The most difficult hands to play in Texas Hold’em are those that make strong yet second-best hands. One such hand that too often comes in second is A-Q, which I introduced in a recent column.
Here are a few more tips that should make playing A-Q a little easier.
Don't Call Early Position Raises
We previously discussed how to play A-Q against an all-in bet, but how should you play this tricky hand against a simple raise?
Well, against an early position raise, A-Q isn't the kind of hand you'd want to call with. In fact, you'd be much better off with a 6h-7h than the Ac-Qs.
An early position raise usually signifies strength, which means that your A-Q would be dominated against any of the following: A-A, K-K, Q-Q, or A-K.
You want to be the pre-flop aggressor with A-Q. Don’t be a caller.
Play Cautiously After the Flop
When you do play A-Q, remember that unless the flop comes something like A-Q-4 or K-J-10, your hand will always be vulnerable. Let’s say the flop comes Q-10-8. Don't get so excited about playing a big pot here. In fact, if an opponent raises in this situation, you should seriously consider folding.
Why would you fold top pair with top kicker?
Because you can't beat any of the following hands: J-9, 8-8, 10-10, Q-Q, Q-10, 10-8, K-K, or A-A. Even if your hand leads pre-flop, chances are that other players will have several outs to beat you. The A-Q would even be vulnerable to a hand like J-10 should a 9, 10, or jack arrive on the turn or river.
Holding A-Q, your goal should be to win the pot immediately on the flop. If you don't, play cautiously and don't allow yourself to lose more chips than you need to.
Play Aggressively From the Blinds
Playing A-Q out of position after the flop is no picnic. It’s hard to win the pot if you don't catch a pair on the flop unless you plan to make a big, risky bluff. That’s not a bad strategy when playing against a conservative, early-position raiser.
Facing a loose player’s raise, however, it’s better to simply call and then proceed carefully.
Now, if that raise comes from the same aggressive player, but he’s sitting in middle to late position, it makes more sense to try to win the pot before the flop.
Let’s look at a hand.
A frisky player has made it 600 to go before the flop. Blinds are at 100-200 with a 25 ante. It comes back to you in the big blind holding A-Q, and it’s 400 more to call. Against a skilled player, put the pressure back on him with a big reraise.
1,800 isn't enough to scare him off. Lean toward a raise of 2,500-3,000. This will quickly define your opponent’s hand. If he folds, he obviously had a marginal hand; he was just trying to steal the blinds. If he reraises, though, your A-Q is dead meat. Fold the hand.
Your difficult decision comes when he just calls your raise. His most likely hands would be pocket nines, pocket tens, pocket jacks, pocket kings, or ace-king. You must play very carefully from here on in.
But remember one more thing.
If an opponent calls your reraise, don’t automatically make a continuation bet after the flop. Respect his call and understand that he probably has the better hand. This is no time to get reckless and melt away your stack with what very well could be the second-best hand.
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