Update August 2011 - The guide is now out of date. While many of the descriptions are accurate or close to accurate, significant changes have happened in the industry. For example, at the time of this update, Full Tilt (previously 2nd largest online poker room) is down and not operating poker games. PokerStars, is still the largest poker room, but has lowered rake for heads up sngs and has also inserted hyper turbo heads up sngs, a new, faster, shorter stacked structure.
If you are looking for the best rakeback/signup deals for poker rooms that offer heads up sngs, check out our Deals Page. If you have any questions about which poker room is right for you, or any questions in general about where to sign up, contact us and we will be happy to give you advice.
This is a guide the all the major sites that offer heads up sngs and some information about them.
The Big Two
Pokerstars is the biggest online poker site in the world. They also happen to have the largest heads up sng playerbase out there. There is heavy action from the $2 dollar level all the way to the $115 level. The high stakes action from $230 to $5600 is also the largest on the internet. The site is also open to US players, as well as non US players.
Pokerstars offers several structures, the most popular being turbo speed heads up sngs. The blinds start at 10-20, rising every 5 minutes (15/30, 25/50, 50/100, 75/150) in these games. All starting stacks on PokerStars are 1500. The regular speed games, which are also very popular, are similar to the turbos in every way except two. First, the blinds increase every 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes. Second, the time in between hands to deal the cards is actually slightly slower in the regular speeds compared to the turbos.
Other structures that Stars offers include two types of no blind increase games. The original is simply the no blind increase structure with fixed blinds of 15/30 and 1500 in starting chips. The second is the no blind increase "deep" games. The starting stacks here are 2000 chips and the blind level is fixed at 5/10. The highest buyin levels for these games are the $220 and $222 limits, respectively.
PokerStars also offers 4 man heads up sngs in both regular and turbo speed up to the $570 level. There are 16 and 32 man heads up sngs that go up to the $21 dollar level and use the regular speed structure.
There is a weekly $215 heads up tourney in early evening eastern time that generally gets 200-400 players in it. There are also a few lower buyin husng tourneys that run once or twice a day. One is $2.20 winner take all tourney another isa $22 buyin that has a more favorable payout structure. Recently Pokerstars has also added a super turbo structure heads up mtt with a buyin of $109.
Customer support on Pokerstars is generally considered to be as good as it gets for online poker. The support team answers emails very quickly and the higher up management generally takes care of tougher issues within 24 hours. Most reported cases are resolved fairly and promptly.
The use of Sharkscope and Tableratings are both prohibited on this site.
Rakeback is not offered at Pokerstars, though they do have small deposit bonuses for new signups and a frequent player program that actually can be converted into rough rakeback %s.
It's generally accepted that you get around 10-15% rakeback as you climb up the VIP levels to "supernova" and "supernova elite." The former requires the equivelent of 2,000 $230 turbo speed husngs to reach, whereupon you get roughly 25-30% rakeback. Supernova Elites have been reported to receive compensation in the neighborhood of 50% rakeback, but it requires 10x what supernova status requires.
Full Tilt has quickly emerged as one of the top places to play heads up sngs, among other games. Traffic is probably second only to Pokerstars for these games and the playerbase is probably even weaker, at least in the mid to high stakes games.
One of the best things about Full Tilt is their addition of a rematch button. After completing a game both players have the option of accepting or declining a new match against each other. This allows players to bypass reregistering for a game and hoping nobody sits with the other player.
The main games on Full Tilt are turbo and regular speed. Turbos are a very fast structure and fast gameplay, with blinds starting at 15/30 (20/40, 25/50, 30/60, 40/80, 50/100, 60/120,80/160) and moving up every 3 minutes. The regular speed games have a 10/20 level before the other levels and move up every 6 minutes instead of 3. Buyins are similar to Pokerstars with the added level of $88 dollars being a bridge between the $55 and $110 levels. Unlike Pokerstars, Full Tilt does not offer a bridge between the $230 and $570 games with a $345 buyin level.
Full Tilt offers various 4 man husngs, similar to PokerStars. You cannot play these with a partner then "chop" or "split" them like on Pokerstars.
They also offer a heads up tournament every Saturday. The buyin is $200 and the structure is similar to the turbo speed structure, only starting chips are 2000 instead of 1500. There are various other heads up tourneys offered throughout the day and week, including both low buyin and mid buyin games.
The use of Sharkscope on Full Tilt has at times been allowed and other times banned. This is a constant problem with Full Tilt, clarity and reliable customer service. However, much of the reported problems at Full Tilt seem to be due to bad press relations and not unfair treatment. There are several notable exceptions that can be found in the Two Plus Two poker forum, specifically in the "internet gambling" sub forum.
Rakeback is offered at Full Tilt and is capped at 27%. We offer new signups to Full Tilt that signup through our rakeback page the maximum 27%. As a bonus, if you generate 500 MGR (basically 500 dollars in rake paid) in a single month, you receive a free membership to husng.com for one month. This is not a limited offer, if you generate 500 MGR in rake each month for a year, you will have received a full year membership to the site for free.
Non American Networks
This is Europe's most populated poker network. Third in the world to Full Tilt and Pokerstars, I-Poker is quite sizable. Their husng population is reported to be much lower than Stars or Tilt, however.
They offer a wide range of buyins, from $1.05 to $5100. I-Poker has 3 speeds of games, regular, turbo and super turbo (blind levels of 7 minutes, 4 minutes and 1 minute respectively). The blind structure is 10/20, 20/40, 30/60, 50/100 and 100/200.
