Sometimes a Monster — AQ in No Limit Holdem


In no limit holdem cash games, AQ is known as a “trouble hand.” A hand that can get you into trouble in big pots.  If you are re-raised with it in a live cash game, you are likely to find yourself facing a big pair between AA and JJ, or AK. A range that obviously has you crushed. And if you are the re-raiser and get called, you are likely facing close to the same range. For this reason, it is best to play small pots with AQ, and particularly with the “initiative” (you are the initial raiser and have command of the hand). You never want to get all-in before the flop.

Well, almost never. There are exceptions to this rule. The most obvious is when you are shortstacked in a poker tournament. In that spot, AQ is a monster.

And then there is the exception that I found myself in a couple of days ago, playing in the $5-10 no limit game at Lucky Chances.  There was another player at the table, a loud obnoxious guy who was trying to run over the table, raising about 75% of the pots pre-flop.  From every position, with almost any two cards, he was raising. And his luck hadn’t been too bad. He’d already called a shortstack all-in re-raise with a 98 and won. Everyone at the table was praying for a starting hand against this guy.

My prayers were answered in the form of an AQo.  The problem was that I was dealt the hand in the cutoff, and this player was two seats to my left in the small blind.  How to play it?  There was a live $20 straddle on the pot, and a couple of players had already limped ahead of me.  The standard play in this position would be to make a big raise and try to pick up the pot.  That’s not what I did though.

I limped! I made the unusual, and usually incorrect, gamble that the guy in the small blind would raise the pot for me.  Then I would be able to see the early limpers act on the raise before me, and make sure no one else was slow-playing a monster.  And that’s what happened.  The small blind raised to $200, everyone ahead of me in the pot folded, and I was heads-up with my AQo and about $1,000 in front of me.

Without much thought, I reshoved my entire stack.  My play may have looked odd to him, as I was the third limper.  Anyway, he called.  The board ran out KT997.  I showed my AQ, not liking it, of course, but then he tabled AJo.  I had gotten my money in nearly a 3-1 favorite, and won.

He could easily have had AK or a pocket pair in this spot. But against the total range of hands he was raising, and then either folding or calling against a re-raise, I think my play was solidly profitable.

Sometimes AQ is a monster.

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