Expert Heads Up No Limit Hold'em, Volume 1

Optimal and Exploitative Strategies

Will Tipton 336 pages

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A lot of poker books promise instant success, screaming “Crush the online games” or “How I won a million dollars playing poker”. They suggest that poker is actually rather easy and that anyone with five minutes to spare can quickly gain expertise in the game. But you know that these claims simply aren’t true.

To achieve mastery of poker is not easy – it requires a great deal of deep thinking. Expert Heads Up No Limit Hold ‘em is a unique and remarkable book, providing a clear framework with which to analyse the game. The author Will Tipton, a PhD candidate at Cornell University, demonstrates how decision trees can be used to model complex poker decisions. Starting with simple preflop-only situations, he moves on to consider deeper concepts such as balance, the analysis of ranges, and the theory behind optimal bet sizing.

Why study Heads Up No Limit? Because a deep understanding of this format is crucial for the modern poker player. It’s a very exciting game in its own right, but it’s also critical for the final stages of tournament or sit’n’go play. If you find yourself playing for first prize, you will be playing heads up for a great deal of money. Perfecting your play will give you the edge to maximise your expectation whether you are competing for the big money or grinding out your profit in heads up cash games or SNGs.

Expert Heads Up No Limit Hold ‘em will give you that edge by:

  • helping you identify and maximally exploit opponents’ tendencies
  • giving you a clear explanation of the practical application of theoretical ideas
  • developing your intuition about game theory so that you can apply its lessons directly at the tables

FOREWORD TO Expert Heads Up No Limit Hold ‘em

I’ve been publishing books for over twenty years and poker books for more than ten. In that time I have commissioned hundreds of books and also received a great many unsolicited manuscripts. As you will probably guess, these have been – shall we say politely – of varying quality. If you’ve ever watched the X Factor auditions, you’ll probably get the idea.

I was therefore not unduly excited when a manuscript on heads up no limit hold’em was forwarded to me earlier this year. I have been a serious poker player for ten years but I had never heard of the author. However, he seemed to have already written the whole book – which is unusual in itself. Unsolicited contributions are normally just a few pages or, at most, a chapter. So, I started to read through it.

Within about ten minutes I had experienced what X Factor aficionados

might call a “Susan Boyle moment”. I was reading one of the very best poker books I had ever seen and I knew absolutely that we would definitely want to publish it. Furthermore I could see that – quite remarkably – the book was already very close to the finished product.

Heads Up No Limit is at the heart of the modern professional game. Will Tipton has taken this variant and stripped it down to the bare essentials - creating a mathematical framework to model all elements of play. It is a quite remarkable book.

Poker is a tough game. If you discern a few leaks in your game and want to fix them in five minutes, you’ll have to look elsewhere. However, if you are prepared to take a good look at your game, and are willing to work hard to improve, then the information in this book is utterly invaluable.

I’ve been a solid winning player in the mid-stakes at the online tables for many years. I thought I played okay. Having read this book three times in the last six months I can see that I had huge gaps in my understanding and I am now improving rapidly. If you want to do the same – you should get this book. 

Byron Jacobs, October 2012


    • Equity distribution visualization utility for Windows updated 16/03/2015 (md5sum: 7c33702bfb6ac5e35ad2d4c7ba76c9eb): ZIP, 10MB
    • Volume 1 Errata (updated 11 July 2013): DOC



D&B Poker are pleased to be able to bring you the Expert Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em video pack - an extension of the book Expert Heads Up No Limit Holdem. The video series is almost 6 hours long, and is recommended viewing after reading the book. 


Video 1 - Introduction 

What’s in the book, what’s in the videos, and – what is GTO?


Video 2 - Solving river situations with Gambit (44 minutes) 

Gambit is a freely-available, non-poker-specific software package for setting up and solving games described by decision trees. In this video, I start out with a hand history and show you how to use Gambit and EDVis to model the river play and find, to good approximation, the GTO strategies. Exploitative play and other uses of the two software tools are also discussed. 


Video 3 - Post-game analysis with decision trees (2 parts – 1:27 total) 

In part one, I give commentary on my first matches against genericsn987/howgood2good, and show you how to characterize and adjust to a very aggressive regular with unusual ranges. In part two, I show you how to study and analyze opponents’ strategies away from the table by organizing all the lines they take into a decision tree. 


Video 4 - Estimating unexploitable continuing frequencies (1:09) 

So-called “non-auto-profit” calculations can be a very useful tool for estimating unexploitable frequencies in various spots. However, they are almost always used incorrectly! Remember – using bad theory is usually worse than using no theory at all. In this video, I review the theory behind these calculations, show you when they are and are not appropriate, and show you how to use them effectively. 


Video 5 - Split pot river spots (2 parts – 1:10 total) 

How do you play the river when the board runs out K9TrJQ? Do you try to bluff your opponent off chops? Do you check and pray he lets you get to showdown cheaply? In this video, I show how to find unexploitable strategies in this sort of spot using two methods: the Equilibration Exercise and the Gambit software. Additionally, I discuss computationally-generated GTO strategies for a river spot on a double-paired board – another spot where many of the players’ hands chop at showdown. 


Video 6 - River play from the BB with one bet behind (1:04) 

In this video, I look at river play from the BB with one bet behind. I start by solving for the unexploitable play of this game using [0,1] approximation, and then go into a systematic discussion of how to split your ranges when playing versus exploitable opponents in the SB. I show how to use EV distributions to visualize the most profitable way to play with your entire range against a variety of different exploitable tendencies. 


Video 7 - Reading your own hand (15 minutes) 

In this short video which I hope will help you tie everything together, I talk about the importance of developing the habit of reading your own hand every time you play.

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