Some hate it, some love it. Ace-Queen offsuit is one of the most polarizing hands in poker.
While it is one of the best starting hands in the deck, it can also be relatively difficult to play compared to strong starting hands.
In this article, we will be covering:
- How to Play Ace-Queen in Common Preflop Situations
- 3 Tips for Playing Ace-Queen When You Hit the Flop
- 3 Tips for Playing Ace-Queen When You Miss the Flop
Now, let’s begin.
How to Play Ace-Queen in Common Preflop Situations
Even poker beginners can identify AQo as a strong hand. After all, it includes two of the three highest-ranking cards in the deck.
For this reason, you will always want to raise with this hand preflop from every position when the action folds to you. Avoid limping with AQo as it will lead to smaller pots being won by you on average over time. Folding is out of the question.
Against a Raise
When faced with a raise, you will want to 3-bet with this hand almost every time. The one exception is when you are in the big blind facing a raise from a player seated in the cutoff position or earlier (3-betting big blind vs button is usually good).
Ace-Queen offsuit plays great as a thin 3-bet for value since it cuts down the field. This massively reduces the chances of playing a multiway pot, and you should not want to play multiway pots with ace-queen because rarely makes strong flushes and straights (a key component of hands that play well multiway).
Pro tip: When you’re playing in a 9-handed game, you can usually just fold with this hand when the first player (UTG) raises. This is because a UTG range is simply too strong and there are too many players behind that can cold 4-bet you. The exception is when you are on the button, in which case you will want to cold-call with this hand as there are only two players behind and you will always be in position.
Against a 3-Bet
When faced with a 3-bet, Ace-Queen offsuit can perform great as both a call and a 4-bet bluff.
The hand works well as a 4-bet bluff when the 3-bettors range is tight because the hand’s blocker effects are more impactful. AQ blocks half the possible combinations of AA and QQ, and a quarter of the combinations of AK.
These blocker impacts means that when you 4-bet bluff with AQo, you will face a 5-bet shove significantly less than, say, if you were holding K5 suited. It also has a lot of equity against their calling range, which often includes middling pairs, suited aces, and suited connectors.
To make this a bit simpler, you should generally call with AQo against a 3-bet when you in the hijack through small blind. In the rest of the positions, consider 4-betting as a bluff. So, for example:
- Hijack vs Button 3-bet -> call
- Cutoff vs Big Blind 3-bet -> call
- UTG+1 vs Cutoff -> 4-bet sometimes
- Lojack vs Cutoff -> 4-bet sometimes
Further reading: What Top Poker Pros Already Know About 4-Betting.
Against a 4-Bet
When facing a 4-bet, you will generally want to fold AQo. It has served its purpose of attempting to get thin value against the calling range and denying some equity.
The only situations in which you will not want to fold vs a 4-bet is in late position battles where the ranges are much wider. Namely, from the small blind against the button or from the big blind against the small blind. The ranges involved here are so wide that this hand is still strong enough to continue by flatting against 4-bet.
Note: Want to know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!
3 Tips for Playing When You Hit the Flop with AQ
These tips focus on when you flop top pair, specifically.
Tip #1: When in position, always bet for value if you’ve hit top pair.
This includes both single raised pots and 3-bet pots. Regardless of whether you hit top pair on a queen- or ace-high flop, your hand is very strong, and extracting value becomes an immediate priority.
Do not slow play!
Tip #2: Consider slowing down with top pair on a connected flop when out of position in a single raised pot, especially against tight ranges.
Imagine you open-raised in the hijack and the button called. The flop comes Q♠ T♠ 8♦.
If an 8, 9, T, J, K, or spade comes on the turn, your top pair will shrivel up quite a bit. And that’s 24 bad cards out of a total of 47 — half the deck is bad for your hand!
Checking to control the size of the pot is often a good strategy on these coordinated flops. You should build your strategy this way because, if you bet and get called, navigating most turns will be pretty difficult. You’d be stuck in a much bigger pot than you’d want it to be with a hand as strong as top pair.
Tip #3: Proceed cautiously with top pair in multiway pots!
Yeah, your top pair is pretty great on the flop in a multiway pot. But the drop-off in equity from flop to turn is significantly higher when there where three or more players in the mix. It gets even worse when there are three or more players on the turn that called your flop bet.
This happens because the burden of defense is dispersed to more than one player, which means the defenders are forced to fold more hands. Thus, when they do call, they have significantly stronger ranges than what they’d have in a heads-up pot.
3 Tips for Playing When You Miss the Flop With AQ
Tip#1: You can still bet when you miss the flop if the board is not connected.
When in position as the preflop aggressor on a fairly disconnected flop, you will want to fire a continuation bet (c-bet) with AQo, even if you don’t have a draw.
With either three or six outs to hit top pair, your hand will have enough equity to make it worthwhile as a semi-bluff. If you do bink top pair on the turn, you can comfortably triple barrel for value.
Tip#2: You can sometimes check-call when you miss from the big blind.
After defending from the big blind, you will want to check-call on the flop if you have at least one overcard and the nut backdoor flush draw.
For example, let’s say you call A♠ Q♣ from the big blind after facing an UTG open and the flop comes down J♥ 6♠ 2♠. Your specific combination of Ace-Queen offsuit can call a c-bet because you hold the A♠, which can improve to the nut flush draw or top pair on the turn.
You can even bluff with it on the river when the runout is such that you would be hard-pressed to find bluffs. (For example, if the turn is the 5♠ and the action checks through, you can probe the river as a bluff.)
Tip#3: When the board is connected and you have nothing, it’s best to fold.
Yes, you had a great hand preflop. But now you have settled into a part of the game tree where AQ doesn’t have much expected value, and that is fine. Don’t feel like you need to win every pot just because you had a great hand on the previous street!
Sometimes you just gotta give it up and move on to the next hand.
If you enjoy this type of article please let me know by leaving a comment down below and I will write more. Also, if you have any topics in mind feel free to ask for them. We will make sure to add them to our list of upcoming strategy articles.
Want to learn how to better play another powerful starting hand? Read 5 Strategic Mistakes to Avoid with Pocket Aces.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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