QJ top pair on a double-paired board

Here’s an instructive hand. I wouldn’t say it was played well by either player, but it’s an interesting hand nonetheless.



UTG at a 6-seat 100/200 ring table, I open QJo to 3BB. UTG is a bad spot to open QJ, but whatever. I have a big stack, looking to splash a bit. I get called by the player behind me, who’s holding Q3s (clubs), SB and BB both call.


Qd8d4s, giving me top pair, nice kicker + backdoor flush draw, backdoor gutshot straight draw. I put in a bet for 1200 into 2280, a little over 1/2 pot and get called by the player behind me, SB, BB both fold. Four way, I was not exactly happy with the two diamonds on the board, so the two folds make me feel better about my hand having showdown value if I can get there.


Dealer turns 8s; this is a trouble card for me, possibly the worst card in the deck at this point. Now the board is super wet: There’s a pair on the board, 8s, so if V’s calling with middle pair, he’s now way ahead of me. If he’s got a set of 4s or Queens and slow-playing me, I’m dead. There’s now two diamonds and two spades, which doubles the chances that a suited hand is drawing to a flush now. I absolutely hate this card.

I should probably just check here, but if I do that, then it opens up the door for V to bang in a huge bet as a bluff, and then all I can do is fold. I opt instead to bet, using a larger sizing, and see if I can get a fold. If I get raised, I’ll still have to fold, but I reason that a reasonably sized bet is less likely to get raised than a check. Still, I don’t much like betting this spot, either, and if this were still mutli-way, I wouldn’t do it. Being out of position also makes this spot tougher for me to play well.

With the pot at 4560, I put in a bet of 3200, about 2/3 pot (actually, it’s 70%, I just calculated it). I get called again. Uh oh.


4d. If there was another worst card in the deck for me, this was it. Now, the front door diamond flush has filled; I’m only holding one diamond, so I didn’t get there, and I’m only holding the Jd, not a lot of confidence as a flush blocker. Worse, the board is paired twice now, giving me top two pair, beat by any random 8 or 4. (I guess an Ace would have also been a bad card to see, too, as it would have invalidated my better kicker and given us a chop on this board.)

Lately it seems like any marginal hands I play are ending up on drenched run-outs that would make Cardi B blush. Should I even risk a value bet here?

Proably not, but I do. I put in for 7500 into a pot of 10950, and get called. Villain shows Qc3c for a worse kicker on top two pair, and I win the hand QQ88J over QQ884, pulling in what turns out to be a surprisingly decent pot of 25950 chips.


So why am I sharing this hand? I think it’s instructive for a few reasons.

First, it shows why playing out of position is so tough. At no point did I feel like I had confidence that my hand was best, only that it had a decent chance of being best. And I only really felt that way on the flop, and even then I felt acutely vulnerable to being outdrawn.

Second, it shows a Replay axiom in action: Nobody folds on this site.

Q3s should have folded preflop to my raise. OK, if you want to call for a shot at making a semi-decent flush with Q3, 3BB isn’t unreasonable.

But how many hands are they beating that would bet the flop from the first-to-act chair? Their flush potential evaporated on the flop, and they’ve got someone betting into them, is calling three streets with a 3-kicker on top pair winning them a lot of chips? Especially on a board this drenched?

I felt like my bets were bad on this hand, but the calls I got here are even worse.

Yes, this is a very typical RP poker hand type that you will also see a lot in tournaments.

You flop top pair, bet, get called, then the turn gives second pair on the flop trips. With a flush draw you might as well give up here.

On the other hand maybe opponent is playing with a suited Queen, so any reasonable size bet on the turn should make them fold, as you opened UTG, and might have A8 suited, a Q with a better kicker, an 8, a pocket pair of 8s.

Really your opponent must be thinking that you have a pocket pair lower than 8s, as that is about the only hand he could beat.

But most likely this is just super-bad play. This is a low-stakes ring game on a play money site. The call with Q3 suited, especially given the huge disparity in stack sizes, is moronic.

The flop shows exactly why it is not a good idea to call a raise from UTG with a hi-low hand like Q3s. You have made top pair, but you have no kicker.

And even if you do make a flush draw, or flop a flush, with the A and K of spades out against you, you cannot be sure you have top hand. Furthermore, even if the A or K of spades appears on the board, it is likely those cards will give your opponent top pair.

This is a good argument for not limping in with trash, especially from the small blind. Even if the flop hits you, you will sooner or later end up with second best hand and get stacked. This happened to me in a tournament a couple days ago.

