Poker Hand Scenarios: Ace-Queen Part 2

Mike Caro

Wrapping up a two-parter on playing ace-queen, in this part we'll focus on one difficult A-Q scenario that can cause a lot of beginners to make expensive mistakes.

Catch up with Part 1 here.

Tips for Playing A-Q

The scenario:

Sticking with a $2/$4 No-Limit six-max game, your opponent in this hand is aggressive and loose but without a history of getting out of line.

His hands always have some sort of value. He's not making bad bluffs or donk bets, but he has showed down some unlikely hands. In short: a very tricky but strong player.

You've been playing a very strong, tight-aggressive game. You've only showed down legitimate hands and have never been caught getting out of line.

You've also been on a slight cold run of cards and have been folding for a while now, further enforcing your tight image.

$2/$4 No-Limit Hold'em - six players

UTG: $92
MP: $440
CO: $280
BTN: $122
Hero (SB): $320.00
BB: $445

Pre Flop: (Pot: $6) Hero is SB with A Q
2 folds, CO calls $4, BTN folds, Hero calls $2, BB calls $2

Flop: ($12) Q Q K (3 players)
Hero checks, BB checks, CO bets $10, Hero Calls $10, BB Folds

Turn: ($32) 7 (2 players)
Hero checks, CO bets $25, Hero raises to $60, CO calls $35

River: ($152) 8 (2 players)


What do you do?

Bet? If so, how much? Check? What are you hoping he does? If you check and he bets, do you call, raise or fold?

Again, you have to use the information you have to figure out what you think is best. You also need to understand the reasoning behind why you think that.

My answer: After getting a general feel for your opponent, the most important information to look at is the betting pattern.

Preflop: The CO didn't raise. We can't be certain, but we can reasonably assume he doesn't have KK or AA. He can hold almost anything else in his range.

The Flop: The CO has position in this hand, and the flop came very wet. This is commonly thought of as a "hit or miss" flop.

Patrik Antonius
Hold yourself back. Take the time to think before you act.

Unless someone has a Q (hit), they pretty much have to fold a miss to any bet made into the pot. For this reason, the $10 bet doesn't really give us any information. He might have a legitimate hand, or it could simply be a steal attempt.

The Turn: Now that the big blind has folded, we're heads up. We check again, and the CO bets again.

For this player, this bet still doesn't mean all that much; we've shown no real strength and he could be putting us on a weak king - a hand he can make us fold.

When we check-raise, we've basically just turned our hand face up. He can now be almost certain that we have a Q.

We didn't raise in the small blind, so he can't be completely sure we have an ace as a kicker. But he can make a pretty strong guess.

His call after being check-raised is a very interesting action. He didn't three-bet us, but he also didn't fold. If we believe that he knows we have a queen, what can he possibly call with?

He's either setting up a massive river bluff, thinks we're bluffing, has a full house, or has a queen and thinks his kicker might be good.

So now what do we do?

The only hand we're really worried about is K-Q. There are other hands that have a full house to beat us, but they're unlikely. It's not impossible that he hit a house with pocket sevens on the turn, but if that's the case, good for him.

  • If he thinks we're bluffing and we check, he'll check behind us, or just call any bet we make.
  • If he has a full house, he'll bet or raise any bet we make.
  • If he has a queen, he checks behind or just calls us to see if his kicker is good.
  • If he thinks we have a queen with a weak kicker, he might try to bluff. This is unlikely, simply because many players are unable to fold a hand like this.
Barry Greenstein
Just what you want: an ace on the river.

Because we're only worried about K-Q, and we can put JJ, TT, Q-J, Q-10, Q-9, A-K and K-J into his range here (some more likely than others), we have to assume we currently have the best hand.

In my opinion we should be making a value bet here, and one large enough it discourages a raise from anything but a full house.

I'd bet $100-$150. If he does push, chances are you should fold. If you bet $130 on the river, you've committed $204, leaving you with $116.

You'll be getting just under 5-1 on your money to make the call. There is almost no chance a player as good as him would ever make a bluff with such a low chance of success.

Unless he believes you to be a weak-tight player willing to fold just about anything, the 5-1 odds plus knowing you have a Q makes this a very bad spot for a bluff.

Only a boat can push on you here. Value bet and take the pot, or value bet and fold to a shove.

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Joshua Smith 2010-07-26 16:45:33

my apologies 6 percent i was told.....

joshua smith 2009-11-19 09:23:00

Just wanna say for all you donks out there, playing a hand just because " it was suited" is not a good reason to play it. A hand being suited only increases its chance for winning by THREE percent, NOT THIRTY percent so fold your 8 10 suited under the gun!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sean Lind 2009-07-07 23:17:00

Pre-flop: You keep saying that he has position, but that's only position pre-flop. I believe that the information gained from raising here is not worth the disadvantage of having to play in a larger pot out of position post-flop.

Position is key, especially shorthanded. Like I said, I don't completely agree with not raising pre-flop with a hand as strong as AQs, but I'm not totally against it.

If you're not feeling confident at the table, which happens after an extended cold run, playing a trouble hand, such as AQ, in the worst position in a raised pot isn't exactly a great idea.


"Each additional card on the board diminishes a made hand's value."

This is absolutely true, but what are we afraid of here? The only way fourth or fifth street can hurt us is if it makes our opponent a house (a 2 outer on a PP or a 3 outer on a random Q), or if they hit a draw.

Since we put him as being a strong player, it's unlikely he'll chase, or really push value with a flush or straight on a high-profile paired board.

