We’re going to take a look at why this is so, and why the reassurances just aren’t the same as cash games or face to face games.
Are the blinds the same?
Unlike in other forms of poker, where the dealer is the same as the person that is sitting across the table, in heads up poker the dealer is the person that you bet against. This means that the two players are directly to the left of you, as opposed to the traditional situation where the dealer is the person whose seat is on the table. This can make a big difference when it’s betting late in a tournament, when the blinds go up. For example, in a tournament the blinds are going up every 15 minutes, so in that 15 minutes the blinds have gone up 8 times. Before that, during the first hour the blinds are each 30, so on the first hand of the tournament the player in the small blind would be almost 2/1 in chips, now they are 3/1.
Different play styles in heads up poker
- In heads up poker, players have to be much more aggressive than they would be in a normal full ring game. Usually in full ring games you won’t see many callers. In heads up poker, many players tend to call. To a large extent, it’s a matter of getting utilizing their bigger hands in heads up poker. That’s harder in full ring games.
- Many players in heads up poker don’t use many tells in their game. Especially in full ring games, players have a pattern of play, so you can usually predict a high percentage of hand types a player has, based on their tendencies. In full ring games, players are going to be highly observant of their opponents, focusing in on the general tendencies. For example, in a low limit heads up game, you can play a passive game and beat a player with a bigger hand, simply because they haven’t played many hands.
- Heads up poker is different from cash games. Although you can adjust your game, you won’t be able to take away much of an advantage playing with your hand, in full ring games. For most players, heads up poker is much too much of a game to handicap, in part because it’s much easier to get a read on players than in a cash game. In full ring games, people will pay a lot of blinds just to see what cards you have, so you have to play a little passive, in part to get a read on players.
- Despite the regularities of full ring game play, heads up poker presents some unique possibilities. For example, I played a $5.00 full ring game on Full Tilt last night. I finished T3 the first hand, pushing all in with a aggressive Hold’em play. With marginal cards, I was able to extract a lot of money from my stack and build my stack enough to take down first place after the heads up sitting would have been mine.
If you’re lights out in a cash game, and you have a mid pocket pair, you’re usually in a decent position to steal a pot. Compared to playing heads up, you have a much weaker hand to lose. Hands that pairs are strong cards, so you will rarely get paid off when pushing. Staying heads up is nearly the only way to be profitable in heads up games, which is why I still play them. I will play less than 50% of hands in Bankroll Poker Pro, and the majority of those won’t be profitable at all.You can, of course, play lower limits and be successful, but my goal is not to grind out a living. Grind out a healthy bankroll to improve your variance and minimize risk, and have fun!