Before we get to best heads up poker rules for winning, let’s start at the beginning. What kind of poker strategy would you apply in Levels 1-5? Think about this, but not too hard.
It’s a trick question. If you thought about a specific poker strategy for Levels 1-5, then you got it wrong. Sorry, but I have to tell it like it is.
First, we don’t know anything about the tournament structure or our opponents. However, if you told yourself that you would play aggressive if it was a tight table and tight if it was a loose table, then you definitely get points for that. This simple poker strategy will take you a long way in poker tournaments (and cash games).
Secondly, what the heck are you doing buying-in to poker tournaments in Levels 1-5? I have a poker friend who bought-in to the Global Poker Championship last year at the dinner break. He did this because he knew he was getting 50,000 chips. All he had to do was win two double-ups and he would have an excellent chance at making the money. First place was paying about $250,000, which he won. Think about this for a moment. The dude only had to win two hands for a shot $250,000.
That is a big tournament, but you can apply the same poker rules to smaller poker games. I wouldn’t recommend buying-in at the last minute if you’re only going to have 5 big blinds, but give me 10 BB and I’m in. I have pulled it off with 5 BB once, but there were quite a few double-ups.
Increasing Your Chances of Winning
I know this article is about heads up poker rules for winning, but I have to go with where my mind takes me, and this does relate to heads up poker rules for profit.
For instance, if you buy-in late, then you’re saving buy-ins for other Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. When you save buy-ins, you have more opportunities. When you have more opportunities, there is a much greater chance that you will end up playing heads up at the final table. Other advantages to buying-in late include more energy and focus than your opponents (I recommend exercising prior to playing) and your opponents not having an opportunity to pick up on your patterns.
In the example above with the Global Poker Championship, my poker friend was heads up prior to winning (it is possible for someone to win a poker tournament in a three-way all-in). He got there by buying-in late. If you keep playing in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, then you should have the same opportunity. You’re going to want to make sure you follow all the heads up poker rules for winning covered below. Plan your work, work your plan.
Heads Up Poker Rules vs The Standard Player
If your opponent is a standard poker player, then he likely got lucky to get heads up. The deck might have smacked him across the face. Whatever the case, this is going to be one of the easiest types of opponents to play against. I’ll tell you exactly what this player is going to do at least 90% of the time…
- Fold When Weak
- Call When Marginal
- Raise When Strong
It would be easier to read a street sign for the Golden Gate Bridge. I wrote 90% of the time because these players will go off campus once in a while. It’s a fun trip for them. They pack a small brown paper bag with a little turkey sandwich and one grape and fire! If they get away with it, they run away without eating their lunch and giggle inside.
They tell themselves how brave they were. What they fail to realize is that the player who is applying heads up poker rules for winning is bringing a Sysco truck with 10,000 lunches and 700 pounds of grapes. They’re going to be getting comfortable off-campus. Attacking is fine for them. Do you know why?
Because the player who ran away is predictable. If your opponent is a standard poker player, then you’re going to know the strength of their hand at all times. For instance, if you three-bet a player like this and they four-bet you back, it’s an easy fold unless you have the nuts. They are giving you the answers. These are basic poker rules for winning in poker tournaments.
You should be opening almost every hand against this kind of player. If they open first, then you know they have a premium hand. They call your open-raise, they have a marginal hand. If they fold your open-raise, they had a weak hand.
It might seem like you can’t learn anything from an opponent folding when heads up, but you sure can. The amount they fold hints at their range. As far as those marginal hands go, these players will call and see a flop with hands like QJ-suited, KT-off, AT-off, 88, 77, 66, etc. You will have a much better idea of which hand they played by their actions on the flop.
If they raise you at any point and you’re not at least 90% sure you have the best hand, it’s a fold. These players aren’t going to raise you unless they feel they have you beat.
In short, if you follow the aforementioned heads up poker rules for winning against a standard poker player, you should win most of the time.
One final note here, and it’s a big one! If you feel like you’re a stronger player than your opponent, you want to put in standard raises and play street by street. If you feel like you’re a weaker player than your opponent, you want to play more of a shove/fold poker strategy. This will negate their greatest strength. This strategy should be applied in all heads up poker games.
Heads Up Poker Rules vs The Calling Station
You must apply completely different heads up poker rules for winning against a calling station. You should rarely bluff them. There will be some spots where you can apply pressure because you know they’re in a tough spot and will fold, but if you continuously apply pressure against a calling station, you’re going to lose more than you win. Here’s how you handle this foe.
You must take a psychological approach here. Crawl inside the mind of a calling station so you understand how their mind works. The reason they call so often is because they love action (as a person). Since that’s the case, don’t give them action. When they don’t get action, they’re going to get frustrated, which is going to lead to them making errors.
