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How do I heads up no limit?

The role models. Kaintd77 and missy922.

First off, let's start off by breaking apart some common misconceptions regarding heads up no limit.

Just because a conventional strategy for heads up no limit is profitable, it doesn't mean it is optimal. Playing a TAG style heads up, raising 3x the button or minraising the button, value betting, quitting regs, stop loss, not playing when tired or tilted etc is a profitable strategy. Each time I sit down and play heads up, I do my best to play a profitable strategy. But as RunItOnce members, we ask ourselves "how can I improve? how can I push my edge?" Why are these players win rates TWICE my win rate? Why are they winning at 40bb/100 and I am only winning at 20bb/100?

Going deeper. If I wanted to I could just write it off and say that these players are just better than me in every possible way. It is probably true that these players are better than me in every possible way. But that doesn't get us anywhere. What we want to do is question the conventional strategy for heads up no limit and see how we can increase our bb/100s. I'm not saying that playing this way is going to get you 40bb/100 win rates. All I'm saying is that if you switch from the conventional strategy for heads up no limit to the optimal strategy you will increase your bb/100, experience less variance, tilt less, win more money, and achieve better overall happiness with your poker playing hobby.

1. Get Your Goals Straight

If you want to start playing an optimal strategy for heads up no limit you have to get your goals straight. Every time you sit down to play heads up no limit you should tell yourself you are here to make money, not to feed egos. If you are trying to make money playing poker, it follows that you want to make money as fast as possible. What I'm trying to say is that you want to maximize your bb/100.

2. Things that hurt your bb/100

Now that we are all on the same page and are trying to figure out ways to maximize our bb/100, let's first go over things that hurt your bb/100. Avoid these at all costs!

-not seeing flops: if you are not seeing flops then the pots you win are small (preflop steals) and you won't be getting a very high bb/100

-small pots on the flop: if the pots are small on the flop, how are you going to make big pots? overbet, overbet, overbet? We want to get stacks in on the river, even in single raised pots. To do this we have to question the "standard" 2x or 3x preflop raise size. If you want to get bigger pots on the flop that compound on every street you are going to want to change your open raise size to 5-10 times the big blind.

-weak tights, tags, good lags: basically playing anyone that is not a loose passive or maniacal aggressive station is going to hurt your bb/100. Those knits won't pay you off in big pots 3 streets, and players that understand poker, pot odds, ranges, know how to fold, know how to value bet correctly aren't going to give you a 40bb/100 win rate

3. Table selection on steroids

You are probably saying, "Mush where do I find all these loose passives and maniacal stations?" The loose passive and maniacal station is like a legendary Pokemon. They are rare, but when you find them it makes you really happy. Since these mega-fish are going to give you large win rates and the regs and good players that sit you are going to give you marginal win rates, it makes sense to try to play as many hands with mega-fish and as few hands with regs and good players as possible. We want to make it a skill to discover what type of opponent we have as fast as possible.

Boosters for your table selection:

-raise 5x-10x the button on your first hand. If your opponent is a full stack with auto-reload on, and folds quit him. DO NOT POST YOUR BIG BLIND. Some say "Mushypoo! You scum you won't even play OOP!" What I say is that I am trying to maximize my bb/100 and I'm pretty sure I make a lot more $$$ in position than OOP. No hard feelings to the good players that try and sit with you, they have all the right to sit with you. But, if you refuse action from them and only play your button then quit, it will make it negative EV for them to sit with you, and since good players think rationally, these good players will stop sitting with you.

-if your opponent, is not sitting with full stack and instead has a weird buy in amount it is likely they are playing with the last of their account balance. Heighten your awareness! You potentially have a mega-fish. Not yet though, if these guys are not calling your huge raises OOP 80-100% of the time you are going to have to quit them. How sad! Do this within 10 hands.

-do not buy in for a full stack, do not have auto-reload on. These things scare away the fishies! If you sit a full-stack with auto-reload on, you take away the recreational experience of the mega-fish. Mega-fish are recreational players that play poker for fun. Keyword: play poker for fun. If they don't think they have a chance at beating you, they won't have as much fun and you will not get as many hands with them. This will decrease your win rate because when you wait for the next mega-fish you have to waste hands table selecting regs, knits, and tags.

