Poker Hands Tips: Ace-Queen in Hold'Em is Borderline
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Poker Hands Tips: Ace-Queen in Hold'Em is Borderline

Ace-Queen, contrary to popular perception, is a dangerous hand, and this article outlines some reasons why.

That's what Doyle Brunson, the author of the legendary "Super/System", believed. Ace-Queen is the strongest borderline hand. A borderline hand is a hand that belongs to the top hands in poker, but when played improperly, will lead you to lose plenty of chips. In Doyle's book, here are the borderline hands, especially when unsuited:

A-Q

A-J

A-10

K-Q

K-J

K-10

Q-J

Q-10

J-10

9-8

Garbage hands, or hands weaker than any of these, aren't as precarious as these hands because it isn't likely that you're going to lose plenty of chips playing garbage, for most of the time you won't be playing garbage. But these borderline hands above can get quite risky to play in some situations, and you always find it hard to get away from it, thus leading you to commit more chips than you rationally should.

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Let us take the case of Ace-Queen. It may be the strongest borderline hand mentioned, but it is still a borderline hand. Typically, A-Q is a decent raising hand in early position preflop (also in middle position if there are no raisers before you), and a good calling hand at late position, but postflop, it is a hand that faces plenty of potential pitfalls to the uninitiated. For instance, take a look at your A-Q at these flops:

1) Q-J-5

With this Flop, you earn top pair, top kicker. However, if you are prone to overplaying that hand, you can commit plenty of chips with it and lose to someone who has slowplayed A-A, K-K, a Set, or even Q-J. You can't slow-play your top-top either, because there are Straight possibilities out there.

2) Q-7-7

With this Flop, you are in danger if someone has a Seven. If you have nothing, it's a quick fold. But because you have something which is easy to think good, you might find it harder to get away from it, and you can easily be tempted to execute some fancy play, which can really decapitate your stack if someone had the Seven, or if someone calls with K-K or A-A.

3) A-9-3

Take a look at your Pair of Aces. Are they good? Now take a look at your kicker. Is your Queen a good kicker? Now think of what other hands any caller may have: At the very least, someone who will tangle with you should have at least an Ace, right? Like A-10, A-J, or more likely, A-K. That is what you should be worried about. (You can worry about A-J as well if the flop came like A-J-3.) Because you think that your Queen kicker is spectacular, you may forget that A-K will send you packing off the poker table. Or a Set, which is difficult to read, can blast you off. So if someone overplays a hand, don't overplay back. Fold, unless you have sufficiently many chips such that overplaying is less than 20% of your stack. (Unless your A-Q is suited and the 9 and 3 share the same suit with the A-Q. In that case, you can play the hand strongly, as with 12 outs, you are nearly a coin flip against A-K, and even if your opponent has a Set, you still have a fighting chance to hit your 35% flush.)

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Here is the conclusion: The next time you lose with Ace-Queen, remember that it's not because it's a weak hand; it's just because smart players play stronger hands like A-K or A-A very well and are just waiting for the money of those who get too excitable with strong, but still borderline, hands like that A-Q.

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