There are countless of heads up poker strategy articles online. This is one of the most exciting poker game types and everyone is ready to give you some advice, based on his observations.
Playing 1v1 is vastly different than the regular 6-max and full ring games. Many people make the mistake of focusing all their attention on the pre flop charts, sophisticated poker strategies or watching some high stakes pro, explaining to them, how they must balance their range .
Whether your VPIP is 2% more or less or including few more hands in your range, will not vastly change the outcome of your matches.
The Poker Agent team have 4 much more practical heads up strategy “hacks” , with which you will not be breaking the rules, but will break your opponent mentally.
Why our Heads Up Poker Strategy Works ?
The simple truth is – this heads up poker strategy is tried and tested on thousands of players from micro, up to nosebleed stakes (150/300 blinds ) .
While people are pondering whether to include K5s in their calling range, they forget that playing 1v1 is totally different than regular ring games. Here you have to outplay only 1 opponent.
As veteran war generals know – battle can be won in more ways than one and all that matters is the victory. Our heads up poker strategy is not about playing the cards. It’s about being observant, spotting weaknesses, waging mind wars and controlling the game. Let’s start with heads up strategy tip number 1:
1. Open Sit Tables
This is the simplest heads up poker strategy and probably the only one some people are already using. You should always open sit empty tables, instead of waiting for someone else to do it. The reasons behind this are two :
- More often than not players who open sit tables are regs. Fish players do not have patience to wait for people to join.
- By being the first player yourself, you give a chance to weak players to join you. Most fishes just wants table running, on which they can join, play few hands, lose, curse that online poker is rigged – rinse and repeat.
By simply being patient enough to wait for someone to you , you both avoid regs and increase your chance of facing a weak player.
2. Play Slowly
Playing slowly is a heads up poker strategy, which is almost never used. By intentionally playing slowly, even in the simplest spots, you achieve two things:
- You drive your opponent crazy, most of them will start speeding up their game, to compensate for your slow tempo. This will result in them making mistakes – calling, raising and bluffing more.
- You do not give away timing tells to your opponent. Some regs are pretty good at spotting your timings online . When you are in complicated spot, usually more time is needed to make decision. By always taking a lot of time to act, you remove any possibility of giving away timing tells and also give yourself a chance to always think through tough spots.
The problems with this heads up poker strategy are also two.
The first problem is, that the villain can use your weapons against you. Your opponent can counter you by playing slow himself. But remember, you just need to be more patient than him and not frustrate over his time wasting . Just open one more heads up table and this way you will negate his tactics to play slowly himself.
The second problem is if people start leaving the table. This is a risk you should take, because annoying your opponent by taking a lot of time to act, will always be EV+ strategy. It is enough to annoy just 1 or 2 fish players, who just for a few hands can give away their whole stack. The chance of regular player joining you and leaving the table, is also bigger, which is what we aim for. Playing against the weakest opponents possible or destroying the mindset of stronger ones.
Playing slowly is an easily implemented heads up poker strategy and while it may sound as a not serious way to improve, we assure you, most players do not have control over their patience levels. Tilting someone by just playing slowly, is one of the easiest way to take his chips.
3. Use Chat
This is widely underused tactic, but using the in-game chat, can be a successful heads up poker strategy, if executed correctly.
Of course, we do not mean using “your momma” jokes. Cursing can only get you banned from chat and will not affect your opponent emotionally.
Chatting with your opponent should be used to show extreme confidence, tilt or scare him. Individual approach is needed but there are universal lines, which work most of the time . Let’s say you play 1/2 heads up. Chances are your opponent can not afford to play 5/10 HU. Neither can you probably, but in chat, you can bluff him with something like :
If you can handle two tables, let’s raise the stakes and open 5/10 ?
This way you immediately imprint in his mind, those are low stakes for you. He will start perceiving you as much better player, making him afraid of you, even if he do not fully realize it.
Even if he calls your bluff and says “lets do it”. You can still get him back with :
Open the table, i already play 4 across different rooms, but hardly need to pay attention against you.
In 99/100 times the player will not have the bankroll to play 5/10, nor the desire. And this is just an example. You need to think of in-game chat as MMA press-conference. Battle is half won with words. I am sure most of you have heard of Conor McGregor, who mainly disarms his opponents before the actual match.
You can use chat to pile on your opponent misery when he losses. Tell him stuff like:
” You should be playing much lower stakes.+ “
” Tell me at what times you play, I will arrange my schedule to play against you , as much as possible. “
” Have you placed a bet somewhere, that I will win this match ? So far you play to help me win as much as possible ”
I am sure you got the idea and can think of even smarter ways to annoy your opponent. The idea is not to curse, but still offend him in a smart way, which will get under his skin. With some players certain approach will not work, but everyone have a weak spot.
Also do not underestimate the power of emojis and in-game animations. On PPPoker , one of our players, started using throwing tomato animations, as his heads up poker strategy to annoy players. Of course this only works on weak minded players, as it is something innocent, which should not be taken seriously.
Still there are those players, who will tilt just from throwing some virtual tomatoes at their avatar. Worth a try on lower stakes.
Get in mind of your opponent and battle is half won. Even if your opponent is emotionless robot, by doing this to everyone , you train to become better trash talker, which will come in handy later.
4. Fix your eyesight to your opponent
This heads up poker strategy can be implemented super easy and it is priceless. It is probably one of our favorites, since it requires only dedication and nothing else.
When you play online poker, you will be looking mainly at your cards and the board. The pot, your chip count, game stats, checking how much you won/loss and many other things.
If you want to exploit your opponent to the maximum extent, fix your eyesight on your opponent’s avatar. This heads up poker strategy gives you one huge advantage – timing tells. By watching the same opponent and memorizing how much time he takes to bet, when he has hit the flop or when he wants to make value bet on the river, is almost like them playing with revealed cards.
99% of your heads up opponents, most of the time will never vary their timing. By watching their avatar all the time, with each passing hand you get a better idea of what they may be holding, depending on the time they take to act. Against some it works well, against others it works like a hack to reveal cards.
This is why it is of utmost importance to fix your eyesight on your opponent and rarely move it. Do not look around, don’t watch some movie on the side, do not count your chips, do not look at your cards all of the time – just fix on your opponent. You will notice how much he bets, when he bets, how long it takes him to bet/check raise/call/. Hand after hand, you will collect information.
It is like exploring a map in some video game. By keeping villain in your eyesight, you reveal the map slowly. Yes it may have some hidden caves , but in general, once you discovered the whole map, you have all the information you need.
The interesting thing is, poker players who play online look for clues and tells, but online poker players forget to do this. It is even easier online, since timing tells and monitoring bet sizes of your opponent, are both easier to spot than live.
In short, just be obsessed with your opponent while you play against him and you will have huge advantage.
Final Heads Up Poker Strategy Tips
While having the perfect hand selection and gameplay strategy is important, destroying your opponent mentally, being patient and observant are equally important. After all, poker is not math and the game is also a battle of the minds. We guarantee that if you have been somewhat successful heads up poker player, these additions to your game will skyrocket your results.
By playing not only the cards, but also the opponent, you disarm their strengths and exploit their weeknesess. If you want to be in control at all times, it is not enough to put your opponent on some range. Everyone do this and to be exceptional player, you need to be doing something more.
The other crucial part of the heads up poker strategy, is to find the weakest opponents possible. We offer many private clubs, which run heads up tables. Play in softest possible rooms, use our 4 “hacks” and come back in a month to share with us your results.