Heads Up Poker Strategy: How to Play Deep Stack and Short Stack in 2022

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Written by: Matt E.

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Heads up tournament poker is incredibly important if you are an MTT and tournament poker player. Some of the biggest pay jumps you can find are the difference between 2nd place and 1st place in the poker tourney. A lot of this strategy comes from Fedor Holz, check out his training site here.

Why improve your heads up poker strategy?

  • Players are generally bad at heads up poker (especially mtt players)
  • You can get better really fast
  • Large pay jumps from 2nd to 1st

Let’s start with deep stack heads up poker strategy and move into a short stack heads up strategy afterward. 

Keep in mind the strategy is completely different when you have a short stack like 20 big blinds compared to a deep stack at 100 big blinds. 

Preflop Deepstack Heads Up Poker Strategy – 100bb

How often should you raise in position? 

You very often want to open more hands than you think you should open. Let’s say we open to 2.5x the big blind, you will want to open close to 80% of your hands to 2.5x. That means all suited hands, and cutting out just a few bad offsuit hands like 72o, etc. 

When I first learned this I was super interested because I was definitely not raising enough heads up, I was limping a lot more. Especially deep stack. So maybe this will hit home for you. 

How often should you call from the big blind vs a raise? 

Defending your big blind deep stack in heads-up poker is also interesting. How often do you call when someone raises your big blind? You should be calling 50% of your range when someone raises your big blind by 2.5x. 

How often should you 3 bet heads up? 

You should be 3-betting around 22% of your hands. If players are opening the correct amoun then you should be 3-betting this range. This might seem a little low at first, but you have to consider you will be playing out of position in an inflated pot. 

See also  GTO Poker: Understanding the Game with GTO Solvers

This is a solid strategy that I have seen coached by good heads-up players and seems to be generally accepted as good. 

How often should we call a 3 bet heads up? 

So let's say you open 80% to 2.5x and your opponent 3 bets you 3x or 4x, you should be calling around 25% of the hands you opened with. 

Most of what you start folding is the offsuit hands which is an easy way to remember when you’re at the tables. 

Keep in mind you will be 4 betting some hands as well. 

How often do we 4 bet after getting 3 bet heads up? 

Very little. We should only be 4 betting with 6% of our range vs a 3 bet heads up. It looks like it’s about 10’s+ AK and some AQ with a few offsuit bluffs as well like Q10o and KJo sometimes. 

Postflop: How to play heads up poker deepstack – 100bb 

I used to be the type of player who just had a one-size-fits-all type of approach to bet sizing and playing postflop. I would basically 33% all the time unless I was bluffing or getting value on later streets. 

But I adjusted based on a few different characteristics that have helped me adopt a better heads-up poker strategy post-flop. 

You really want to leverage your advantages as much as possible. You want to take advantage of equity distribution, equity advantage, equity shift over time, and your opponent's leaks. 

Sometimes based on your play you will have hands that your opponents don’t have. If you open raise and your opponent calls, you very often know your opponent doesn’t have KK or AA because they would have 3 bet those hands preflop. You can remove those hands from their range. 

This is how you can look at equity advantage based on the flop and turn cards. 

The equity shift over time is incredibly important to look at, and is helpful when looking at bet sizing as well. 

Some flops are more vulnerable to an equity shift over time and some are less. For example, a vulnerable flop to a large equity shift would be a J82 flop. If a Q comes on the turn, the equity shifts dramatically. And then a K on the river changes that equity again. If you had a J on the flop your equity was good, but now it’s 3rd pair on the board. 

See also  ICM Poker (Independent Chip Model) - Tournament Poker 

Range vs Range

This concept is taught a lot, but visualizing your range vs your opponent's range is an incredibly important heads up. After you remove certain hands from your opponent's range, you can do the same for yourself and assume your opponent is doing the same thing as you. So knowing what you have and don’t have in your hands, and what your opponent has and doesn’t have in their hands, what play can you make that will maximize your value. 

In heads up poker, the ranges are EXTREMELY wide. So you have a lot to think about on every hand. 

If there is a BIG equity shift over time, you can push that and put aggression on and make some great positive plays over the long run. 

Heads up Bet Sizing Strategy

  1. 20-25%
  2. 33%
  3. 50%
  4. 66-75%
  5. 100-150%

There are many different options when it comes to bet sizing heads up. If you are just firing half pot every time, then you are missing the point of bet sizing and missing value to use it to your advantage. 

20-25% Bet Sizing

You will often use this sizing while you are in position and you have an equity advantage. You want to push the equity while attacking the worse hands of your opponents range. When they have nothing, for example. 

ALSO, you can use this sizing on boards where the equity doesn’t change that much on the turn and river. 

This was a revelation for me in terms of using bet sizing. 

A good example is on an A high board like A93 rainbow board. The turn card will barely change the equity and the river can change it but less of a chance. 

Whereas a board like J83, the turn can change the equity a ton. For example, a Q on the turn, would change the equity of a top pair type hand quite significantly. 

See also  How To Play Razz Poker

Use these sizings on disconnected A-high boards, and highcard paired boards. 

33% Bet Sizing

This is probably the most chosen bet sizes for MTT players, and gets chosen because people watch Twitch and honestly they probably use it too much. 

You will want to use this bet size in position on the flop when you have a slight equity advantage on boards where the equity shifts more over time. 

Try to avoid using this sizing on a turnbet in position, as the opponent can get their range together and you give them a chance to make good plays and continue with their 2nd and 3rd pairs. Your opponent can continue with flush draws and pairs, etc. and you make it easy for them. 

You CAN use this sizing when you are out of position as a stab bet on turns and rivers after your opponent checks the flop or turn so you can attack their very weak range of nothing, if they call you can adjust your range construction from there. 

50% Bet Sizing

This is a sizing that should be used less often on flops. A great way to use it is as a delayed c bet in position on the turn after opponent checks twice. 

Solvers only use this sizing sometimes but don’t usually choose this sizing.

66-75% Bet Sizing 

This is one of those sizings where you either have a good hand or nothing. You need to mix this with some checks as well. Players rarely use this sizing on the flop, and this is a great way to get value. 

You can use this size against players who call to much to exploit them. 

This is also a common sizing for turn cbets and river c bets, as does the poker solvers. This is great because you can fold out better hands and get value for your better hands on the turn and river. 

100-150% Bet Sizing

When the flop and turn really hit your range advantage and your opponent doesn't hit much, you can use this in position or out of position to really attack their weak nut advantage. 

Mix in some of your garbage hands and mix some of your amazing hands and use this size on the river. This can be great. 

Shortstack heads up strategy coming soon!

Written by

Matt E.

I've been immersed in the world of poker since 2003. Poker is hard. It has undoubtedly been a roller coaster of experiences for me over the years. My poker journey spans from playing at .01/.02 NL tables to engaging in intense sessions at $5/$10. Poker isn't just a game to me—it's a passion. Outmaneuvering opponents in this test of mental strength and strategy offers an unparalleled thrill. To deepen my understanding of the game and to assist others, I initiated this blog. It aims to elucidate the ever-evolving technologies, strategies, and legal landscapes of poker, especially in the online realm. We're now in the age of solvers, but both online and live poker continue to thrive. A quick visit to a local $1/3 game would be ample evidence of its vitality. Regardless of your proficiency level, from novice to expert, I hope my blog posts offer you valuable insights. Feel free to engage with me through messages or by commenting on my posts. Cheers!

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