Heads Up Poker Strategy and Rules

Heads up poker is a distilled version of poker, and there are only two players. As a result, the strategies needed are different from when you play with a full table of eight. When playing, you’ll have to play more hands, and you’ll need to understand the shift in odds when a few cards are in play.

Though you can refer to any two-player poker game as Heads Up poker, it usually happens at the end of online real money poker tournaments. All poker variants can end with Heads Up, but we’ll focus on Texas Hold ’em, as this is the most popular and common of online poker games. Here’s how to play heads-up poker.

How to Play Heads Up Poker Online

Posting Blinds

If you’re playing Heads Up poker after surviving a long tournament, you’ll come across large blinds. This is so that players are encouraged to make their moves rather than letting the head-to-head go on for too long.

With Heads Up, one player will always be small blind and the other big blind, and so there are chips in all hands.


Following the blinds, the dealer deals two cards to each player face down. The dealer will then post the small blind and does the pre-flop first action. Then, they can fold, match the big blind, or raise it.

The big blind wins if the opponent folds. If the small blind calls, then the big blind can raise or check. If the small blind raises, then the big blind can fold, raise, or call the raise.

The Flop

If we assume no player folds pre-flop, then the dealer deals with three community cards, which are placed between the two opponents. Then, each opponent will be able to see how strong their hand is. There is another round of betting and the small blind then has the first act again.

The Turn

After this is the Turn. The dealer shows a further community card, which is known as The Turn. This changes the odds as well as the strength of the hands. You can use The Turn to look for changes in how your opponent bets, which might indicate what cards they hold.

The River

The final card is the River, and this is the fifth community card. This card completes the players’ hands and means they can begin the final betting round. Depending on the chip stack and hand, players can force their opponents to fold or encourage them to call the bet.

After betting has occurred, if both players are remaining, cards are shown, and the winner is determined. Key things to note about playing Heads Up poker and a heads-up poker strategy

Folding is safe

Folding isn’t always a bad thing when playing Heads Up poker. Some starting hands really aren’t worth playing forward in this game!

Focus on the goal:

With Heads Up poker, a single hand can be the decider. Yet, it’s important to focus on the end goal and don’t go in too low if you’ve just had a bad hand. Conversely, don’t go in too high if you’ve just had a good one, either! You should focus on the end goal rather than smaller ups and downs.

Keep an eye on your chips:

Knowing how many chips you have remaining compared to your opponent can be equally important as the content of your hand. Knowing the number of chips you have as well as how many you need to win should be what informs your moves.

Hand Rankings in Heads Up Poker

When you play Heads Up poker, you need to understand hand rankings fully. Take a look at our table, which lists the best first.

Name Description Example
Royal Flush Same suit A-K-Q-J-10 All hearts A-K-Q-J-10
Straight Flush Five same-suit cards in a sequence All hearts 4-5-6-7-8
Four of a Kind Four cards of the same value  in different suits (fifth card isn’t counted) 9 of spades, 9 of hearts, 9 of clubs, 9 of diamonds, 2 of hearts
Full house Three cards of the same value and a pair J of spades, J of hearts, J of clubs, 6 of hearts, 6 of clubs
Flush Five same-suit cards All hearts – Q, J, 7, 4, 2
Straight Five sequential cards of any suit 4 of clubs, 5 of diamonds, 6 of diamonds, 7 of hearts, 8 of spades
Three of a Kind Three cards of the same value plus two others that aren’t included 5 of diamonds, 5 of spades, 5 of hearts, 6 of clubs, 2 of hearts
Two Pair Two cards of the same value, two other same-value cards, and a fifth that isn’t counted 4 of hearts, 4 of spades, 9 of hearts, 9 of clubs, 3 of hearts 
One pair Two same-value cards, the other three aren’t counted King of diamonds, King of spades, 3 of hearts, 2 of clubs
No pair Five different value cards, not all same suit


Heads up poker is interesting and is a great variation to Texas Hold’em that makes players really rethink their strategies. If you like the sound of heads up poker rules, look for an online casino offering this game. Remember, though many aspects of the game remain the same as Texas Hold’em, the smaller number of opponents makes the odds and hands different and so the experience of the game isn’t the same!

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