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Heads Up Poker Challenge


Sky Matsuhashi

on November 12, 2015

Heads Up Poker Challenge

I was looking for a way to improve my SNG results as I'd been seeing too many 2nd place finishes and not enough 1st place finishes.  I also recently came 2nd place in a big MTT which was great but a little disappointing b/c 1st paid about 25% more prize money.  I felt that my big issue was that I wasn't adjusting to my opponent's play as I should, so I decided to do something about it.  One of my solutions was attempting…

The Heads Up Poker Challenge

Getting into more Heads Up (HU) spots is the quickest/easiest way to improve your skills in HU play, so I decided to play 100 HU SNG's.

This is a format that I have very little experience in, but I knew that some of the best players in the world are HU experts (like Ike Haxton) and following in their footsteps can't be a bad move.  Getting more 1st place finishes is prolly the best thing you can do to increase your overall ROI in SNG's and MTT's, so purposeful practice in this format will lead to more success in that endeavor.


This challenge will force you to:

  • Ditch the tight playing you may be comfortable with
  • Play your A-game and go with your reads
  • Tryout different styles of play and see how they fare vs differing opponents
  • Adjust to player's different opening and defending ranges
  • Learn how hands change in value in HU play vs 6max or full-ring play (TP is more valuable HU than in a full-ring game)
  • Get more flop, turn and river experience that you're prolly lacking
  • Get lots of practice with ICM implications and the maths behind bets & calls in post-session studies
  • Play out of position a lot over various streets which will make you a stronger, more adaptive player
  • Get in the habit of paying attention to game flow and tailoring your moves based on your recent history in the match
  • Get plenty of short-stack experience to improve your push/fold game

5 Steps to the HU Poker Challenge

  1. Complete 10 HU SNG matches each day over 10 consecutive days
  2. Record your results and lessons learned in-play (get my personal tracker below w/detailed instructions)
  3. Incorporate into your daily studies either HU SNG articles, videos, forum discussions or coaching to really get the most from this.  Learn, implement, review, repeat.
  4. Daily review of at least 2 matches from the prior day, either winning or losing, but should be ones you found particular difficulty in the opponent you faced.
  5. Compile the total results for all 100, and now this is your goal to beat as you continue to play HU SNG's in batches of 10 or more.

My quantifiable results were as follows:

Profit = $16.18 >>> Not what I'd like, but at least I'm up ?

# of Games Played = 106 over 7 sessions ☺

Total $/Game = $.15 >>> NOT SO GOOD ? C'mon, I want at least 16 cents per game! ???

ROI = 4.18% >>> Now I'll be shooting for 8%+ ?

# of Games Won and % = 60/106 = 57% >>> Not too shabby, but shooting for 60%+ now ?

My non-quantifiable but highly valuable results were as follows:

I'm constantly finding myself thinking, “How can I exploit this opponent?”  Like literally, I'm thinking that line in my head all the time, and not just in HU situations.  I'm paying more attention to my opponent's style of play along with our recent history at the table, and I'm using those to my advantage.  I feel much more confident in my play as well, so that's leading to more success at the tables.

Playing = good, reviewing = GREAT!

Just playing the 100 matches isn't enough.  You need to review at least 2 out of the 10 matches you play each day, hand for hand, and look for the following:

  • Assess your play and your opponents.  Was your strategy effective vs his style?  What changes could you have made to take advantage of his tendencies?
  • What were your ranges based on your actions, and what were his?  Were you accurate in your assumptions of his range?  Why or why not?
  • Look at the match from your perspective, then look at it from his.  Did he see anything in your plays that you didn't intend for him to see?  Was that river bet you made after checking back the turn bluffy or value-y to him?

Continual Heads Up Poker Play

This isn't a “one-and-done” improvement technique.  I learned so much from this challenge, that I've also committed to playing at least 10 HU SNG's every week from here on out, and I'm recording the results and lessons learned from those as well.

If you decide to embark on this journey of 100 HU SNG's in order to improve your play, please let me know how you do in the comments below!

Looking for another challenge?  Check out the 3bet Re-Steal Poker Challenge.

Study, practice and play with purpose, and make your next session the best one yet!


Sky Matsuhashi

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