You’re basically removing what they want in order to frustrate them and put them on tilt. Think of yourself as someone who puts a cake on the kitchen table and lets a kid see it. As he approaches the kitchen table, you swipe the cake away. How do you think that kid is going to react?
If you’re patient against the calling station, you’re going to get the same reaction. We’re all really just kids trapped inside adult bodies. Therefore, he is going to be very upset, which means he’s going to play his poker hands way too fast. He has fallen into your trap.
Heads Up Poker Rules vs The Strong Crafty Player
This is going to be your toughest assignment when playing heads up poker for all the marbles in a poker tournament. You simply can’t put this kind of player on a hand, which is going to make it tricky. When you think he’s zagging, he’s zigging. When you think he’s zigging, he’s turning left. There are two heads up poker rules for winning against this type of opponent.
Your first option is to play a shove/fold game. This means you either go all-in or fold every hand. If you want to frustrate a good player—no matter how crafty they are—take this approach. But … do not shove too often. If you shove too often, he’s going to wait you out until he knows he has an edge. You also don’t want to fold too often because the blinds will eat you up in heads up play. There is a fine line you need tiptoe here, but you should be shoving with all marginal to strong hands.
The other option is a lot riskier, but if you have it in you, go for it. This option is to fight fire with fire and be your own version of crafty. This means doing some crazy things, such as limping with AQ (to induce a raise), raising with 95-suited (he would never see that coming if you hit, which would lead to you winning the tournament), and flatting with AA (not a chance in hell he will see that one coming, and it’s an auto-jam on the flop).
You should also play your poker hands in a standard way as well some of the time. This will keep your opponent completely in the dark. This could lead your opponent to frustration and tilt, which will then lead to him playing his poker hands too fast.
Heads Up Poker Rules vs The LAG Player
The LAG Player is Loose-Aggressive. These players love to bluff. They are going to make sure that they apply more pressure than you, knowing (or thinking) that the most aggressive player will win. They are only right to a certain extent. The truth is that the more intelligent aggressive player will win. This means the player who knows to change speeds: when to speed up and when to hit the brakes.
The following poker strategy is something you will probably never read anywhere else. If it’s down to three players at the final table and you’re not getting cards, remain patient and stay out of the way most of the time. It will only be a matter of time before the other two players get it all in against one another.
I say most of the time because you can’t let your stack dwindle. Since you will be staying out of the way most of the time, your raises will get more respect. This, in turn, will increase the chances of you stealing the blinds and staying at or above even as to when you began playing three-handed. That’s the short-term plan.
The long-term plan is what you just set up to win the tournament. It doesn’t matter who your opponent is. When they go up against you, they’re going to apply a LAG style. This is based off how you played when three-hand. No poker player in the world is going to know that you were playing that way on purpose to set the trap for heads up play. That opponent is going to look back on all the bluffs he got away with against you when three-handed.
The truth is that he wasn’t getting away with anything; it fit right into your game plan. At this point, he’s going to fire even more bluffs in your direction. He will have absolutely no respect for your game. This is going to lead to him becoming overconfident. And when a player is overconfident, Ego pays a visit. Once Ego pays a visit, that player is toast. Ego is the Grim Reaper of the poker world.
Since your opponent will be bluffing so often, you can widen your call down poker range. He’s not going to have any idea what’s going on because you will be playing very differently than earlier. Your one and only risk is that he hits a monster, but you also have the same chance of hitting a monster, so it’s irrelevant.
Now you know the heads up poker rules for winning a tournament. Nothing is black and white in the game of poker. You must quickly adapt and think on the fly. The more dynamic the player (like you), the better chance that player has of becoming a profitable poker player. Always play the player and change gears accordingly. That’s what will get you to the finish line. Follow the heads up poker rules for winning here and you will be crossing that finish line soon. See you at the WSOP!
Heads Up Poker Rules – FAQ
How can I increase my chances of winning in heads up poker?
Stop Calling! You need to either fold or raise, but you should be raising the vast majority of the time. Pressure wins in heads-up play. Beware of calls from your opponent. This could be a trap if they flat (call) on two consecutive streets.
How should I play heads up poker vs a LAG player?
All of that goes out the window in heads-up play. You should consistently apply pressure regardless of their playing style.
Should I raise the BB every time in heads up play in poker?
If you have a hand with any kind of potential (not complete junk), you should be raising.
How should I play heads up poker vs a strong crafty player?
Same thing. By consistently raising, you're taking this player out of their comfort zone, which is reading ability and playing off intel. By applying pressure, you're forcing increased variance if that opponent chooses to play, which they will not like.