Friday, May 28, 2004

My Trouble Hands #2: AQo

Yep, I have heard plenty of people talk about AQo. Coach thinks it's one of his most difficult hands to have. Plenty of pros have called AQo overrated. I have swayed back and forth about my opinion of AQo. Personally, I have embraced AQo. It's only a trouble hand if I let myself get into a bad position with AQo. Most recently, I have been playing AQo aggressively with plenty of success on Party Poker.
Best possible flops for AQo:
Obvious: AAA or QQQ
Kick Ass: AAQ or QQA
Awesome: K-J-10, Q-Q-x
Moderate: A-Q-x
Average: A-x-x or Q-x-x

(x=cards lower than Q)

Dangerous flops include:
And any flop with 2 or more suited/connected cards.
I have problems when I catch an ace on the flop with low cards. Why? Because I almost always end up losing to a retard who called a preflop raise with A-little and they pair their kicker on the board. AQo is dangerous when you run into someone slowplaying AK, or worse you call a preflop raise with AQo only to find out at the river you were outkicked by AK.

AQo on the Button and in Late Position: The cheaper you can see a flop with AQo, the better. If you hit a flop, good for you. If you don't, bail out. If everyone limps in front of you, raise from the button to drive out the blinds and thin the field.

AQo UTG or in Early Position: Normally, just call to see what happens. If there is a sizable raise to call, it's time to bail. If everyone limps, you might have the best hand... without giving away the strength of your hand.

AQo in the Blinds: I wouldn't call a raise with AQo, unless you were certain it was a position raise or a bluff-steal. If they are a few limpers, I'll call the LB, hoping to hit a nice flop. In a smaller field AQo's odds are slightly better, but in multi-way pots with raises preflop, watch out, you're most likely up against high pairs or AK.

AQo Shorthanded: Obviously, your starting hands in a short handed game (6 and under) are a lot less rigid than at a full table. You reach a larger pool of starting hands to pick from when there are less players. In a 4 way game, a raise with AQo wouldn't be a bad idea if there are limpers and to also drive out the blinds. But all marginal hands increase in value in those situations.

AQo in an SNG: Avoid playing it in the first few levels. Once you get to a middle level, with a smaller field, AQo can be a decisive weapon. I wouldn't go all-in preflop with it in a mutli-way pot and I definitely would NOT play back at a raiser with AQo. Folding is cheaper.

AQo in Multi-table Tourneys: If you are a tight player, you'll have no problem mucking AQo everywhere except the BB and the Button. For loose-aggressive players like myself, I find it hard not limping in during an early level with AQo. Avoid this mistake. Unless you have inside information that the other players have inferior hands, it's better safe to muck the trouble hand and wait to play when you have better position and a more playable hand.

AQo... Limit vs. No-Limit: In low limit games, like $2-4 at Fowoods or on the 50c/$1 tables on Party Poker, AQo is a dangerous hand. In games where people play/limp in with any ace (except AA and AK) , you might be looking great at a showdown when there's an ace on the board, and it comes to the kicker. But beware of the fish who play A-small and then they hit two pair on the board. Nothing sucks than losing with AQ to A2, when the fish catches his low kicker on the river. In a NL ring game... without any raises in front of you... a raise in late and middle position will most likely scare off the blinds and you'll go heads up or three way against two solid hands. A smaller and thinner field is something you want when playing AQo.

Heads Up with AQo: This is a monster hand. I would have no problems going all-in one-on-one with AQo mainly because the percentages say that I have the better hand.

Coach, Izmet, Sklansky & Brunson on AQo

Here's what Coach has to say about AQo:
That's what did me in on the second hand of that WSOP satellite in February. I had AQo in middle position, facing a small raise, and I called.

Where you really run into trouble is when it's A, X, X where each X is an undercard or even Q, X, X. It's not unlikely that someone is holding 2-pair or trips in that situation, and it can make your relatively strong looking hand your undoing. Signor Ferrari recently nailed me in his tournament when I had AQo, and although the flop came Q-J-7o, he stayed with me, and ultimately caught a straight on the river when a K fell, and he had 10-9s. Q-Q off the flop, or even A-A with a Q kicker isn't quite strong enough to justify a knock-out raise, yet is seems that's all you can do.

I think my practice is generally to call but not to raise with A-Q. I know there have been times I've raised with as low as A-10o, and sometimes it has been quite profitable. But if I'm in a serious tournament, and want to preserve my chances, I treat A-Q like a one-shot deal. If the flop hits for me, meaning, AA, QQ, K-J-10, or A-Q, then obviously I stay put and react depending on what else is there. Otherwise, even with a flush or straight draw, or a pair off the flop, I'm happy to toss it if I'm reading strong hands around me. If there's a Q or and A on the flop, and all I have is a pair with a high kicker, I don't feel so good, and may run against a big bet.
Some sound advice from Coach.

Here's what Izmet has to say about AQo:
I feel that AQ is quite robust... (if best preflop) and should definitely raise. But not to knock out. To cut idiots' implied odds. But because of the other factors you mention, like tying people to a big pot (which I agree is bad), it might be a not so clear cut decision... A case could be made for limping in early position to conceal your strength with AQ, wait for a good flop and then go for a check raise. This usually knocks out a few gamboolers. If our premise is an ace or queen on the flop is mandatory, the idea of seeing cheaply has merits.
And here's what Sklansky himself said (regarding Izmet's advice):
Once AQ gives up on winning without a pair it really doesn't want to get others out, at least up to a point. And if it was all in, it definitely should raise. On the other hand, with even semi rational opponents, that raise for value doesn't gain too much and may be overshadowed by the fact that keeping the pot smaller not only avoids drawouts by players less willing to accept lesser pot odds, but makes it more likely that you can get a raise in later to shorten the field. Again these concepts do not apply against total live ones... on the other hand, even in games like that, using these ideas will certainly make you a winning player.
And from the bible and Mr. Brunson himself about calling a preflop raise with AQo:
The reason you have to be careful with (AQo) is because... you might be up against a hand where you'd be almost dead... so, if you got AQo, AJo, A-10o... and you're up against AA, KK, AK... you've got a terrible hand.

It's extremely hard to win a big pot with those hands (offsuited) when you've called a raise. They're definitely trouble hands. You're much more likely to lose a big pot with them than you are to win a big pot with them.
That's it for now. Stay tuned for my next trouble hand: JJ.

Check out: My Trouble Hand #1: KJo

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