Playing Top Pair With AQ

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Ace Queen can be a tricky hand to play. Especially as the action mounts, it can be tough to discern if AQ is strong enough to go all-in with, or if it’s smarter to just fold it and save your chips. Today we’ll look at an AQ hand together and see how our answers compare to over 1K other poker players – and see if going all-in with AQ is actually the best play…

This hand was sent in by Adrian and it was played at 2NL ZOOM 6max on PokerStars. And to make this even more fun, I turned this spot into a free poker quiz to see what other players would do in this exact spot. So here’s the situation:

Hero open-raises under the gun (UTG) with AQ, it folds to the button who 3bets, the BB calls, and Hero calls too. The information Adrian gave us was that he didn’t have any HUD stats on these two opponents. He knows the 3bet against a non-steal for the average player here is around 5% in this game and that the button acted almost instantly on every street, but that’s about it.

The flop is Q♣ T♣ 8♠ giving Hero TPTK.

BB checks, Hero checks, and the button fires a CB. The BB folds and Hero calls. The turn is a brick 4♦ and Hero checks again and faces a committing $0.93 bet from the button.

At this point, we put the decision here to a vote in the quiz and asked players what they would do in this exact spot. Ponder your own answer for a moment and decide if you would rather:

  • You can go all in for the extra $0.59
  • You can just call
  • You can fold

After getting about 1,300 responses to this question we see that 62% of y’all think check-raising all-in is the best play. Then 19% said they would just call and the remaining 19% decided to fold. Given that, we see realistically that 81% of players are continuing in this hand because if you decide to call, what are the chances of you folding later? Probably very unlikely.

With that said, when it comes to my own decision making here, I’m personally removing calling as an option. In this situation, how would calling ever perform better than just shoving right here? If we call, and the button happens to have a bluff, are they really going to bluff the very little remaining on the river? If they have any equity at all, they almost certainly call the rest of it if we shove right this moment.

Remember, poker is not a slot machine (like the kind you would find at allvideoslots.com or that you would play at an online casino, especially the kind of free gambling without deposit sites that are called ilmaista pelirahaa in Finish). There are no fixed payouts. Instead, there are various hands in your opponent’s range, each with differing equities – coupled with different runouts. Why call here and give your opponent a chance to get scared off if they have a second-best hand and the river is a 9♠? Or why let them check their AK behind on the river and actualize equity for cheap that would have otherwise called your turn shove?

Now looking at the math and how big the pot is compared to how much we are risking, we don’t need a ton of equity when called to justify putting everything in the middle. In fact, the ONLY time this would be a fold is if we are DAMN CERTAIN the button ONLY has a nuttish range.

But if the button doesn’t have a purely nuttish range, every extra combo you add into that ranges increases our own equity rather quickly.

You can proof this kind of math using my free poker spreadsheets. For this kind of situation, use the All-In EV Spreadsheet and test it against a worst, best, and average-case scenario!

Now there is one piece of information that Adrian gave that may lead you toward wanting to fold, and that is the speed of the button’s actions. But that speed could just as easily be AK, and once AK is in their range, we have plenty enough reason to shove. And that’s before we add in some bluff combos (which would be included in a player pool 5% 3betting range here fwiw).

All of that being said, Adrian did end up folding in this hand and his question really boiled down to “was my fold too nitty?” I think it was, and the players who voted in this quiz also largely agreed that a fold was too nitty. Yes, even on PokerStars at the micro limits, folding here seems too nitty to me without other information!

Personally, I think you have enough reason to shove here and worst comes to worst – you could always bink a Queen if the button just so happens to show up with AA 😜

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SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 500+ 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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