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Below is a hand history from a short session I played this morning. I got dealt QQ in UTG+1 and was raised by CO pre-flop. I don't have much information on CO as it was early in the session and never played him before so I opt just to call, not really sure what a re-raise would accomplish but not loving life seeing a flop either. You can see how it plays out below:

BB: 222.7 BB (VPIP: 0.00, PFR: 0.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 5)
UTG: 125.8 BB (VPIP: 35.00, PFR: 15.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 21)
Hero (UTG+1): 97 BB
MP: 110.8 BB (VPIP: 60.00, PFR: 20.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 5)
CO: 100.2 BB (VPIP: 0.00, PFR: 0.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 5)
BTN: 117.4 BB (VPIP: 13.29, PFR: 10.30, 3Bet Preflop: 4.27, Hands: 309)
SB: 103.7 BB (VPIP: 20.00, PFR: 20.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 5)

SB posts SB 0.5 BB, BB posts BB 1 BB

Pre Flop: (pot: 1.5 BB) Hero has Qh Qc
fold, Hero raises to 3 BB, fold, CO raises to 11 BB, fold, fold, fold, Hero   calls 8 BB

Flop : (23.5 BB, 2 players) 5h Th 9c
Hero checks, CO bets 12 BB, Hero calls 12 BB

Turn : (47.5 BB, 2 players) 4c
Hero checks, CO bets 25 BB, Hero raises to 74 BB and is all-in, CO calls 49 BB

River : (195.5 BB, 2 players) Ah

Hero shows Qh Qc (One Pair, Queens)
 (Pre 81%, Flop 91%, Turn 95%)

CO shows Js Jd (One Pair, Jacks)
 (Pre 19%, Flop 9%, Turn 5%)

Hero wins 186.7 BB

The thinking: Having only called pre-flop, It was hard to narrow his range too much so I was really looking to avoid getting raised by check calling. Luckily the flop and turn are very dry. His bet is on the large side after I float so I put him on TT+, ATs or AK. I think I get called by AT and lower pairs but there are a few hands in his range that beat me. I think it's marginal but choose to shove.

Problems with the play Had overcards come on the flop or turn, I would have been folding so not sure it was played optimally pre-flop.

Once he is so aggressive on the flop and turn and with no info on him, it seems so marginal whether shoving or calling is the right play. In the long run, playing it like this might not be +EV, especially when considering different flop and turn cards.

I was hoping to get some thoughts on how best to navigate QQ in general and specifically in this situation, how it could have been played better pre and post flop?

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Your thinking is good, although with a hand this strong as QQ and no history you definitely want to push more preflop and probably got it in. QQ has the most value before the flop so make him buy the full value. This also eliminates the positional advantage as well.

Sure, he may have AA, KK but what could you do? Personally, i don't like to pay 11 BB (or about 11% of my stack) for just peeking the flop, then fold on an A♥ K⋄ 7♠ Your thinking of let's wait to see the flop for A/K is not unreasonable, but there are problems to this:

  • You already pay 11% of your stack (that's big for a quick retreat on flop)
  • You don't really know where you're on an A-x-x flop if he C-bet (it's a cbet after all, and a big one i guarantee)
  • The pot is already good preflop, so pull the trigger now, only 2 hands are beating you now.
  • Sure, you may be against AA,KK but as well against an army of high aces which can break you post-flop on a bad flop and bad position.
  • If you look at a 5-T-9 flop and decide it's a good flop to move in, what makes you think he still doesn't have AA, KK? In reality, we tend to not give opponents credit for AA, KK on these flops and play aggressively. In truth, however, we just gave a hand like Ax, Kx, TT, JJ eg. an opportunity to beat us some of the times and a hand like AA, KK to beat us the majority of the times.