Things that fish find fun: 

1. when you show your cards (raise large preflop depending on the strength of your hand, and show your cards whenever you have junk. This makes the fishy think you are crazy! Sometimes raise really big with junk and show. Fish will really like it when you do this. Gives them a chance to beat you, they think you bluff all the time and it creates a fun experience for them)

2. when you are polite to them 

3. when you compliment them on their hands (they like to see the flop and see how their cards match up with it, when their hole cards match up with the flop they become excited and do things like bet and raise or check and call. Reward them for this behavior. Say things like, "nice hand", "very nice hand", and "well played."

4. when you flirt with them. Fishies work hard on their appearance. Outside of the poker table, they do things like go to the fish gym, eat healthy, drink protein shakes, lift etc. It is polite to compliment them on not only the way they play poker, but give them female validation. It helps to have a feminine or cute sounding screen name and avatar. Look at Missy's avatar and screen name. Missy922 sounds like the user could be a female. Also, the avatar is of cookie monster, which is cute and fun. Having screen names and avatars like this will make the game more fun for the recreational player.

5. when you do not slow roll them. If you slow roll the fishy it will become agitated and potentially swim away. Whenever you have the nuts, call as fast as possible. Basically you are practically going to break your finger off calling so fast. When you have the nuts and fishy is going to bet, hover over the call or all-in button getting ready to call or reshove as fast as possible.

6. always say gg at the end. It is good sportsmanship and since you make it an enjoyable experience for the recreational player they will respect you as a player. When you make virtual friends with the fishy they will most likely choose you to play with out of the other regs, when they make their next redeposit onto the poker site.

4. Post flop

-rarely bluff (since you are raising to large amounts preflop and showing junky cards it will encourage the fish to call more. If they are going to be calling more, it follows that you are going to want to bluff less)

-never fold to 3bets (if you can't profitably call 3bets with the majority of your opening range, you should quit your opponent and find a new one. Not to mention, these 3bet pots where you have position is where you make a big bb/100. Large pots in position!)

-play passive postflop (contrary to popular belief, a passive approach to post flop is the optimal way to play this strategy. If you look at missy's stats you will see he plays VERY PASSIVE post flop. Aggressive preflop, and passive postflop is the way to go. If you have a hand that is going for value, you are going to want to bet it hard for value to get stacks in by the river. Depending on textures, stack sizes, and the strength of your hand you are going to change your bet size)

-call with your bluff catchers when fishies try to bluff you (these mega-fish give away huge amounts of information based on the size of their bets and the timing of the bets. People underestimate the power of playing one table and being 100% in the moment while you play. There is so much information at your disposal. Use this information to maximize your bb/100)

-widen your bluff-catching range because of the metagame dynamic (since the fishies see you raise to huge amounts preflop, showing junky cards etc, they think you are bluffing them! Since they don't want to miss out on all the bluffing fun, they'll start to bluff you a lot too to have more fun. To adjust call with a wider-range of bluffcatchers to get more value out of the fish who bluff too much)

-value bet like crazy (with your image, you can really take hands like TPGK to the grave. Bet, overbet, shove etc. You'll be surprised with what type of hands mega-stations will show up with OTR and think are good enough to play for stacks)

5. Mottos

"Quick and easy."

"Don't bluff a lot post flop because the mega-fish will tend to call because calling is fun. If they aren't calling a lot you should quit them."

"Tell yourself you are here to make money, not to feed egos."

"Patience, patience, patience."

6. Final tips

-widen your net. You want to play on as many sites as possible. No seriously, you should have 10+ clients open. You want to sit across as many stakes as possible too. This will increase your probability of harpooning a mega-fish or lassoing a donkey that just escaped from the petting zoo.

-let go of the previous hand, play your next hand as if it never happened. Bumhunting should be a zen-like meditation experience. You are not here to fight egos. You are here to play enlightened poker. Have fun with your opponent and make sure he has fun playing with you. Poker is a game and it's suppose to be fun. Remember that, especially when you start to find yourself not having fun playing.

-rabbit's foot. Do you have your rabbits foot nearby? You should always ask your opponent if they have a rabbits foot. Tell them that you have a lucky rabbit's foot and you never play without it. Recommend that they get a rabbit's foot too. I'm actually not joking about this. Doing this will make the fish feel more secure about losing money to you. It makes the game more about fun, luck, and mystery, rather then skill. This will hide your own skill, and make the fish feel its okay if they don't have skill.

-be very humble, wise, and generous (these traits are things that I'm trying to work on and things I've noticed that all the experts in poker and many other disciplines have in common. Phil Galfond and missy922 are very good examples of this. They are very wise, humble, and generous. The sexiest peacocks don't always need to show off their feathers)


Happy February and good luck at the tables! :D


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