Heads up

Heads up strategy applied to MTTs

Heads up in MTT

All advices provided in the heads up section do apply. The only problem is that when you reach a heads up in a MTT fighting for the first seat, blinds are usually so high that you have little room to manoeuvre. Hands selection, aggression and luck are key.  But a key idea must be kept in mind : no starting hand has less than 30% chance to win against a random hand. Considering this a simple rule arises : when the sum of blinds + antes reach 10% of one of the two stacks it would be suicidal to pass any hand but really the worst ones. If you reach a situation where you have 10% of one of the two stacks in the pot pre-flop and you see that your opponent is not making the correct adjustments by witnessing that he is giving away the SB…you have an opportunity to seize and should go all-in for all coming hands. If you have equal stacks when you start doing this, you just need to succeed 2 or 3 times to get a decisive advantage. Its not pretty but it is how finales are won.

Pre-flop and post-flop game in heads up NLH

In heads-up the player in the small blind (SB) has the initiative pre-flop but is second to speak post-flop. This offers new tactical options (vs short handed full ring games). The player in the big blind (BB) is able to have the initiative post-flop even after having faced a raise pre-flop.

Strength and weaknesses of opening hands in heads up become very relative. If you plan on folding Q8, J7 or K3 you do not stand a chance against an aggressive player. Imagine that you are in the BB (BB=10) and the the SB raises you systematically to 30. Every time you fold the SB wins 20 and has risked 25. Even if you win the hand everytime you call you still need to win 40% of hands played which means opening up your range to hands like K4. If you are then passive on the flop, it only gets worse.


So the button is the first to speak pre-flop and will benefit from the position post-flop. In other words the button can represent a strong hand preflop and follow up with his agression post-flop, on the turn and on the river. This influences a lot your opening range. Some players raise 100% of their hands from the button! And i am quite a fan of this move. But would recommend to be a bit more conservative and raise only 70% of your opening hands and adapt depending on your opponent reaction. He is passive make that 100%. He re-raises you a lot, calm down that %. This involves:

  • all Aces
  • all broadways (KQ, QJ and KJ suited or not)
  • almost all connectors above 76 and up to J10 (suited or not)
  • all Kx with x>2, all Qx with x>2, all Jx with x>5 and all Tx with x>7

From the small blind pre-flop: never limp, always raise (or fold). Among the 3 options that the BB has (check, raise, fold) one only can be an issue (raise). If she checks, you will play the hand with the position. Always raise with the same amount (3BB works best as long as it does not represent less than 1/3 of your stack because then you will need to shove all chips in the middle).

From the BB you will have to be more conservative (depending on your own game style, your opponent’s agressivness and the size of your stack) but you can consider calling with can call with 30% to 50% of your best hands (and adapt also depending on how the SB will vary from its strategy). You should also re-raise quite a lot (say with top 50% of the hands with which you will check). If SB limps, punish her with a 5BB raise.

  • all pairs
  • all Aces
  • broadways (KQ and KJ suited or not)
  • all connectors above 76 and up to J10 (suited or not)
  • all Kx with x>7, all Qx with x>6


Post-flop :  remember ‘’most hands miss most flops’’. If you raised from the SB pre-flop or called from the BB pre-flop, you should also be aggressive (and adapt to the flop texture).  Always open with 2/3 or Pot raise and stand to this amount. Don’t get dominated. A lot of players are aggressive on the flop but a lot less on the turn. If it is the case use it and bet on the turn.

On the turn having the position becomes highly valuable but it is a complex spot.  You have to understand how your opponent usually plays this spot.

The river is easier to manage. Two basic rules : if you are the last one to speak and if your opponent has checked do not raise with average hands (its unlikely that your opponent will pass with a stronger hand and he might be in an ambush). If you are the first to speak, it is very risky to check because it can induce a bluff.

Heads up : it all comes down to this

heads up

Heads up is the most violent form of poker. Tired of waiting long minutes before playing a hand? You love tension at the table? Heads up is for you. Being profitable in heads up makes a difference between small winners and true killer. Heads up is the essence of poker : a brutal and direct confrontation. All MTTs and Sit & Go’s end up this way and even at a cash table you very often find yourself in such a spot.

Winning attitude

Aggression is not needed but essential and psychology plays a bigger role than ever. You need to make most of the adjustments that your opponent will fail to make to his game. The 3 main qualities in heads up game are : aggression – psychology (because you will need to bluff quite a lot which means understanding the betting pattern of your opponent) and creativity.


A 40 buy-in bankroll is a good starting point for heads up cash games.