How you might play a monster hand in Texas Hold’em Poker

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It is not often you catch a monster hand, never mind the nuts, in a Texas hold’em poker game

If you start with a pair in the hole, say Q-Q, you have just two outs; and the odds are 7.5-to-1 against flopping a third Queen for a set. If that does happen, then, with only one more Queen left in the deck (just one out), the odds are even higher – approximately 22-1 – against hitting Quad Queens either on the turn or on the river.

All in all, it’s a huge long-shot. Well, that is exactly what happened to me the other night at a local casino while playing in a $4-$8 limit game with ½-Kill.

What is the best way to play this monster hand as it develops and finally makes the beautiful four-of-a-kind? I’ll tell you how I played it, and the ultimate outcome. Tell me, would you have done differently? If so, why?

In a middle position, I looked down at Q-Q in the hole. When the betting reached me I raised to (hopefully) force out opponents holding A-rag or K-rag. I was protecting my hand while building the pot I hoped eventually to win.

There were two callers, and then the Button re-raised. I had observed he was an aggressive player and could be raising with almost any hand, including A-A down to small suited connectors. Five of us saw the flop. And what a flop it was for me: Q-9-2 rainbow.

Now I had a set of Queens with no overcards on the board; and flushes and straights were very unlikely. I was 100% certain my hand was well in the lead. There was a bet and call before me.

I decided to slow-play my hand so as not to force out any “paying customers,” so I just called. Again the Button raised the pot. That was fine with me. The pot was growing; and no one had an inkling as to the strength of my hand.

Would you believe it: The turn was another Queen. Now I had Quad Queens. Wow! I knew I held the nuts. When this happens to you, your goal should be to build as big a pot as possible. The opportunity is so rare…I decided to go for a check-raise, figuring the Button would again bet since he had raised on the previous rounds of betting. With two Queens on the board, I guess he got cautious, and checked along. Aw, shucks. I had missed an opportunity to get more chips into the pot.

The river was a blank. It probably didn’t help anyone. Too bad. It would have been great if an opponent had made a big hand on the river and then bet into my Quad Queens.

After two checks to me, the only chance I had to get more chips into the pot was by betting. The Button thought long and hard before mucking his hand, as did the other opponents. Still, it was a good size pot and put me well ahead for the evening. 

Afterwards, I wondered how I might have played the hand to build an even bigger pot. By the way, I don’t consider it greedy to seek to develop the biggest possible pot when you expect to win it. 

 That’s part of the challenge of playing recreational poker.  As my late wife used to say (she was a very good poker player), “Playing poker is great fun; the more I win, the more fun it is!” 

Can you suggest how I could have built a bigger pot. There will be a prize for the best comment. . . Send to [email protected]

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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