I was in a good position and looked like making the money. I was BB. It was folded to SB who limped in, and I checked. I had 7 5 offsuit. Flop came T 7 5. Checked to me, I checked back. Ace on the turn. SB overbets pot. I reraise all-in, he snap calls and turns over T 7. Exit me.

In this particular case I was the BB, but if I had limped in with the same hand from the SB, I would have been KO’s all the same.

Your opening with QJ UTG is borderline. In a 6-seater the requirements to open UTG are more relaxed, and with your huge stack, you can spare the chips, so OK.

But this is something I see in tournaments a lot. Some player gets a big stack early on by doubling up through an opponent, possibly with some luck on the river. Now he opens up his range and makes every pot he enters a large one, hoping to intimidate opponents into folding on the flop if they don’t hit top pair top kicker or better. However, such players often end up diminishing their early leads and falling by the wayside.

With a large stack lead and low blinds, there is absolutely no pressure to play at all, and therefore it makes sense to tighten up your range. Since you have most of the chips on the table, you have everything to lose and relatively little to gain.

Daniel Negreanu once said, I think, that he did not mind busting out and rebuying on tournaments the maximum number of times, because the more chips there were in play on his table in the hands of lesser players, the greater the chance he had of building a big stack early in the tournament.

However, here is a question for you, Pugster.

If your opponent had reraised your flop bet all-in, what would you have done? In a tournament, I would normally fold, wishing to conserve chips for a better opportunity.

This is a situation that often arises in tournaments. You have large stack, opponent has small stack, he reraises all in to your flop bet, but there is a good chance that you are still ahead and that he is chancing his arm. If you lose the damage to your stack will not be irreparable, but the problem is that if he doubles up, then he becomes a lot harder to bully in the future.

Sorry @puggywug , nothing instructive here.

The only lesson is what you stated here:

We’re done, nothing to discuss, the other 500 or 600 words are noise. I stopped reading at that point.

Hope this helps.



Probably fold, but it depends.

Obviously if you fold here 100% of the time to a shove, you’re going to get walked over.

I would have to take into account the type of player I’m up against. If they’re only shoving overpairs, two pair, sets, I’m definitely folding to a shove.

If they’re also shoving strong flush draws, I’m good about 2/3 of the time to call against those hands. So it becomes a question of how many of the hands in their shoving range are flushes and how many are hands that are already ahead of me.

If they’re random-idiot shoving, and I’ve been seeing this action very frequently, I call every time.

If it’s a tournament, I would also weigh whether I have them covered or not, how close to the bubble I am. I tend to give shoves a bit more credit in tournament play, since there’s usually no rebuy, and if you’re out, you’re out.

I also have run ridiculously terrible in all-in hands for a good two years, and my own bias is to ignore the 20 coin-flips in a row that all ran heads, and play as though I believe that the coin is fair, and then complain when it turns out that V had QT, and hits a Ten on the turn or river.

Nothing special here, sorry, next…


That is ridiculous. Obviously there IS a chance element in poker and it is galling when an opponent hits quads on the river to beat you, but these things will even out in the long run IF they really are coinflips, or you have calculated the odds correctly.

However in the long run QJ will beat QT more often than the reverse.

But often people do not calculate correctly: for example what are the odds of hitting a flush draw if you have four cards to the flush after the flop?

You have 9 outs for the flush on each street, right? But supposing you have two overcards to the flop, then you might have an additional 4 outs on the turn and river, and if you make top pair on the turn, then you have will have 12 possible outs on the river that might further improve your hand, and that is assuming that you did not pick up an inside straight draw on the turn that gives you an additional 3 outs on the river.

So you might think that an opponent beat you against the odd when he hit a T on the river, when he actually had as many as 15 outs on the river.

On RP poker you only have a few seconds to make a decision and sometimes there just isn’t enough time to consider all the possibilities, so we just go by rules of thumb.

So many players on RP will call ANY bet on the flop if they have a flush draw, that in the early stages of tournaments you will inevitably get nailed eventually if you try to take on several flush draws in succession. The lesson to be learned is to play small ball poker on suited flops, but get the money in on the river if you think you are still ahead.

In the later stages of a tournament if you have a depleted stack, shoving the flop for a Hail Mary attempt at hitting a flush or open ended straight draw with overcards may be your best hope of doubling up and coming back to win.

It certainly is ridiculous!

