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Poker Strategies
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Fish Call and The Sharks Raise
Heads Up Poker Strategy
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Heads Up Poker Strategy

Heads-up limit poker is a lot of fun. Even when no-limit was all the rage, the heads-up limit tables were filled. Don't let this jewel slip by you!

One of the best things about heads-up limit is that it lets you learn about every single human aspect of limit poker: aggression, hand selection: bluffing, trapping, reading, value betting, folding and lastly, pot odds. Let's look at each aspect:


Those weak of heart can really get steam rolled in heads-up poker. There are two ways of winning a pot: you either show the best hand or your opponent folds. The value of aggression is so strong, you can play poker without even looking at your cards if you wanted. The whole object of aggression us to cause your opponent to fold more hands than you do. This makes the most important part of poker strategy the aggressive use of bets and raises.

Hand Selection:

You need to select the hands worth putting money into the pot when you have the best hand and avoid putting money in the pot when you don't have the best. Too many players in limit heads up games don't make others pay to see the flops after posting the big blind. Players too often let the small blind limp in. In heads-up poker, you want to always raise with Aces, Kings, Face/kicker, mid-high suited connectors, and pocket pairs. They'll really take in the chips for you. You want to raise for value and play out on a flop whether or not the cards hit.

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Most of the time in heads up poker, neither opponent will hit anything on the flop. This is where bluffing and aggression combine so you can to take down a pot even if you and your opponent have nothing. When the turn comes, the real action begins because you can make things happen with a check-raise bluff or a raise behind the action. If the other player is faking an attack on the flop, you'll catch him, regardless of what you hold. Watching and observing for small patterns or timings on the part of your opponent, a key to this tactic. Sometimes you want to simply toss one out and see what happens. In the event you get caught, switch to a tight style and draw your opponent in for the kill by using that loose image to your own advantage.


When your opponent believes you're not being honest, trap him for his money. A check-raise / raise on the turn that gets called plus a river bet gets you twice the big blind and most likely another big blind from the pre-flop and flop. You could fold on the flop on an un-raised pot four times in a row if you could pull a trap every seventh hand. When you're playing another aggressive opponent who simply likes to run you over with bets, sit back and let him do the betting, then hammer him with check-raises and raises when you have a strong hand. You can fold when you have nothing; your traps will make up for it. If you have Ace high or low pairs, you can call to showdown if necessary.


Learning how to read your opponent in heads-up limit poker is very important. Poker in general, but especially heads-up poker is a game where, if you make the reads, you make money. Reading is about identifying patterns in behavior that are anomalies. How often does he check-raise? Does he have it when he does? Will he bet low pair? Will he bet draws? You can't figure this out with just one action on your opponent's part, so you must often raise on the flop or call and see the turn to figure out what's going on. There are only three choices for action - bet, check, call. Adding a raise or calling the flop increases the options from 3 to 9, bet-bet, bet-check, bet-call, check-bet, etc. Paying close attention will pay off in reading heads-up players.

Value Betting:

Value betting is simply getting in that turn raise and river bet so that your opponent doesn't see a showdown inexpensively when you have a strong hand. Even when your hand is a little weaker, toss the opposition out and gain some fold equity. If your opponent is loose, you get equity from the bet with Ace-X calling you down. Too many times, opponents check on the river with a superior hand because they're scared they may be beaten. In heads up, there aren't a lot of draws that go on, so an opponent sticking with you to the river is probably calling with mid-pair or low-pair but much less often a monster. Get that extra bet in and don’t be afraid of doing it.


Knowing when to get rid of a dominated hand is pretty important, especially when it can save you a big bet or two. Often you won't realize it until you're on the river or turn, but the willingness to fold a hand when you are sure your opponent isn't bluffing is much like extracting an extra big bet of your own. In a full ring game it is often almost impossible to fold with some of the pot odds, since some of them will be as large as 20 big blinds or even more. Winning only five percent of the time makes this call to be correct. In heads-up, the pot is more often somewhere around three to five big blinds, giving you good reason to fold if you know you're beat. Once the pot becomes larger, it becomes harder to fold at critical points like the river, given the pot odds at that point. The key is to fold early or when you're in trouble rather than late and over-committed to the pot.

Pot Odds:

Pot odds are actually the least important in heads-up because you will rarely call based only on the pot odds. Play those flushes and straight draws aggressively because, whatever odds you are getting, aggression gives those odds a huge value with folding equity too. Even with an inside straight draw, it isn't not a bad move to bet if checked to you or if you are first to act because you still have the possibility that your opponent might fold to you. If you miss your draw, you can keep attacking in the hope that he will fold, or you might hit your draw and end up with a well disguised hand you can use for trapping.


These are only some quick and dirty tips to heads-up limit poker and some effective strategy for the game. Playing one-on-one poker is difficult at first, even for the seasoned Texas Hold'em player. But it is a skill that becomes valuable to almost all players because tournament poker players benefit substantially and limit players sometime are in games that become short-handed.

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