Basic Poker Strategy: Don’t Fall For AQ

AQ is a powerful starting hand, there is no doubt, but it’s also, in my opinion, the most overvalued hand that new players to hold ’em find themselves holding. Many players simply refused to fold AQ preflop, no matter how the betting is going and some will even call bets and raises post-flop with AQ trying to chase down overlords. The problem is, though, that unless the flop hits you just right, you’re going to be more likely drawing dread that anything else.

Don’t get me wrong: AQ is strong. It’s a huge favorite against other random hands and it has almost all of the AX combinations dominated, and that means that it certainly warrants a raise preflop, but that doesn’t mean it can be played well against most hands that will call your raises. AQ is a hand that becomes very profitable against the right field of players, and that loses a lot of its value against seasoned players.

Online poker, especially in lower-stakes and free games, tends to be a loose-passive environment and you can use it to earn a lot of chips, but when you play against savvy players who understand the concept that it takes a better hand to call a raise than to make a raise, you’re unlikely to call a raise before the flop with a hand that AQ has beaten. The odds work out as follows

AQ vs. any random hand: 65% in favor of AQ — it’s a more than 3 to 2 favorite! That switches quickly when the other player has something like 87 (suited), when there’s only a 60% chance to win and that drops to just 45% if the player is holding a relatively modest hand like TT.

When the blinds are relatively small compared to the stack sizes, AQ is a great opening hand, but when you compare it to the types of hands that are likely to re-raise before the flop, you can see that it’s usually not profitable to call a raise and a re-raise with AQ. In fact, I don’t recommend that anyone re-raises against early position with raises with anything but the very premium of hands: QQ or better.

AQ is strong, yes, but it’s also at the bottom of any decent list of premium hands. If you represent your premium hand by opening in early position and get raised after, there’s a very good chance your hand is beaten. Learning to let go of AQ and move on to the next time if you’ve raised and gotten called is easier than giving away a much larger stack of chips after you’ve drawn dead on the river.