If Replay ever opens up an API to query hand history, I will pull down every hand I’ve ever played on the site, and look for ones where I had the same top card as the winner, and they had a worse kicker, and see how often they sucked out on me.

On that day the “Fairness thread” will see a lot of traffic, I guarantee it.

Well, yeah.

Look at this scenario:

You: A diamonds and Q clubs
Opponent: Q hearts and J hearts
Flop: Q spades, 8 hearts, 9 hearts.

Who is favorite to win by the river and what are the odds?

The guy who finished second in the tournament I played last night was griping about the unfairness of it all. He said the hand I had where I hit quad queens on the river was an example. But he only lost a few chips on that hand, and even if I had not hit quad queens, I had a full house, so he wasn’t going to be betting much without a Queen.

I responded: " Yes I was lucky and you are a better player than me!"

I know what the odds are. I also know what happens to me almost every time when I call a shove and see that we have the same top card, and I have a better kicker. Underdog pairs bottom card. I agree, it’s ridiculous. I agree the odds are with me. I agree I shouldn’t fixate on the outcome, but making the right decision. I even understand selective memory. But the fact remains when I find myself in the situation, I just roll my eyes and get ready for it to happen, yet again, and sure enough, it does.

You should have folded pre, but whatever you didn’t then on the flop you bet, which is fine, you cant raise pre with QJ off then check on a queen high board with a draw out there against multiple opponents. On the turn the value bet is too thin, players here are too straightforward and dont bluff enough, if he bets, he most likely has you beat and you avoid putting more chips in the pot. The river is the same as the turn basically but more amplified. Betting on the river is much worse than betting the turn. Maybe you could bet on the river if you checked the turn, but a check is also good too.

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So what are the odds in the example given?

In your example, QJs is behind but has a lot of out, to any heart, and any ten or Jack, which gives them a 55% chance of coming from behind.

The sort of thing I’m talking about is preflop all-in where the draws are not yet defined.

I bubbled a tournament where I was 2nd stack at the final table. Final table had just come together and I got AJ in position and raised it, blinds were pretty big by then so 3BB is close to half my stack, and I probably should have just open shoved. Chip leader re-raised to put me all in, and I call expecting to be behind to a pocket pair. No, he’s got AT, and I’m going to win! No, first card on the flop is a Ten, and now I’m down to three outs, none of which come, and I’m out of the tournament, when I should have crippled the big stack and been able to dominate the rest of the final table.

Two days ago at a ring table a player who had just lost most of his chips rage shoved K9o from UTG for about 25k,roughly 1/3 my chips. I had AK behind him, call his 25k shove, board pairs his bottom card, I don’t hit anything, he doubles up.

Yesterday, another ring table, I opened AA from UTG for 3bb,player across the table re-raised me all in. I call, he has 44. Board runs out 3 clubs, he’s got a 4c,i have no club. River doesn’t fill and i barely hold on to the best hand.

This happens so routinely. I know AT vs AJ is about a 1-in-4 winner, but against me it wins every time. K9 vs AK, also 25% to win, but against me the magic 9 hits. I complain and complain about it, and people just want to make fun of me, or tell me it’s “variance” but the variance gods owe me about a hundred million chips by now. The odds are inverted for me, AK beats K9 one in four, maybe, beats AQ one in four, maybe. When I flip up dominant hand over subordinate hand, I know that I’m screwed, and it’s only interesting to put in a side bet on which card on the board it’ll be. The first card of the flop or the river are usually the screw cards.

Yes, that is the peril of calling preflop raises on final tables.

There are two possible downsides if you lose. 1) is that you lose quite a lot of chips, which may not be terminal, depending on the size of your stack, 2) opponent who was in dire straits is now in a lot less dire straits and may come back to win the tournament, whereas if you had folded he might have picked up the blinds UTG, then lost his BB and SB and been right back in dire straits.

The trouble with calling here when you don’t have to is that AJ is an underdog to any pocket pair plus AK and AQ, and these the the most likely hands to be shoving here, though bottom stack might shove with a much wider range.

My strategy is usually to avoid calling these shoves unless I have a premium hand, or I cannot afford to give up the blinds.

I would always prefer to be the shover than the caller, because I have three ways to win–either everyone folds, or someone calls and I am ahead and I win, or I am behind, but I still win.

Add these three possibilities together and it comes to way more than 50%, whereas you cannot cannot be much over 50% with AJ as against something like 88 you are only 45% to win the pot, whereas if you shove with AJ your combined odds of winning the pot are probably more like 80% taking into account fold equity.

