Pocket Queens, or QQ, is often seen as the red-headed stepchild of premium pocket pairs. Most players are super excited when they’re dealt AA and KK, quite cautious with JJ and TT, but QQ sits smack dab in the middle.
But when you know how pocket queens actually perform and have a plan of attack with various hand strengths postflop, this hand gets much easier to navigate.
So push play and/or continue reading to get up to date on playing QQ in 2023.
Pocket Queens Is One Of The Most +EV Starting Hands
Pocket Queens rank as the third-best starting hand in No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE), right behind pocket Aces and pocket Kings.
Given its high rank, this hand has a strong probability of winning pots, especially in heads-up situations. The hand offers a great balance of strength and playability, making it one of the most profitable hands you can play in NLHE.
Against the two hands that are ahead of QQ (AA and KK), Queens has 18% equity. But against every other starting hand, QQ has 54%-82% equity.
Preflop Strategy With Pocket Queens
A strong preflop strategy with QQ is essential to setting yourself up for success.
If you play QQ poorly preflop, you may very well create a situation where Queens has less of a chance of winning the pot.
If nothing else, keep these tips in mind:
Be Aggressive With QQ Preflop
The biggest issue newer players get themselves into with QQ is being too passive.
As a default, you should be aggressive with Queens preflop. This means open-raising, isolating, and 3-betting as a default. If you are consistently calling preflop raises with QQ, you are almost certainly doing something wrong.
When playing tournaments or games with smaller effective stack sizes, you should be aiming to get your stack all-in preflop more regularly. But with more depth (especially 200BB+), it’s less common to get QQ all-in preflop.
If you aren’t confident preflop yet, start with my free preflop checklist here.
3-Bet More With Pocket Queens Preflop
When in doubt, 3-bet with QQ preflop.
That means if another player open-raises, or even isolates, you should be 3-betting without a massive amount of information leading you to another decision.
If you’ve spent any time with solved preflop ranges, the GTO approach assigns QQ as a 3-bet almost every time.
In The GTO Ranges App from Red Chip Poker, QQ is a pure 3-bet just about always in the 6max solve. In the full-ring/live solve, the solver tends to mix QQ between 3-betting and flatting in non-steal spots.
But keep in mind that solved preflop ranges assume GTO-perfect opponents.
And when you play against humans, who are anything but GTO-perfect, it’s typically exploitatively better to just default 3-bet QQ. This takes advantage of the large number of common poker mistakes that low stakes players make.
Your Edge Is NOT In Folding QQ vs 3-Bets
Too many players spend a ton of time trying to find folds with QQ against preflop 3-bets.
Unless your opponent is like 94 years old and would never 3-bet with anything other than AA and KK, QQ is a default continue.
You will see this in the aforementioned app as well.
And interestingly, QQ is typically a GTO mix when facing a 3-bet. In the 6max solve, that mix typically favors the 4-bet. While in the live solve, the mix typically has more calls than 4-bets.
But the big takeaway is that if you are constantly trying to fold QQ to a preflop 3-bet, you are likely doing something incorrect preflop.
Postflop Tips With Pocket Queens
Before we start with actual QQ tips for postflop play, let’s analyze how pocket Queens actually hits flops.
How Does QQ Hit The Flop?
Statistical analysis shows that pocket Queens connect strongly with the flop about 12% of the time, either by making a set or something stronger (like a full house or even quads). When you do connect strongly, you’ll be in a great position to extract value, although, as we’ll see next, this can sometimes be easier said than done.
The remaining 88% of the time, QQ is a one-pair hand. Now it’s important to understand that the value of one-pair hands with QQ can be drastically different.
For instance, QQ is an overpair across all flops 50% of the time. Which means QQ will be second-pair on the flop 34% of the time (on Axx and Kxx flops) and third-pair 3.5% of the time (on AKx boards).
There is some slight overlap when QQ is a pair + draw, which happens around 5% of the time. This can be true on a board like KJT (second pair + gutshot) or Q♥Q♦ on 8♥7♥2♥ (overpair + flush draw).
Flopping Sets With Pocket Queens
When you hit a set with pocket Queens, life is pretty easy.
Though when you flop top set on a Queen-high flop, you typically have “board lock” which doesn’t allow for many strong second-best hands to exist in your opponent’s range.
Because of this, it’s typically advised that you slow play the flop when you flop top set.
But when you flop second set, fire for value and try to maximize value when your opponent can have top pair. So if the flop comes AQ5 or KQ8, betting is recommended.
It’s better to get 3-streets against villain’s sticky top pair than just a possible 1-street bluff from the rest of villain’s range.
Dealing With Overcards On The Flop With QQ
The flop is going to contain an overcard to your QQ about 34% of the time. A small chunk of that will also include a Queen (like AQ5 or KQ7), but most of this will put your QQ as a strong-second pair hand.
When faced with overcards on the flop, GTO solvers often recommend a more cautious approach. In single-raised pots, the solver suggests that you should generally check your pocket Queens on a flop of A97.
Though when you check and face pressure (either on this street when OOP, or on a future street if the flop gets checked through), you should typically continue against at least the first bet. Even when out of position, your hand still has significant equity against most of your opponent’s range.
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Navigating postflop situations with pocket Queens can be tricky, especially when overcards like an Ace or King appear.
Your ability to make profitable decisions here often depends on your skill in playing strong second pair types of hands.
Accurately reading your opponent’s range and tendencies can help you make the best decision on whether to continue betting, call an opponent’s bet, or sometimes even lay down the hand.
Playing Overpairs With Pocket Queens
Of all the possible things that can happen when QQ goes postflop, flopping an overpair to the board is the most common. Around 50% of the time QQ will be an overpair on the flop.
As a default, overpairs with QQ are a 2-street hand according to the solver. Super strong one-pair hands are usually the cusp of triple barreling the river fwiw. This is one of the major trends you notice when you work through my Advanced Poker Workbook and see GTO vs exploitative approaches laid out side-by-side.
That said, against weaker opponents, you should aim for getting 3-streets of value with your overpair assuming the board texture doesn’t get awful. If a bunch of draws fill, or the top card pairs later in the hand, or if a more passive player raises you on the turn or river – slowing down is advised.
But if your weaker opponent just continues happily calling postflop, typically continue betting for value with your overpair and maximize that value.
Pocket Queens: Frequently Asked Questions
Pocket Queens is one of the most revered hands in No-Limit Hold’em poker, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and strategic considerations. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced player, you may have questions about how best to play this strong hand.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to guide you through the complexities of pocket Queens.
Final QQ Thoughts
Pocket Queens is a strong but challenging hand to play in No-Limit Hold’em. It requires a nuanced approach that balances aggression with caution based on various factors like board texture, opponent behavior, and your table image.
Understanding the complexities can go a long way in turning this hand into a (more) profitable asset in your poker playbook.