How to play Pocket Queens in NLHE Poker

Pocket Queens: not as easy as it seems

Pocket Queens is the third strongest hand in holdem poker. There are six ways to make a pair of queens out of 1326 possible hole cards, so the chance to get them is 6/1326, i.e. a 0.45% chance.

In other words, you will get QQ once every 221 hands. Of course similarly for pocket aces and pocket kings. So the normal reaction when you get queens is to be very pleased and to bet them aggressively.

How strong are pocket queens?

Do not treat queens like aces!

Yes it is a great hand. But as each player has one percent chance to get KK or AA, in a full ring holdem game there is about 6% chance that your ladies are beaten. If there is betting action preflop, your alarm bells should ring as there is a large chance (at least 30%) that you are beaten.

In most books, it is recommended to treat {QQ+, AKs} uniformly preflop. It is said that you should raise or reraise with these hands, all of them. So if you are UTG in a No-Limit Holdem game and you see queens, raise pre flop. Likewise with KK, AA and AKs.

QQ may encounter a number of problems though, but let us start with the obvious one, i.e. if someone else holds a hand from the {QQ+,AKs} range. Note that high pairs are made hands whereas AK is a drawing hand.

If AKs faces AA, it will lose 88% of the time. Versus KK, it only loses 66%, and versus QQ only 54%. So KK+ really dominates all other cards. But QQ is around a coin flip versus AKs, and a big underdog versus KK+ (losing 82% of the time).

To summarize, QQ versus the range {QQ+,AKs} loses 71% of the time. Adding AKo, QQ still loses 60% of the time versus {QQ+,AK}.

This demonstrates that as QQ is the weakest of the monster hands, it is significantly dominated by the other monster hands.

How to play QQ

Pre flop, you should raise or reraise with QQ from any position almost always. Limping is to be avoided like the plague. Calling a raise is a possible move, depending on position and your opponent, and this can also be used for deception.

If a very tight pretty passive player raises before you, chances are he has {KK+,AKs} as nits may even fold QQ from early position. In this case you should not reraise, either call or fold. The problem with reraising is that it is very likely that your opponent will 4-bet you, and you must fold to this 4-bet unless you are short-stacked.

Limping with QQ is not recommended except as a trap. If a player behind you likes to raise limpers with a wide range, then QQ is a good hand to prepare a trap and a big limp-3-bet.

If you are a short-stacker, then no problem you can and should shove pre flop with QQ as part of a short-stack strategy. A good pre flop shove range goes below QQ, it can go down to 99 or even lower.

If you are rather inexperienced you can be very aggressive pre flop in order to avoid difficult post flop decisions. The problem post flop is that there are few ways for QQ to improve, but there are many boards that are dangerous to your pocket queens. Ideally you prefer to win the pot pre flop.

By the flop, any king or ace is dangerous. Any draw as well. If you make a standard continuation bet when your queens are overpair and you get called or even raised, you have to reassess and be ready to fold. Reading skills are fundamental beyond this point.

Pocket queens are very strong hands but require a lot of experience in order to be played correctly. Do not get married to your ladies, and always ready to let them go.