How to Play Heads Up Hold’em

Heads Up Hold’em is a poker table game. The goal of the player is to beat the dealer. The strength of hands held by other players at the table is not relevant as each plays the house and not each other. 

Heads Up Hold’em plays like Ultimate Texas Hold’em. However, there are two major differences.

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How is Heads Up Hold’em different from Ultimate Texas Hold’em?

The biggest difference players will find between Heads Up Hold’em and Ultimate Texas Hold’em is found before the flop. In Heads Up Hold’em, players may only raise three times the ante. In Ultimate Texas Hold’em, players may raise three or four times the ante preflop. Players should always raise four times in Ultimate Texas Hold’em, even though three times is available, if the hand qualifies as one that should be raised.

The lack of a four times raise in Heads Up Hold’em changes some of the strategy. That is covered later in this article.

To make up for the lack of a four times raise, Heads Up Hold’em has a losing odds bonus that plays a bit like a bad beat jackpot. It wins if the player loses at least a straight to the dealer. The player can use the five community cards for the bad beat bonus if the dealer has one card that improves the house hand. 

The losing odds bet is included in the Heads Up Hold’em ante bets. In Ultimate Texas Hold’em, this is a side bet. 

Is Heads Up Hold’em better than Ultimate Texas Hold’em?

The Heads Up Hold’em house edge is slightly lower than it is at Ultimate Texas Hold’em. It is not enough to make a noticeable difference. Heads Up Hold’em is better for players that prefer not to raise four times preflop or do not raise marginal hole cards at that point of the hand. That is because the bad beat bonus will give those players more of a return than those who are accustomed to properly raising four times at Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

We think that more conservative players looking for a better chance at a jackpot will prefer Heads Up Hold’em. Those who enjoy the action of a four times preflop raise will want to choose Ultimate Texas Hold’em. 

Buying into a Heads Up Hold’em game

Heads Up Hold'em table

There are two ways to buy into a Heads Up Hold’em game. You may bring chips from another table. The dealer can make change for larger chips. 

You may also use cash to get chips. Place your cash on the felt. The dealer will count and verify it. You will then receive chips that may be used at the table. 

The minimum bet for Heads Up Hold’em is usually $5 or $10. You will typically receive all $5 red chips unless you request otherwise or buy in for a large amount.

How to make a Heads Up Hold’em bet

A player must make both an ante and odds bet. These bets must be equal and individually meet the table minimum. Make sure that you have at least three times the ante to make a raise. Players may also make side bets at the same time as posting the ante and odds.

How to play a hand of Heads Up Hold’em

Once the bets are established, two cards are dealt to each player. The dealer also receives two cards. Five cards are placed in the center of the table. These are used by all players and the dealer. 

Players look at their cards and decide if they would like to raise three times the ante or check. Players that raise must place their cards in front of the bets. The decisions are over for these players. 

Three of the five community cards are exposed. Players that did not raise preflop have the option of making a bet of two times the ante here. The other option is to check. Players that raise here place their cards in front of the bets. Their action is over for the hand. 

The last two community cards are shown. Players that checked the first two rounds must decide to play or fold here. Staying in the hand requires a raise equal to the ante.

Resolving Heads Up Hold’em bets

Once the player action is complete, the dealer’s cards are exposed. Its strength is determined and compared to player hands. 

The dealer must have at least a pair to qualify. This pair may be part of the community cards. If the dealer does not qualify, the ante pushes, regardless of whether the player or dealer has a better hand. If the dealer qualifies, the ante is in action. The odds and raises play, regardless of whether the dealer qualifies. 

If the dealer’s hand beats the player’s hand, the house wins the raise and odds. The house also wins the ante if the dealer qualifies. If the player and the dealer have the same hand, it is a push and the ante, odds and raise are returned. 

If the player’s hand beats the dealer’s hand, the raise wins. The ante wins if the dealer qualifies. The odds bet pushes on most hands. However, if the player makes a winning straight or better, it is paid a bonus based on the following pay table.

Heads Up Hold’em odds pay table

A player with a winning hand of a straight or better is paid odds based on the hand. The odds bet pushes on wins with a hand lower than a straight. It loses if the dealer has a better hand than the player. Multiply the odds by the amount wagered to determine the win. 

  • Royal flush: 500
  • Straight flush: 50
  • Four of a kind: 10
  • Full house: 3
  • Flush: 1.5
  • Straight: 1

Losing odds bad beat payouts

If the player loses with a straight or better, there is a bad beat bonus called losing odds. It pays the following. The player can use only the five community cards if the dealer has one card that improves its hand.

  • Straight flush: 500
  • Four of a kind: 50
  • Full house: 10
  • Flush: 6
  • Straight: 5

Heads Up Hold’em side bets

There are two optional side bets at a Heads Up Hold’em table. One is Trips Plus. The other is a pocket bonus. Multiply the amount wagered by the pay table. 

Trips plus pay table

The triple plus bet is paid based on the best five-card hand a player makes. It can win, even if the player folds.

  • Royal flush: 100
  • Straight flush: 40
  • Four of a kind: 30
  • Full house: 8
  • Flush: 7
  • Straight: 4
  • Three of a kind: 2

Pocket bonus pay table

The pocket bonus is paid based on the two cards dealt to the player. It can win, even if the player folds. 

  • Pocket aces: 30
  • Suited ace and face card: 20
  • Ace and face unsuited: 10
  • Pocket pair of 2’s through kings: 5

Some houses offer a progressive jackpot on a royal flush. It typically pays on a full house, four of a kind and straight flush. 

Heads Up Hold’em Strategy

Raise before the flop on the following hands:

  • Any pair of threes of better
  • Any hand containing an ace
  • Any hand that makes 20 in blackjack
  • Unsuited king with 7, 8, or 9
  • All suited hands with a king, except for unsuited with a 2, 3, or 4
  • Queen with 8 or 9 suited

Check with all other hands

After the flop, raise with:

  • Any pair that uses a hole card t make, except pocket twos
  • Two pair or better
  • A flush draw with at least a 10 in the hand

At the river, bet with the following hands. Fold any other hand.

  • Any pair with a hole card used
  • Any hand where the dealer has fewer than 21 outs to win. For this, count the cards that the dealer can have to play into the board and determine how many there are. If that number is 20 or less, play.

Last Updated on July 7, 2023 by John Mehaffey