Who doesn’t love looking down at Pocket Queens?
The ladies are the third strongest starting hand in No Limit Hold’em, and you should expect to win the pot very often when you get them.
Despite the raw power of Pocket Queens, not everyone knows how to play them optimally. With the help of this article, however, you can increase your win-rate and find yourself on the winning end of big pots more often.
This article includes:
- How to Play Pocket Queens in Common Preflop Situations
- 5 Tips for Playing Pocket Queens Postflop
How To Play Pocket Queens in Common Preflop Scenarios
As I always do with these starting hand articles, let’s run through each common preflop situation first. This advice is meant for deep-but-not-super-deep stack play (around 100 big blinds).
It’s very intuitive that Pocket Queens are a strong hand preflop since it’s a strong pair before the flop.
For this reason, you should always raise preflop with Pocket Queens when the action is folded around to you. Simple enough!
Playing Against a Raise
Facing an open, Pocket Queens is still extremely strong and you should always 3-bet for value. You will always have an equity advantage against both the calling and 4-betting ranges of your opponent. (Unless maybe the 4-bettor looks like this.)
Against a 3-Bet
Pocket Queens is a mandatory 4-bet for value in most scenarios. However, there are times where you may want to mix in calls at least some of the time.
Consider just calling with Pocket Queens when you open from Early Position or Middle Position and face a 3-bet from one of the blinds. You are not as incentivized to 4-bet in such a spot because, at equilibrium, your opponent’s range is very polarized and strong. Against a tight and polarized range, Pocket Queens is not a super clear cut 4-bet for value.
Additionally, you will realize more equity since you’ll be in position postflop. This further incentivizes calling rather than 4-betting.
Against a 4-Bet
If you 3-bet and face a 4-bet from a good (balanced) opponent, QQ is almost always best played as a 5-bet shove. While it will not always be for value (having around 40-52% equity when called depending on the positions), the amount of dead money in the pot, plus the fold equity that it gets from the opponent’s 4-bet bluffs, make shoving the highest expected value play.
If your opponent is extremely tight, you can consider calling or even folding. Just don’t do the latter without an unbelievably specific and reliable read.
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5 Tips for Playing Pocket Queens Postflop
Tip #1: Don’t slow-play if you have an overpair multiway (especially when there is a weak player in the pot)
Suppose you raise with Q♠ Q♥, get 3 callers, and the flop comes J♠ 8♥ 3♣.
In this spot and ones like it, it is best to make a small bet to force out some of the other players and get some value. This is especially important if there is a weak player in the mix because you give him the chance to make a mistake versus your bet.
If you bet and face a raise, proceed very cautiously. Based on population tendencies, you should usually lean towards folding unless you have a read that your opponent is capable of doing so with a weaker hand for value or with a lot of bluffs.
Tip #2: Use big bets in heads-up pots when you have an overpair
Overpairs are great hands with which to bet relatively big. This is because they block only a few combinations of top pairs — and you really want your opponent to have top pair when you have an overpair. This is especially true if the board is connected and when you have a slightly more vulnerable overpair like pocket queens or jacks.
That being said, if the board is very dry, it’s still best to go with a small bet size to force your opponent to call with very weak hands (see: this article on flop texture).
Tip #3: Do not slow-play when you hit a set multiway
It might be tempting to slow-play your set of Queens in a multiway pot on a flop like Q-J-6, but that is basically gifting a lot of free equity to the other players. Imagine checking and letting a player with 98s or K9s bink their gutshot straight for free — that would be a disaster!
Unless the board has no flush draw possible and no straight draw possible, do not slow play. Just bet and thank me later in the comment section!
Tip #4: If the turn makes your hand into second pair, you should usually check
When the turn is an Ace or a King, the value of your hand drops significantly. So, instead of continuing to bet, you should most often go in pot control mode by checking. Should you face a bet, you should probably bluff-catch at least one street.
But you can still bet sometimes…
When there are still a lot of worse hands in your opponent’s range that will likely call a bet, then making a small bet is probably best.
For example, suppose you 3-bet from the Button versus a Cutoff open. The Cutoff calls and the flop comes 9-5-3 with a flush draw. You c-bet when checked to, get called, and the turn is an offsuit King. In this scenario, your Pocket Queens are often good enough to bet for thin value. Your opponent will have a lot of worse hands that can call a small bet (9x, TT, flush draws, etc) and you also deny equity (from hands like Ace-high) by doing so.
Tip #5: You can slow-play when you hit the top set in a 3-bet or 4-bet pot (heads-up)
When you hold the top set, you heavily block the range with which your opponent would call a bet on the flop. When you add the fact that the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) is much lower in a 3-bet/4-bet pot, then increasing the size of the pot right away drops in the priority list. You can always just start betting on the next street and still get all of the money in by the river.
Follow the tips above and you will start loving Pocket Queens more than you already do!
If any particular starting hands give you trouble, let me know in the comments below and I’ll cover it in an article.
Here is a great article I recommend reading next: When Should You Slow-Play a Strong Hand?
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
Note: Ready to join 6,000+ players currently upgrading their No Limit Hold’em skills? Crush your competition with the expert strategies you will learn inside the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!