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How to Play ‘Heads up’ Poker: Matchups & Probabilities

Heads Up Poker is an opportunity for players to show off their whole arsenal of poker talents, including bluffing, folding, making strategic moves, raising, interpreting opponents’ cards and ranges, and so on. 

If you want to win this game, you must consistently play hard. Remember that hostility does not imply that we are ignoring our cognitive abilities. In reality, heads-up strategies necessitate considerable attentiveness on the player’s part.

We’ll go through a number of heads-up match-ups in this blog to help you figure out where exactly you stand in a variety of pre-flop circumstances when playing hold’em. Please keep in mind that we’ll only be looking at single-hand match-ups. It’s critical to put your opponent on a variety of hands rather than specific holdings when playing hold’em. Knowing the probabilities of typical preflop match-ups, on the other hand, is a smart place to start. Choose and study what will be beneficial to you. While it is not required that you memorise these figures, this will not harm you if you do.

Pair vs Pair

The stronger pair has an 80% chance of winning. We can be a little more technical and say that if the underpair didn’t have any clean suits and/or the maximum amount of straight outs, the high pair’s equity would rise by one or two notches.

For instance: JJ vs 77

Pair vs Overcards

This is the standard coin flip hand that you’ll encounter late in tournaments with one player all-in. Because the pair is a small favourite, the word coin flip denotes an even money situation, which is actually a 55 to 45 percent situation.

For instance: QQ vs AK

Pair vs. Undercards

The pair is usually a 5-to-1 favourite in this position, although this might change depending on if the two undercards are suited and/or connectors.

For Instance: 68 vs 99

Pair vs. Overcard and an undercard

The pair has a 70% chance of winning. QQ vs AT is another example of this holding. The non-paired hand of the underdog has three outs, while the favourite has redraws.

For instance: QQ vs AT

Overcard, Same high card vs. Same high card pair

The fight between a pair of cowboys and Big Slick is a typical case of this circumstance. With three outs for the A-K, the situation becomes 70-30 percent or 2.3-to-1 for the cowboys. This is in stark contrast to the next scenario, in which one of the pair is matched but the other is lower.

For instance: AK vs KK

Same high card, low card vs High card pair

To win, the non-pair must either hit its undercard twice or make a straight or flush. The probabilities are slightly better than 90 percent, or slightly better than 10-to-1. Those are odds I’m willing to take at any time.

For instance: J8 vs JJ

Pair vs. Lower suited connectors

Late in tournaments, you’ll see this match-up when a player is desperate and goes all-in with middling suited connectors. A hand like KK versus 89 suited is a great illustration. The odds are stacked against suited connectors.

For instance KK vs 89

Pair vs. Higher suited connectors

Here’s a real-life example of a coin toss. Heads-up a pair of nines versus a suited KQ, a pair of nines is a 50/50 proposition. Because the board can sometimes demolish small pairs, the higher suited cards would have an advantage over a lower pair, such as 2s or 3s.

For instance: KQ vs 99

ALSO READ: Tips & Tricks to dominate Short-Deck Poker!

Common Pre-Flop Match-Ups (Non Pairs)

These heads-up confrontations have no pairs

Two high cards vs two low cards 

The two higher cards are normally a 65 percent favourite to win, although this is subject to change depending on if any of the cards are suited and/or connectors. 

For instance: AQ vs 47

Two middle cards vs. a high card and a low card 

The high card provides it the upper hand in this match-up. But it’s a close call, with the hand with the high card winning around 57% of the time. 

For instance: Q9 vs A3

Second highest, low card vs. high card, middle card 

When the low card becomes the third highest card, as demonstrated in this example, the edge increases by about 5%, giving a 62 percent to 38 percent edge for the high card/middle card combo.

For instance: K4 vs A9

High card, same card vs. same card, low card 

The AQ is in a very strong position in this example. After eliminating the possibility of a flush or straight, the player holding Q9 is left with three outs (the three remaining 9’s). 

Same high card, high kicker vs. same high card vs low kicker 

The high kicker offers this hand a significant advantage. It’s fairly frequent for A-K to run against A-Q, A-J, and lower, which is why Ace-King is such a strong hand, especially in no-limit hold’em events where people move all-in with any Ace.

For instance: AK vs AJ

Statistical Variations

For any math nerds out there who don’t think these odds are exact enough, keep in mind that the arithmetic is rounded and doesn’t account for ties or back door straights and flushes for the most part. The basic statistical match-up is what players need to know, not the fact that in the example of a pair of nines against a suited JT, the percentages are exactly 50.95 for the eights to 48.68 for the suited connectors, with the rest going to hypothetical ties. That’s what I’d call a 50/50 bet. 

The notion that you can never be a decisive underdog in most heads-up battles is more important than nitpicking about tenths of a percent. One of the reasons why poker is so tough and enjoyable is because of this. Of course, while this is true, we’re not trying to inspire the players to disregard the chances. Poker is based on math, and if you consistently put your money in the midst of the worst of it, you will go bankrupt. 

One statistic that hasn’t been addressed, but which we find fascinating, is that the odds of both players being dealt Aces when playing heads up (one on one) are 270,724 to 1. It’s one of my favourite statistics because it gives me near-complete confidence that I’m the head honcho when I’m playing heads-up and receiving pocket Aces! That self-assurance lasts all the way to the river, when my Aces are cracked by a terrible slice of cheese that my opponent chose to play. As previously said, you are rarely an overwhelming underdog, so keep that in mind while you’re losing hands.

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Gaurav Sangwanihttps://www.mpl.live/
Formerly a startup journalist, Gaurav now works as a Content Manager & Writer for Mobile Premier League. A non-fiction author with a flair for technology & games. Gaurav has also contributed hundreds of blogs for different media publications.

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