Heads-Up Member Review Featured Image

5 Heads-Up Poker Hands Analyzed By A Pro

Heads-up No-Limit Hold’em (HUNL) is arguably the purest form of poker. You sit across the table from 1 opponent and your job is to beat ’em. It’s that simple.

This article/video zooms in on 5 hands that were played by an Upswing Lab member at $0.25/0.50 HUNL.

Heads-up crusher and Lab coach Daniel “DougieDan” McAualay analyzed the member’s sample in a recent 3+ hour video coaching series.

Watch Dan review the hands here or read on for a written version:

Let’s get started!

Hand #1


Preflop: Hero is dealt AJ♠ on the Button.
Hero raises to 2.5x. Big Blind calls. 

Not much to say here: Ace-Jack offsuit is a standard raise from the Button.


Flop (5bb): J♣ 3♣ 3♠
Big Blind checks. Hero bets 3.58bb. Big Blind check-raises to 11.8bb. Hero calls. 

We make our first mistake by betting too big on the flop. Dan explains that we usually want to bet most paired boards at a very high frequency using a small c-bet sizing of around 33% pot. Even with the small sizing, the Big Blind is still going to be forced to fold a lot of hands like T8-offsuit and Q5-offsuit that have totally missed the flop. This big size is simply unnecessary and suboptimal.

Facing a check-raise, Dan notes that while we certainly can’t fold top pair top kicker on the flop, we should be very concerned about the strength of Big Blind’s range going into the turn. The vast majority of players don’t play aggressively enough on paired boards from the Big Blind. This is especially true in lower-stakes games. So, when we bet big and face a raise, our alarm bells should be going off.


Turn (28.5bb): (J♣ 3♣ 3♠) 9♣
Big Blind bets 22bb. Hero calls. 

Dan explains that this is a particularly bad turn for our range. Not only has the flush completed, but most of the potential bluffing combos Big Blind could have (such as Q♣ T or T♠ 8♠) have picked up some equity and can continue betting. 

When we consider how unlikely it is that our opponent is bluffing in this spot, there is a strong case to be made for folding Ace-Jack with no flush draw here on the turn. Calling is the “standard” and solver-approved play, but it becomes an easy fold if our opponent is rarely or never bluffing.

We would certainly rather have a hand like Jack-Ten with the T♣ here, because then at least we have more outs versus a hand like A♠ 3.


River (72.6bb): (J♣ 3♣ 3♠ 9♣) A
Big Blind bets all-in for 73.9bb. Hero calls. Big Blind wins with J3.

Dan wouldn’t hate a fold here, as surprising as it may seem. We have plenty of better hands (flushes, full houses, or bluff-catchers that block the flush) with which to call in this spot. However, calling with the rivered top two is understandable.

In solver land, this hand is a cooler, but versus a human opponent in a low stakes game, we can probably get away.

Hand #2


Preflop: Hero is dealt J♣ 6♣ on the Button.
Hero raises 3bb. Big Blind calls. 

Dan notices that we have changed our opening size to 3bb in this hand. While there can be logical reasons for adjusting our opening size to specific opponents, this is generally unnecessary. 

Dan explains that it’s more important not to over-complicate things, particularly at low stakes. 

The EV difference of a 3x and 2.5x is relatively minimal [even if you’re adjusting it based on your opponent’s tendencies]. You don’t need to overload your brain with things you don’t need to be concerned about. Just have a raise size and stick to it.

Note: Want to know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games, heads-up, and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!

The Advanced Solver Ranges for cash games — one of six sets of preflop charts in the Upswing Lab


Flop (6bb): J T6
Big Blind checks. Hero checks,

Like the last one, this is a flop on which we’re better off using a small bet size. Two pair, in this case, is a hand Dan would always bet.

Solvers will sometimes incorporate checks with hands like two-pair for balance and protection, but this is one of those things that isn’t necessary against most real-world opponents. We want to be applying pressure to our opponents, forcing them to make decisions they aren’t sure about. 


Turn (6bb): (J T 6) 3
Big Blind checks. Hero bets 4.28bb. Big Blind folds.

As played, going for the delayed c-bet is a good decision and the size is reasonable.

Onto the next one.

Hand #3


Preflop: Hero is dealt 9♠ 8 on the Button.
Hero raises 2.5bb. Big Blind calls.

You should raise upwards of 80% of hands on the Button in heads-up play, and a middling offsuit connector like 98 falls well within that ~80%.


Flop (5bb): 7♣ 6♣ 3♣
Big Blind checks. Hero checks.

On this monotone board, Dan would like to see us bet with our entire range for a small sizing. 

98-offsuit with no flush draw makes for a particularly good bet because it’s actually pretty difficult to play this hand on a lot of turns after checking back.