Personally, i don't like to pay 1/10 of my stack just to fold on a flop with overcards, that's too expensive and a bit scared money. When the money is gathered preflop, you're looking to commit money preflop with such powerfull, yet vulnerable post-flop hand, especially out of position (OOP)

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  • I agree - Pre flop with 11BBs there is too much money left over (86BBs effective) allowing a wider range of hands to call and get perceived implied odds. This makes a good flop (like the one I hit) even better but allows too many scary flops to loose me money. I think raising to 50BB preflop is a good play because there isn't much money left to give value to drawing hands. My problem is still - what hand calls 50BB preflop that isn't AA/KK/JJ? – Chris Jun 16 '15 at 12:33
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    @Chris, in my opinion, there's no hand except premiums that can call profitably with 50BB. But you intention is to take the pot preflop with QQ, in my book winning instantly a good pot with QQ is equally good. Personally, i don't want to play QQ post-flop when the pot is already good pre-flop, so i'm looking to take it pre-flop and not allow a call. That changes if my pair was, say, KK where i'm looking calls and slow-play may prove more profitable. But i always think QQ as the borderline of slow-playing. – user1165 Jun 16 '15 at 19:17
  • I kind of disagree. I think OP's play is pretty close to optimal here. OP only beats JJ here, and in the only situation where he plays on after the flop (no A or K, ignoring Qs), JJ likely plays on too, so he's not losing any value by just calling. Against AK, you can extract a little value if the flop is bare, and you can fold easily when A or K comes, so the EV is better post-flop than pre-flop. On the other hand, if he re-raises pre-flop, sure, he only loses to two hands (A or K), but he pretty much only has higher EV against one hand (AQ), since AJ or A10 won't re-raise in that position. – Yang Jun 26 '15 at 1:29
  • @Yang, QQ hand is certainly a debatable hand :) Personally, i follow a recommendation from Phil Gordon which says that the best way to learn if you're against a more monsterous monster than your hand is to 4-bet rather just calling. Because you're in total black then. In my mind, a 4-bet will certainly make AKx,AQx,JJ,TT stuff to fold and leave only the monsters to call/shove. That's even more acceptable, since with QQ you're going to enjoy an overcard about 50% of the time in the flop. Personally, i don't like to flip (that's a flip, QQ vs flop overcards) and i'll gauge more preflop. – user1165 Jun 26 '15 at 4:47
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If you're playing a tournament i think going all in preflop is kinda bad after the player raises 11 bb. You're almost 100 BB deep you can play more cautiously in MTT. No need to risk a coin flip or bad moment with QQ, unless you are playing a fast pace game (turbo <= 5min). But still deciding on going all in would look too suspicious.

In cash game going all in for 100 BB is also kinda bad, depending on what kind of blinds you are playing.

If you're playing micro stakes it's fine just go for it many fish will call any AQ+,22+

If you're playing higher limits you should think about how many times you would go all in preflop for 100 BB after a raise of 11BB(I don't think there are many). If you play against me i'd try identify your betting pattern and try 3bet,4bet you to see how you react. If you only react to my 3 bet once every 20 hands, i can definitly know when you have those kind of hands. Most of the time what you will win is 12.5 BB if we all fold. In the end you want to win the most you can over time, so winning 12.5BB is nothing compared to what you can actually win. Maybe try to look a bit weaker than you actually are and just call, you can still play agressively on flop.

You could also reraise the player for +-28BB (which is a better decision i'd say). If he goes allin he most likely has AQ+,JJ+ in higher limits. If he just calls he probably has connectors, high cards or small pairs.

If they reraise you in MTT (looking at how many BB everyone has i assume it's early tournament) it would most likely mean they have AK+ or JJ+(unless it's low buy in tournaments where they go any two sometimes lol)

In the end the decision depends also alot on the reads you have on people. If you know they are most likely bad/maniac etc... you could easly try a profitable all in.