There is no timebank on Ipoker so games move pretty slow. It is not uncommon, even in the super turbo games to only get 3 or 4 hands in per minute.
husng.com will offer a special VIP offer from I-Poker in the near future. Check back soon to see what we have for you!
Everest is another rather large non American poker site.
Buyins on Everest range from $.30 to $520. Everest offers regular, speed and turbo paced games. Only the regular speed games are offered at mid and high stakes buyins. They play very slow, with starting stacks of 1000 chips and 10 minute blind levels (5/10, 10/20, 15/30, 20/40, 30/60, 50/100, 75/150).
The Boss Network has merged with InterPoker as of March 17th, 2009.
They offer slow, regular and 8 minute speed games from the 3.15 Euro level all the way to the 1025 Euro buyin.
After the merging, players will have to clear 100 Euro rake contribution each month to keep the maximum rakeback of 30%. husng.com offers this rakeback, as well as a generous first time deposit bonuses that vary from room to room on the network (paradise, virgin, fortune, poker kings and poker heavin are all a part of this network).
Party Poker rakes their low stakes husngs with 10% rake (most sites are 5%) so we aren't going to do a full bio on them. I would not play there unless you play very high stakes, and even then I am not sure the traffic warrants it. They cap their rake at $10 so the $220 + 10 levels are similar to Stars and you actually save some rake in the $500 buyin level.
US Second Tier
Cake has quickly become a major player in the onlie poker market, particularly with the husngs. Action still can be a little sporadic during off peak times, but overall Cake is a site many have found surprisingly good for husng games.
Cake offers regular speed (10 minute blind levels) as well as turbo speed games (5 minute blind levels) in a similar style to Pokerstars structure and speed. At the lower levels, there is no $20 dollar buyin level, just a $26.25.
Cake also offers multiple 8 man hu shootouts.
The rake is slightly cheaper starting at the $200 + 8 level, than most other sites. They also have $300+12 (opposed to $15 dollar rake).
Cake's customer support has been relatively shaky. They had many software problems in their infancy, but appear to have improved a lot since then. Support complaints are medium to high for a major poker site and solutions seem to be average overall.
husng.com is proud to offer the maximum cake rakeback of 33% as well as a 100% signup bonus up to $500 on your first deposit.
Bodog is well known for being a sportsbetting site and having very soft cash game action. What is less known, is that Bodog has an incredibly fishy playerbase and is open to US players.
Bodog offers regular speed games up to $105 and turbo speeds up to $115. They start at $5.25 and $6.25 respectively.
The turbo speeds increase blind levels every
Bodog had some software problems years ago, most of these seem to have been corrected for some time. They also had a lot of check problems in 2008, but it seems their processor is very fast and efficient, a recent check arrived in 4 business days. Their customer support is at the top of the industry, most likely due to them having a major sportsbook on their site. They max out at 3 tables I believe, so you cannot play 4 or more tables at once on the site. This has discouraged many "sharks" from playing on the site, as has the sportsbook and murky legality of sportsbooks in general.
husng.com offers special VIP offers for Bodog. To view these offers you must be logged in to our "rakeback" page on our site.
Down but Not Out
Cereus Network (Formerly Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker)
This network has emerged from the scandalous Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker days. It's a new group of owners, somewhat more respectable and trustworthy, but there remains a cloud of uncertainty over this network.
Fortunately, for those that end up trusting this site, there is a lot of money to be made, as many of the regular grinders and very skillful players have left this site. They leave behind a dwindling but solid pool of fish. You may not always get action at the mid to higher level games, but when you do it will usually be against the kind of player you are looking for, a very poor one.
Cereus offers regular speed (12 minute blinds), turbo (5 minute blinds) as well as ultra turbo speed games (2 minute blinds) from the $5.25 level all the way to $5100, similar to Stars and Full Tilt. There are also many different types of structures available at the lower buyin ranges than the higher buyin.
Besides the two cheating scandals made infamous by the two plus two poker forums, Cereus has been known to have a responsive customer service. There have been allegations that peer to peer transactions have been reversed without much hassle, which is fairly troubling, but as a whole their customer service is ranked from decent to good by most.
The Cereus Network offers a maximum rakeback of 30%. In addition, the Ultimate Bet portion of Cereus offers a 111% signup bonus up to $1100 and the Absolute Poker side offers a 150% signup bonus up to $500. husng.com is proud to offer all of these promotions in our "rakeback" section of the site. In addition, any players that rake 500 MGR in any month receive a free month membership to our site, no strings attached.
Carbon is a relatively new poker site and is open to US residents.
They offer husngs from the $5.25 level all the way to the $1040 level.
They have a unique structure with the starting blinds at 10/15 (starting stacks are now 1500 I believe, they used to be 1000 chips) that go up every 10 hands. The blinds levels are 10/15, 15/30, 25/50 and 50/100.
Carbon is the least populated site out of all the sites open to US residents in this article, but there are mid stakes games always running at off peak games (at press it was 9am EST and there were a few $21 dollar games being played and some sporadic action at the $50 dollar level).
husng.com is proud to offer a very generous first deposit bonus of 150% up to $1000 dollars! We also offer 30% rakeback to all new signups.
See an error in this article? Has a game or structure changed on any of these sites recently? Email Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to Waidzu, Daniel, WBR and dnkyply for their help and advice on this article.