AQ is the best worst starting hand in poker, but only if you’re like most poker players who follow the so-called poker rules and play by the book. It’s not often I write something where there is a twist in the first sentence, but that is certainly the case here.
Is AQ the Best Worst Hand In Poker? Common Poker Thinking
I read a few articles on this topic prior to writing this post. Didn’t read those articles as research. I read those articles to see how other people were thinking.
I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that most people were thinking the same as everyone else. All of those articles posted hand rankings, percentages, chances of winning vs. an unspecified opponent, and more technical jargon to make their articles sound informative and authoritative. All they were really doing is recycling the same information, which all stemmed from charts.
You don’t win poker tournaments by looking at charts. You win poker tournaments by understanding your opponents. Poker games are dynamic, whether they are cash games or poker tournaments. It didn’t surprise me when I copied the author names for these articles and pasted them in HendonMob. I either came up with no results or very low earnings.
As I write this, I sit here somewhat flabbergasted. Apparently, you should be folding AQ from early position. Are you out of your flipping mind? Do you know how hard it can be to get a hand like AQ when you’re not running good in a poker tournament? And if you are running good, it fits right in.
Please allow me to explain why AQ is the worst starting hand in poker for most players, but a great starting hand for good players. I know you might point to a couple of well-known poker pros not loving this hand, but I have never seen either of those pros fold AQ pre-flop. That alone should tell you something.
If you know what you’re doing, then AQ is a very limited threat to your stack and should absolutely be +EV. It is certainly not the worst hand in poker. Let’s say you raise with AQ from early position. This game is not as complicated as you think. Your opponents will almost always give you the answers. All you have to do is watch/listen and hope to not get unlucky.
Okay, so you raised from early position with AQ and you got raised by another good player. That’s an easy fold. You know that he knows you’re in early position. Therefore, he knows you’re strong because he’s been watching you play. You’re not stupid and wouldn’t raise in that spot with anything weaker than AQ (maybe AJ). If he raises you, then you know what he knows, which means he’s stronger and it’s time to fold. If you’re in position and you get raised by this same player, then it’s a call.
Now let’s say it’s the same situation. You’re in early position with AQ, you raise, and that same good player just calls. We can immediately eliminate the following hands: AA, KK, AK, QQ, AQ. He would raise with any of those hands. It’s likely he’s holding a pair (55-JJ) or possibly KQ-suited, QJ-suited, or JT-suited. One of these hands is almost always the case in this situation.
Now you have half the information you need prior to the flop. In most cases, you will c-bet and he will fold. If you bet the flop and he raises, he has you beat. If you bet the flop and he calls, it’s either a set or a draw. Read the board and make your own determination based on what does and doesn’t make sense. If there is only a straight draw and no flush draw, bet bigger to get him off. He’s less likely to call. If you put him on a flush draw, it’s a tricky spot.
You need to ask yourself: Is this a player that is willing to go all-in with a flush draw? If the answer is yes, then you need to do the opposite of what most players do (if you want to stay in the game). You want to control the pot and see how it plays out before committing all your chips. I understand the math says to shove because you will be ahead over the long haul, but there is no sense in risking all of your chips (potentially) when you could easily have a much safer and just as profitable spot within 30-60 minutes.
You must play it differently in poker tournaments than you would in cash games. The key is to stay alive and wait for a better spot whenever you’re not sure. If he’s not the type of player to risk all his chips on a flush draw, apply more pressure so he folds.
Worst Hand In Poker: Importance Of Reading Ability
I’ll put it in the simplest terms possible. If you have good reading ability, then you’re going to know when you’re behind with AQ. Think of it this way, how often will your opponent limp with AA, KK, AK, and QQ? Almost never. Therefore, if you are raised pre-flop, call to see a flop, and your opponent expresses interest despite you having raised pre-flop, you’re in trouble.
You know the answer! That being the case, you can minimize your losses with AQ and maximize your profits. This makes AQ one of the easier poker hands to play, not one of the most difficult. It’s easy to get away from, just like AK (not the case for AA and KK).
Now let’s say you just get called when you raised from early position with AQ. The flop has an Ace, you bet out, and your opponent raises. He didn’t raise pre-flop yet he’s betting now. It’s unlikely he flopped a monster because he would be trapping. And he doesn’t have one of the four premium hands mentioned above because he would have raised you pre-flop. It’s relatively easy to determine that he has AJ, AT, or A9. He’s putting that bet out there as a feeler.
Feeler bets are common in poker games, especially from good players. You have two options here. You can call or raise. Folding would be too cautious. Since you’re in early position, calling is not a great option. If you were in late position, it would make sense because he would slow down on the turn if he missed.
Since you’re in early position, you need to raise to find out where you stand. This is actually saving you chips, not costing you chips. Pots balloon as they get to the turn and river. Find out as much information as you can while the price is cheap in this situation. You can even min-raise because a min-raise usually indicates massive strength (the bettor doesn’t want to scare away their opponent).