Because of this, we're not too worried about losing the hand on the flop, at this point we're trying to extract the most value. Since the vast majority of our profit here is going to come from bluffs, and weaker queens, it makes no sense to push those hands away with a show of significant aggression.

In fact, the only reason I can see to make bets or raises on the flop would be to increase the size of the pot, making it easier to get you opponent all in.

When you have a hand that is almost certain to be the nuts, the last thing you want to do is chase away your customers, your goal is to take them for all they're worth.

Once you check-raise the turn, then bet out the river, you're clearly saying that you have AQ, at a minimum. You're making a bet that clearly commits you to the pot. The only way I can ever see calling a push on the river here (against a player we know to be strong enough to understand what happened in the hand), is if we have some reason for him to believe that we're bluffing.

This would be a seriously high-level bluff to run, one with a very low expected value at a table of these stakes. For this reason, there is no hand CO will push over our river bet we can beat.

I don't see this as playing weak at all, it's trapping for value.

copperdragon 2009-07-07 21:59:00

i still see a couple problems with your response...

1st - nobody raised preflop. Hero had position (SB) at that point to raise and remove the trash chasers. Hero loses information by not raising here.

2nd - If we flop the nuts, aggression should be the key. to paraphrase another article here - each additional card on the board diminishes a made hand's value.

what's wrong with taking down the pot right here (on the flop)?

Hero went from prime cards in prime position pre-flop (AQs in SB), to flopping the nuts, to considering folding to a push on the river - all without CO applying any kind of pressure.

That's the kind of weak play that these articles are always warning against.

Sean Lind 2009-07-07 17:55:00

Although I'm not sure the Hero took the best line here, I'm actually not all that against the line he did take.

Firstly, I have no problem with not raising this preflop. Although AQs is almost certainly the best hand out of the gate, it's not a hand that I personally like to play in raised pots out of position against tricky players. I empathize with this play, even if I don't openly condone it.

That aside, the hero did limp, now we're on the flop. Since we're only afraid of one hand (KQ), and there's a pretty strong chance that anyone with KQ would have raised in position preflop (not a given, but there's a very decent chance), AQ on this flop is basically the nuts.

At this point, we can assume we have the nuts, and are afraid of little. If we check raise the flop, we're basically turning our cards face up, losing all value from bluffs and some draws.

I have no problem with waiting until the turn to make a move, extracting another bet. The vast majority of the time, this check raise on the turn would have ended the hand.

Although, in hindsight, there might have been alternate lines that don't put the hero in such a tricky spot, I'm not sure I disagree with the lines he did take.

My general rule of thumb is that "if you're questioning your line, chances are you should have been more aggressive". Aggression could have ended this hand before it got tricky, then again aggression might have lost the hero their stack already.

copperdragon 2009-07-06 20:01:00

i have a sneaky suspicion that CO might just have Qc7c. here's why...

pre-flop: CO was BB. no-one raised, so easy check here. (why didnt Hero raise?)

flop: flop brings QQK. CO now has trip Qs (just like us). He bets $10 (into a $12 pot). We call. (why didnt Hero raise?)

turn: 7d. We check, he bets, we raise and he calls. Does anyone else smell a trap? This isnt a donkey play by CO...we made it cheap for him to continue.

river: 8d. basically a blank. no flushes, no straights.

Our options?
Remember our impression of CO: His hands always have some sort of value. He's not making bad bluffs or donk bets, but he has showed down some unlikely hands. In short: a very tricky but strong player.

I think the operative word here is 'unlikely'. Q7 is not out of his range considering the betting.

If he thinks we have KQ and we check, he'll check too. If we bet for value, he'll call. If we shove, he'll fold.

If he thinks we have AQ and we check, he'll bet (and maybe shove), cuz he has a boat and we dont. If we bet or shove, he'll call.

Since he's not quite sure and we're not quite sure, i think check or value bet here. Most likely he will follow suit, not wishing to risk all if we really have KQ, and neither are we, in case he has Q7.

Rray 2009-07-06 19:06:00

Good article

Unlike AK, which stands alone a lot better, suitedness greatly improves the value of AQ. I'm much more comfortable pushing AQ suited for a raise than non-suited.

Also, as the example in this article shows, a real strength of the hand lies in hitting a Q on the flop. You're so much more likely to get folks chasing down a pair of queens with Q10, QJ, QK in their hand. If you've disguised your AQ it can be a nice little earner in such cases.

It's very easy to fixate in Aces and get married to them. Much better to stay single and keep your options open.

Lupus 2009-07-03 13:26:00

Hello, I am really a beginner at this game but to me it looks as if our hero should be able to almost exclude an opponents' boat.

- An accidentaly turned boat of 7's would very likely be willing to protect against a queen's 7 outs

- KQ or KK would, given Hero's image, not suspect a bluff with air on the turn, but a Queen or possibly a semi bluff ( spades or straight) that tries to push off a King. From his point of view and our style of play, he should be thinking that a weakish queen should be almost done with the hand after he calls the turn checkraise. Chances could be, that he would have tried a reraise there, either to represent a queen defending against the draw ( would a queen do that if it could be behind?) or to keep a queen that is looking to define its hand guessing if he maintains a semi bluff. Must a boat be thinking that it loses value against AQ with a turn reraise? I think : no, very often not. He could be, on the other hand, gain value against QJ by this line. And of course, he gets more money from any draw.

Given the unlikely case that the forestanding is correct, my conclusion would be to make a smaller river bet. It gets paid more likely by worse hands and opens the door- that i am not afraid to open- for a bluff with better odds.


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