How to handle a pair in queens in a limit-hold'em poker deal

May 29, 2012 3:00 AM

You’re playing in a $4/$8 limit-hold’em game where most of your opponents have never been dealt two cards they didn’t like.

In the big blind, you look down to see the best hand you’ve had all night: a beautiful pair of queens. What to do?

You shove in a raise and, quicker than a flash flood, your opponents inundate the pot with chips.

As eight of you wait for the flop, you feel queasy: What if an ace or king comes out? Or three little connected cards, or a middle pair, or three suited cards?

“Maybe I should’ve just called,” you think as you start to second-guess your raise.

Maybe yes, maybe no. It all depends. Pocket queens is a strong hand, so a raise would seem to be correct. But it’s also a vulnerable hand with two over cards that beat it. In a loose game, people play just about any hand with an ace or king in it.

If the game is tight, your raise is right. But be very hesitant about raising from the blinds with multiple players in the pot. In loose games, just calling and waiting to see what develops on the flop is usually your best play.

Sometimes, you’ll see players raise from the blinds with small to medium pairs.

Sure, raising can build a big pot, but you’ll have to flop a set for your hand to stand up in multi-way action, so it doesn’t make much sense to raise.

Suppose you have pocket eights in the big blind. You’re down to your last few chips and six players are in the pot. Fire away with a raise! No matter what happens, you’re getting multi-way action on your last few chips, with odds of hitting your set at 7.5-to-1 on the flop, and 5-1 if you go to the river. 

With an average stack, you’re better off just calling from the big blind. You’ll need those extra chips to raise with if you hit your set.

You can defend your small blind in unraised pots with middle suited cards that have two gaps and straight potential – 8h 5h, 9s 6s, 10c 7c – but only when several people are in the pot.

What about raised pots? You can call from the small blind with small pairs and suited connectors, but only when five or more people are in the pot, including yourself and the big blind.