Dan notes that if we check back and the J, for example, comes on the turn, then we’re in a tough spot if our opponent decides to probe bet for a large sizing. We’d be forced to either call a big bet with a 9-high draw or fold a hand with 6 pretty clean outs.

In general, the check here and in the last hand illustrates a theme in our member’s play: not playing aggressively enough in position.


Turn (5bb): (7♣ 6♣ 3♣) A♣
Big Blind checks. Hero checks.

As played, Dan would like to see a delayed c-bet on this turn. We’re drawing dead against flushes, but a bet will force a lot of better hands to fold. Plus, we have equity against the Big Blind’s non-flush made hands (such as two pair).


River (5bb): (7♣ 6♣ 3♣ A♣) J♣
Big Blind checks. Hero bets 3.58bb. Big Blinds calls with Q
T. Both players chop.

Betting on this river is good, but the size could be better. Dan would prefer to see a size bigger than pot to force more folds from the opponent’s very weak range. 

Hand #4


Preflop: Hero is dealt K2♣ on the Button.
Hero raises 2.5bb. Big Blind calls. 

K2-offsuit is obviously a weak looking hand, but it’s certainly strong enough to raise from the Button.


Flop (5bb): Q♣ 5♣ 4
Big Blind checks. Hero checks. 

Again, we miss an opportunity for an effective small c-bet. 

Dan notes that this board is especially ripe for a small bet when we consider our entire range. We’ll have a lot of 4-X and 5-X hands in our range, for example, so if we bet small, we can get both value and protection with those hands

On top of that, a small bet allows us to bluff efficiently (including with hands like K2-offsuit) because it will force the opponent’s many crappy hands to auto-fold. Potentially folding out hands like K6-K9 or even T8 would be a nice win in this spot. 


Turn (5bb): (Q♣ 5♣ 4) A♠
Big Blind checks. Hero bets 3.58bb. Big Blind folds. 

Another good delayed c-bet, as played. We have picked up some gutshot straight draw equity and we represent Ax really well, since we would have checked back so many Ax hands on the flop.

Hand #5


Preflop: Hero is dealt KK on the Button.
Hero raises 2.5bb. Big Blind calls. 

You won’t be surprised to read that this is a good raise with Pocket Kings.


Flop (5bb): 86 6♠
Big Blind checks. Hero checks. 

This is another paired board texture on which Dan would like to see us c-bet small with our entire range. 

Dan suspects that our Hero is trying to incorporate too many sneaky traps into his game that, in reality, are only hurting his win rate. Although Pocket Kings are a reasonable check back, in theory/solver land, it’s very unlikely that checking back makes more money than betting in this spot against most opponents.  

My advice is to think about which play makes the most money. Does betting small make the most money? Probably yes, unless you know they’re going to probe turn 3x pot with a lot of bluffs or something like that. (But in general) there are just too many unknowns. Just play ABC poker, no nonsense.


Turn (5bb): (8 6 6♠) 9
Big Blind checks. Hero bets 3.58bb. Big Blind calls.

As played, this is a good spot for a delayed c-bet with Kings.


River (12.16bb): (8 6 6♠ 9) 4
Big Blind checks. Hero bets 8.68bb. Big Blind calls with T
8. Hero wins.

A good bet on the river, but we probably missed a chance to get 3 streets of value because of that errant check back on the flop.

Final Thoughts

Heads-up No Limit really is a beautiful game. You get to play so many hands and get into so many unique spots, all while battling and gathering reads on a single opponent. If you haven’t dipped your toes in the heads-up poker streets, I highly recommend doing so.

Want some more hand analysis, but from a tournament this time? Check out Patrik Antonius Hero Calls Bottom Pair with $825,000 On The Line (Analysis).

That’s it for today. Good luck at the tables!

Master Heads-Up Poker in the Upswing Lab

Want to learn more from a heads-up end boss? Learn to demolish your opposition when you join the Upswing Lab training course. The latest lesson in the Lab is called Heads-Up Member Review, and the article above gave you a small taste of the full 3-hour lesson.

Other amazing lessons in the course include:

  • How I Won $1.2 Million vs Daniel Negreanu with Doug Polk
  • Advanced Live Poker Strategy with Gary “GazzyB” Blackwood
  • Bounty Tournament Strategy with Hristivoje “ALLinPav” Pavlovic

Note: Learn step-by-step how to become the best player at the table when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Elite pros have been adding new content every week for the past four years, and you get all of it when you join. Learn more now!


Related Posts

Home > 5 Heads-Up Poker Hands Analyzed By A Pro
Home > 5 Heads-Up Poker Hands Analyzed By A Pro
About the Author
Jake Godshall

Jake Godshall

Former high stakes HUSNG player, now a mid stakes cash game player.

Put Your Skills to the Test with Quick Poker Quizzes!