Stop Flat Calling With Pocket Queens

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This hand is from 5NL, 6Max on PokerStars Zoom. There’s a raise UTG. Hero decides to call, next act with pocket QQ. I want to talk about this, because this is a really important part of the hand that I think sometimes goes overlooked.

To start out, I want to talk about a situation where I like calling here. I like calling here if you have some really aggressive squeezers behind you. So, you can call, induce that squeeze, and then go forward from there. That’s a great situation.

In most other dynamics, I don’t love calling here, and there are a couple of reasons why. First and foremost, I don’t want to call and just allow other people to continue for cheap. I don’t want to just let other people continue with things like Ax, small pairs, suited connectors, and just get there, put me into uncomfortable situations and possibly unprofitable situations later down the line, when I could’ve otherwise charged them pre-flop, if they wanted to get involved with me.

Part of that is that we’re playing 5NL here, and 5NL is a very, very passive dynamic. A lot of players, once they see one caller, they want to get involved as well. Then, we’re just putting ourselves into a bad situation, especially when half the players left to act could take position on me. Don’t love that situation.

I’m definitely keeping that in mind.

The other thing I want to think about is, if I’m not 3Betting QQ here, what is my 3Bet range? The issue there is that, if I’m not 3Betting QQ, chances are that I’m only 3Betting KK+ and maybe a little bit of garbage. Is that going to be a great situation?

I’d say probably not. If I ever find myself in a situation where I’m only ever being aggressive and active with a super-nutted range, then it’s very easy for my opponents to beat me because I’m not getting thin enough. That doesn’t mean thin in the sense of you’re on the verge of spewing, that just means thin as in making sure that your active range or your 3Betting range or your getting-aggressive range isn’t just the ultra nuts. If that’s the case, it’s going to be very, very easy for your opponents to beat you.

Do you find 3Betting a bit intimidating for whatever reason?

Here’s the thing: If you 3Bet here and Voltage folds, whatever, who cares? It’s going to happen. If he keeps folding, fine, just keep 3Betting him with garbage. That is what it is, that’s okay.

But don’t just, “Oh, well, I’m scared he’s going to fold back at 77.” Fine! If he folds his equity with pocket 77, that’s fine, but he’s going to continue with some second-best stuff. He’s going to allow you to make money here, and you don’t want to call and just induce a situation where you’re allowing other players to screw you for the cheapest price possible. That’s something you actively want to avoid.

I would just 3Bet this pre-flop rather than flat as a pure, pure, pure, pure default. Again, there are maybe one or two dynamics where I may flat instead, but typically it’s going to be a 3Bet.

Why You Should 3Bet QQ

So we find ourselves here. Check, c-bet, Hero decides to just call.

This is the next most important inflection point in the hand. Hero just decides to call, and this is kind of what happens when people call the open-raise-pre-flop as opposed to 3Betting. They put themselves in a situation where they start flatting a lot post-flop, and they put themselves at the absolute top side of their calling spectrum. I just don’t like that. I just want to be aggressive. I want to be more aggressive in poker than just flat, flat, flat, flat, flat.

What is that really doing? All you’re allowing is your opponent to actualize equity at their price, to do whatever they want, and allow yourself to be in this passive game. And that’s just really not a great way to play poker.

I would actually raise this. This is a situation where I could be at the top side of my raising range. Obviously, if you’re raising sets, that’s the opposite of the top side, but typically people aren’t going to put you on a hand as strong as queens because well, you probably shouldn’t have pocket QQ in your range here, but it is what it is.

I think that if we raise, sure, he’s not going to fold sets, he’s not going to fold AA and KK, but I think he’s still going to continue with 88, 99, TT, JJ. There are a lot of combos of that. I don’t think he’s ever going to have 75s, when he opens from under the gun.

I’m totally cool with that and if what?call? decides to have some sort of pocket 77-good for him. Again, we probably played it poorly by just letting him get involved cheaply pre-flop like that.

Again, another situation where pre-flop should’ve been more aggressive. On the flop, should’ve been more aggressive. This passivity is just killing us and putting us into some really-I’m not going to say unprofitable spots, it could certainly be profitable, but I don’t think it’s optimal and that’s the problem.

We end up getting called, Q on the turn, obviously that makes life really, really easy. Check, check. Hero decides to bet. Love the fact that we’re betting. Probably bet a little bit larger here. Probably like $1.20, just because I expect at this level there’s going to be a lot of inelasticity. So, if they have a draw, if they have 78, I’m expecting if they’re going to continue for $1.05, they’ll probably continue for $1.20. So, let’s just go for the larger size.

Then, I’m called. Fold by Voltage, go here, and what?call? jams.

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I don’t tend to say this a lot, but I’m going to say it in a spot like this because I think it’s important to say, but who cares? It just doesn’t matter. Partially because we’re getting 3:1, partially because there are some second-best hands that could do this, and partially because we probably never should’ve seen this spot. If we 3Bet pre-flop, this spot doesn’t come up. If we raise the flop, this spot doesn’t come up.

If we just played the hand better on earlier streets, this situation doesn’t arise. Because of that, it’s a who-cares situation, because it won’t happen in the future.

In this situation, could he have some real hands? I mean, he’s repping back-door spades, maybe 64 or As7s. Honestly, is he going to have that some of the times when we call? Yeah. Is he going to have 68s? Yeah. Does it suck to be us? Yeah.

Again, it just doesn’t matter because we’re getting 3:1, and we shouldn’t see this situation. Again, this is a spot where yeah, we lost the hand, whatever, but did we play the hand best leading up to that point? I’d say, no. 3Betting pre-flop, much better. Raising the flop, if we ever call a pre-flop, I think it’s going to be much better.

I just don’t see this play being best in that we put ourselves into this weird river spot that, again, we won’t really see in the future, if we play the earlier streets better.

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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