to build a steady stream of income. This is the reason that passive players are eaten alive in heads up battles, aggression is king. Some players will go overboard with their aggression to the point where they are reckless, however. Playing with reckless abandon is never a good idea in poker and will be particularly deadly in a heads up environment.
Tilt and the ability to control emotions are two major additional factors in the success of a heads up player. Tilt, like all other aspects of poker, is magnified when playing heads up. If you continually blow off steam by making nonsensical bets while playing heads up it is a near guarantee that you will end up burning your money.