AQ is the type of hand that can easily get you into a lot of trouble. At the same time, however, AQ is still quite valuable when played correctly. The inherent trouble spots with AQ are what tend to scare off many poker players. It looks good, it tends to play fairly well, but it can suck you into pots that you don’t belong in. The trouble with AQ is that it will often be crushed in the big pots that it plays, and only win a small amount when it is able to survive showdown. With as many negative attributes as AQ might have, there is still much more good than bad. If you can effectively navigate the treacherous waters, you will definitely be able to turn a profit with AQ.
Pre-flop is when you will either get yourself into trouble, identify and step out of the way of trouble, or set yourself on a path for later destruction. As you can tell, two out of those three options are not exactly viable. This is why playing AQ to its fullest potential pre-flop is critical to your long term success. If you mess things up before the flop is even dealt, you can’t realistically except to be making money after the flop without a whole lot of luck. Aggression is one of the biggest advantages that you will have on your side when playing AQ. The trick to aggression, though, is that it only exists if you create it. AQ can be played as passively as you would like to, and this can be good for balancing out your ranges, but aggression is the best strategy in the end.
Why You Should Re-Raise AQ
Players often wonder why they should be re-raising with AQ if it is such a volatile hand. The answer is not exactly simple, as AQ can and should be played slightly differently with each unique situation. It would be impossible and unrealistic to say that AQ is worthy of anything more than an open raise every time that you have it. In fact, there will be plenty of times where you actually fold AQ altogether, completely forgoing the opportunity to build a massive pot. Though it will not always call for a re-raise, it will be the proper play more often than not.
Take a second and think about the last time that you got stuck in a tricky spot with AQ. There is a very good chance that you were sitting on the river on a queen high or ace high board holding just one pair without a clue what to do. This is the most common situation where players get hung up when playing AQ. On one hand, you have top pair with either a strong or top kicker. On the other hand, all that you have is one pair. Besides all of this, your hand is likely to be quite transparent to your opponent, making it all the less likely that they are trying to bluff you out of the pot. When you count them up, you will see that all of the factors in the hand are stacked up against you. You are now sitting on the river with a tough decision, but it all could have been prevented if you re-raised pre-flop instead of calling the original raise.
Use this same example and pretend that you decided to re-raise with AQ in middle or late position. If there was just one player ahead of you (the opening raiser) that is left to act, it will mean that you are either going to see a flop in position with perceived strength, get a fold and win the pot right now, or face a re-raise. Two of these options are much better than the other, but even a re-raise will have its benefits.
At first glance, a re-raise is a terrible option, and it is certainly the worst on this list of three, but it is not all bad news. A re-raise would tell us that our opponent is likely to be very strong. Yes, they could be making a move with some sort of bluff, but this certainly isn’t going to be the case all that often. As a result, the resistance that we faced in the form on a re-raise will enable us to easily lay down the hand.
Notice that calling the re-raise was never even given consideration as a possible play in this spot. When you re-raise with AQ and face even further aggression, it means that you need to step out of the way. This is the two pronged fork that you are playing with. Either you maximize value when you get called, minimize risk when you force folds, or you eliminate future losses when you get re-raised. No, getting re-raised is not fun, but it will be an easy early escape from any bigger losses.
AQ is a good hand to re-raise with when your play could easily be misconstrued as a light 3-bet. For example, if a middle position player open raises and the action gets to you, there should be a raise made almost every single time. Not only do you have position, but your opponent could be weak, and your move could also look like you are trying to steal the pot. These are three good reasons to re-raise any player who kicks off the action in middle or late position.
When You Shouldn’t Re-Raise AQ
Though re-raising is the optimal play in the majority of situations, there are also a number of spots where it is better to take things more cautiously. It is worth noting that there is a significant difference between playing a hand cautiously and playing a hand passively or with fear. A cautious player is aware that they could be entering a trap and will slow down in an attempt to take control of their own fate. A passive player, on the other hand, will simply call the bet and hope for the best. The difference between a cautious player and a passive player is that the cautious player is still actively involved in the hand, while the passive player is more or less simply coming along for the ride. It should go without saying that whenever you are going along for a ride in poker, you are probably losing a lot of money.
Position is crucial with AQ just as it is with just about every poker hand and situation imaginable. If there is an open raise from early position and a re-raise in middle position, making another raise with AQ would be nothing short of disastrous. Not only would it be bad to re-raise again with AQ here, it would also be a losing play to even call the bet. This is an example of a situation where it would be best to simply step aside. AQ might be beating the open raiser, but there isn’t a good shot that it is ahead of the re-raiser.
If you are up against some super tight players who are getting involved in their first pots of the night, it is doubtful that your AQ is worth an open raise. Tight opponents will be able to lay down their hands on bad boards after the flop, so there is no need to put yourself at risk by trying to push them out now. In addition, a tight player is more likely to have an actual monster hand. In these spots, even the tightest players will come back over the top. AQ is best for a re-raise against loose to moderately loose players, but it does not play well when it is facing some of your tightest competition at the table.