Pocket queens run into trouble
Apair of queens is the third-best starting hand in poker, behind only pocket aces and pocket kings. It's always nice to look down and see two ladies staring back at you. But every once in a while, you won't be able to play your queens in a straightforward way.
A great example of this took place on Day 2 of the Mid-States Poker Tour Venetian Main Event, a tournament held in June at the Venetian Las Vegas that drew 3,273 entrants and crushed the advertised $2.5 million guarantee.
With the blinds at 6,000-12,000 plus an ante of 2,000, Clifton Unknown player’s hand: Green moved all in for 153,000 from middle position, and inaugural MSPT Venetian champ Drake Bronk paused for a few beats before calling from the button. An unidentified player in the big blind peeked down at Qh Qc and then hit the tank for several minutes.
You might wonder why it took him so long to make a decision. After all, he held one of the best hands in poker. However, this was actually a tricky spot.
Nowadays, instead of trying to put an opponent on a specific hand, experienced players try to put opponents on a range of hands. Here, the player in the big blind had to determine what sort of hands Green would shove with, and what sort of hands Bronk would merely call with. For the former, you can deduce that a player would shove his last 12.75 big blinds with hands such as pocket pairs, a big ace, and maybe even any two face cards. That's a pretty strong range, and when Bronk followed with a call, it signaled that Bronk's range was probably even stronger.
For our hero with the queens, the big decision was whether Bronk was just flat-calling with pocket aces or pocket kings, calling with a coin-flip hand like A-K, or calling with an inferior pair like 9-9, 10-10 or J-J. Pocket queens would be beaten by two of those hands, would be 50/50 against one, and would dominate three of them. This wasn't an easy spot.
There would be nothing wrong with calling here, nor with folding those queens. After all, the player in the big blind had only invested 12,000 and could have sacrificed it to get out of a complicated situation and simply move on to the next hand.
Ultimately, the player in the big blind made the call. Green turned over 6d 6s, which was within his expected range of hands. Unfortunately for the ladies, they ran smack dab into Bronk's Ks Kd, which made the 2014 Venetian champ a 64.6 percent favorite.
The board ran out 9d 10c 5s 2h Ad, and Bronk's kings held up to give him a monster pot, while Green was eliminated in 118th place for $4,491. Bronk would go on to finish in 50th place, good for $8,019.
The next time you look down at pocket queens, be sure to take note of your opponents' prior actions and proceed with caution.