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  • This was a cash game, not too deep, 100BB buy in 10NL. This makes it awkward. I would love to be 4-betting QQ but there is no real sizing I can be betting as a bluff/semi-bluff profitably. If I call though Aces and Kings become real scare cards on the flop and I will flop bad a good 40% of times. Hence my dilemma. I'm leaning towards just raising big to ~50BB and calling any shove pre- or post-flop. – Chris Jun 18 '15 at 11:14
  • I guess in 10 NL it would look weird to give a reraise since i assume they never see 4bets without them being all in. I guess going all in is fine since you're playing in a pool of fish and most of them would call you with random cards depending on their mood. Starting 50 NL or more you should consider your choice though. Raising would be more profitable in higher limits. – Marcio Jun 18 '15 at 11:29
  • If you're scared to see a flop with QQ you should think about changing your thinking. You should start improve your post flop game. Play for a day and than go through the hands you played. And try to see what you did wrong and could do better. You will see in the end multiple hands which has some kind of same decision, and you will see how your oponents reacted. – Marcio Jun 18 '15 at 11:36
  • Thanks for the advice, this is what I have been doing and this was one of the hands I couldn't work out what the correct way to play it would be. In my thinking JJ is at the bottom of his range and my play here just happened to work this time. I'm interested to know how you would play QQ oop if the flop came an A or a K, or both? – Chris Jun 18 '15 at 13:06
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    If you just call his 11BB there's even more room for plays. But it's also more risky because he might have almost any hand. (suited connectors, low pairs, high cards,or anything else just because he was in the mood to play J2s). On the flop you could check raise your oponent and CB turn(i would only do that if there's no straight draw or flush draw). If he calls both streets he most likely has (Ax,Kx or better), if he goes all in after check raise he also has one of those cards. The key in the end is to narrow down the enemy's range of hands he can have. – Marcio Jun 19 '15 at 1:39
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Firstly, IMHO it's better to post hands without results initially as it's easy to skew people's analysis of the situation when they know what villain had, or know the outcome of the hand. There are a few different points you could terminate the HH - immediately after the 4♣ comes on the turn, after villain bets the turn, or even after you shove - any of these would make for better discussion than showing the full outcome.

Anyway, as for the hand, I agree that preflop is tricky against an unknown, even (maybe especially) at 10NL as the range of player behaviours is arguable wider than at higher limits and therefore it's more difficult to know what villain might do if you 3-bet. My personal rule of thumb for MSNL online though is that I'm happy to get 100BB in pre with QQ against an unknown, so that would be my immediate goal here and for that reason I would be 4-betting pre and calling off the shove. Sure, you're gonna see KK and AA plenty here, but you'll also see TT, AK, AQ and worse, so you've definitely got enough equity to be happy getting in a full stack (you're over 55% against TT+, AK, AQ for example).

As played, check calling the flop seems fine to me - doing anything else only gives him an opportunity to either get away from worse hands or extract value from you when he has you beat IMO. Perhaps you can get him to commit here with JJ or AT, but you're flipping against a range of 99+, AT. If you think he can have A9 as well (and/or that he doesn't often have 99), then you might be able to justify getting it in on the flop.

Once the turn is a blank I think we just have to assign him a range and decide whether we're going to try and get it in, or give up if he double barrels. So what range could we reasonably assign him here? Clearly he can have TT+ (perhaps even 99+), probably AT, some AKs (especially A♥K♥), A♥Q♥ (maybe A♥J♥), T9 is also a possibility, K♥J♥ and maybe a small handful of other bluffs (66-88 perhaps and stuff like KQ and QJ, although luckily you have the Q♥).

So our equity against this entire range is over 65%. Even if we remove the bluffs with mid pairs, we're still almost 60%. We can remove the KQ and QJ and still be over 53%, so I think we should be fairly happy to get it in on the turn here.

The only additional consideration is that this includes all AK hands, which might be a bit optimistic - although we've under repped our hand, so villain is likely to not put us on as strong a hand as we have and therefore might be happier to try a double barrel with any AK. Against the range we have 60% equity against, trimming the AK to just A♥K♥ does bring our equity down to 53% and obviously if you then also trim some of the other less likely holdings, it makes it close to a flip. However, I would suggest this also doesn't take into account the spazz-factor, because it's 10NL, villain is unknown and to be honest he could probably have some wacky stuff like A5 or even some total bluffs from time to time.

So overall I think the hand was played fine on the flop and turn, but I would probably have saved myself the hassle and just 4-bet pre with a view to getting it in. Obviously this raises the debate about what we do when villain flats that 4-bet and we see a flop with an A and/or K, but that's probably a separate discussion. :)

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