Pocket queens run into trou­ble

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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.

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