If your opponent folds, they had air. Your opponent calls, you likely have him out-kicked or he has a pocket pair below QQ. If he raises, our read was off and we need to fold.
So, AQ Is Not The Worst Hand In Poker
As you can see, AQ is not the worst hand in poker. The worst hand in poker is the hand you overplay. What’s happening here is that most players are associating AQ with the worst hand in poker because they tend to overplay it. The key is to play it as AQ, gather intel, and proceed accordingly, which is the same with all poker hands.
As you probably know, 7 2-off is considered the worst hand in poker. This is true from a mathematical standpoint, but you’re never going to risk a ton of chips with 7 2 unless you’re a complete maniac (maniac = losing player). Since 7 2 is easy to fold, it really isn’t the worst hand in poker.
Some people believe JJ is the worst hand in poker, but that’s not the case, either. These people are also overplaying their hand. JJ should be approached as a hand with potential, nothing more. You should not see pocket jacks as one of the best poker hands in the game. Once you have that mentality, you’re in trouble.
It’s simple. Raise with it (or limp with it if going for a big pot on a flopped set) and play the hand based on your opponents’ actions. You see, the poker hands you’re playing aren’t as important as the people you’re playing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it’s so important: They will give you the answers!
Trust Your Reads
Once you’re in tune with the game and you have played in many Texas hold’em poker tournaments, you’re going to know when you’re ahead and when you’re beat. At that point, it really comes down to good luck or bad luck, but you have put yourself in a position to win a lot more than other players.
What happens to many poker players is that they trust their reads until they’re wrong, then they start doubting themselves. Once that confidence goes, so does their reading ability. For example, let’s say a player raises pre-flop with AQ and his opponent only calls and then shoves on this board: Q83-rainbow.
It’s a snap-call for the original raiser. What makes this situation different (and a rarity) is that the villain flatted with KK. The original raiser now begin to doubt everything he does opposed to realizing that the villain in that spot limps less than 1% of the time.
What I’m trying to say is that if you don’t overthink yourself and stick with the basic betting patterns people use, you will do well. They almost always tell the true story.
Getting back to AQ, there is another reason it’s not the worst hand in poker. Do you have any idea how strong this hand is when you’re short-stacked and shoving pre-flop?
In most situations, you will be picking up the blinds and antes, which is always a win. If you get called, it’s usually by a big stack with a marginal hand because they think you’re in desperation mode. You will be a favorite. It’s when the short stacks call you that you’re in trouble. They’re either going to be shoving first or folding to shoves. But you’re still not in major trouble in most situations.
All those poker strategy charts don’t include all-in situations when short-stacked, which can lead to massive chip accumulation. If it’s late in the tournament and you have 100k when the average stack is 565k, you shove with AQ and win, you just picked up 100k chips before the blinds and antes. This is a lot more than the average pot in the beginning or middle stages of a tournament.
Blunt Poker Talk
Would you like me to be really blunt? If you’re the kind of poker player who folds AQ pre-flop, I really want you playing in my Texas hold’em poker tournaments. This poker strategy of folding AQ pre-flop is so off base that it hurts my brain.
Even if I’m at the final table of a tournament where everything is about position and I’m dealt AQ UTG, I’m raising. The hand you should be folding more often, as well as the biggest trouble hand in poker games, is KQ. If you want real poker rules to live by, slow the heck down with KQ. It will save you a ton of chips.
With KQ, you’re usually getting involved in big pots when you hit and you’re behind. When the King hits and your opponent remains interested, he likely has AK. If the Queen hits and your opponent remains interested, he likely has AQ. If your opponent whiffs on the flop, you will get no action. And if one of your opponents just calls when your King or Queen hit the board, then you’re likely up against a flopped set or a big draw.
If I had to choose one hand where I lost the most chips in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, it would be KQ. Therefore, in my opinion, KQ is the worst hand in poker. To make an argument that AQ should hold the title of the worst hand in poker over KQ is ludicrous.
Real Poker Talk
When you read about poker strategy online, consider the source. However, even if it’s a reliable source, are they purposely playing it safe by recycling the same information? If you want to have an edge, you need to play a different poker strategy than everyone else. Otherwise, you’re a robot.
If you truly want to be different, play the player and the situations, not the technical side of the game. You can show me all the math in the world, but nothing beats knowing the range of poker hands your opponent is holding. That is going to give you the best shot at winning. See you at the WSOP!
Worst Hand In Poker – FAQs
A: The worst starting hand is 72-off, but KQ is the most dangerous hand in regards to potential for losing the most chips.
A: A royal flush, which is a straight-flush with all the highest cards. For example, Th, Jh Qh Kh Ah is a royal flush.
A: AA, KK, QQ, AK-suited and JJ.
A: No such thing. The only bad hand in poker is the second-best hand. That’s where you lose your chips. If you can learn to fold these, you’re going to be very good.
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