Everything you say is true.

That said, in that AJ vs AT hand, I was in a position where I felt I should play. I’m 2nd stack at the table, I’m on the button, BB is the big stack and I want to not let him win blinds unchallenged, no one had opened, at a 9-handed table, and AJ isn’t the best hand, but it’s not a bad hand either.

Considering everything V can raise with and I’m behind, I did consider folding, but I’ve been hearing all this advice about how you shouldn’t play for min-cashes, you should play to win, and its fine if you bust if you’re getting in good and if winning hands puts you in a great position where you can win the whole tournament. And this was such a situation. No one else at the table had a big stack, it was me, the chip leader, and 7 other players who had about 2x their starting stack; I had a 4x stack, and chip leader had maybe 6x. If I win that hand and double up, I’m on 8x, he’s down to 2x, and the rest of the table is 2x, and I can very likely win the tournament.

So despite all the range theory about what V could have put me all in with and all the reasons why I should have folded AJ, the fact remains that in that specific hand, I had a dominant Ace, got sucked out on, a 25% shot I was willing to take for a chance at the top money, and ended up bubbling and got no money.

It happens, I’m fine with it happening, if it happens the 25% of the time that it’s supposed to happen. Instead, it happens 75%+ of the time against me. Not that I get it all in with AJ and sometimes I’m up against KK-AA, sometimes up against 88 and miss, sometimes up against QQ, where overall, AJ is a bad hand to play with for stacks; no, I’m looking at a subset of dominant over subordinate hand situations: AK vs AQ, AJ vs AT, AJ vs A2, etc all the way on down, generalize it to top card chops, but I have better kicker, and what happens nearly every single time? They flop bottom card and I miss, they suck out their 25% chance and I just busted or doubled up a small stack and am now crippled in the process.

I know it’s hard to believe, contrary to science, and all that, but I run SO BAD all-in, I should basically never do it preflop. Basically not even with AA. Of course, I do, and that’s how I compile the numbers that I do. Often I also run into hands that should beat me, because I’m way behind them, and once in a while I’m the one who sucks out and hits a flush to beat a pocket pair, but it’s nowhere near as often as I lose with a hand that dominates my opponent’s preflop strength.

If there’s 3 outs against me in the deck, they’re right at the top waiting to get drawn.

Unless you know your opponent is a real fish, I don’t think you can bet all 3 streets there profitably.

Flop: I liked the bet size. Who’s to say what’s best, but that felt like a very reasonable bet with QJ to me on that board, with 4 opponents. You have a board that doesn’t seem likely to have connected hugely with anyone’s range, and AK, KQ don’t seem like too huge a part of anyone’s range. 88 and 44 are out there, but again, not too statistically frequent. So even with 3 opponents, I think you are ahead most of the time, and have the flush draws and some weak straight draws that might call, along with some weaker queens. I think you could bet smaller, but with the flush draw out there, just a smidgeon over half pot seemed like you are given the draws a slightly high price to continue, while not risking too much those times one of the 3 people has you beat.

Turn: another flush draw, and now hands like 87 and 98 of both diamonds and spades that might have called the flop bet are also ahead of you. You now have 2 flush draws that you’d typically want to price off their draws, but you are starting to wade into hot water. You size up for an even bigger bet… I’m not sure this is wrong, and again, it depends on the type of player you are against, but if I knew nothing about my opponent, I don’t think I’d be likely to make that bet, and would mostly either check or bet slightly smaller than half pot.

River: one of the flushes comes, and the 4 means any 4 is also now ahead of you, and are really behind to almost all of the hands that might have reasonably called your prior two bets. I think even a small bet here is mostly getting called by better. At the size you bet, I’m surprised you got called by worse. If you’d bet maybe 25% to 35% of pot, I’d expect that weaker queens and JJ through 99 might call now and then… but even here I’d mostly expect these hands to fold. They are only bluff catchers really.

So I’d expect the final bet to be a money loser, mostly just folding out all of the hands that were behind and winning no extra chips, and every call beating you (obviously I’m wrong to some extent, as you did get called by worse). I would check, and probably call a small bet, but fold to anything at all large, feeling that I’m now behind to most of the hands that got to this point.

In trying to guess what your opponent had, I think it must have been a weaker queen, or one of the middle pairs that they got psychologically married to.

I’d also note that I’m kind of thinking of this from a cash game perspective, and that having a relatively big stack like you did at a final table probably does change things somewhat, especially if you’ve been pushing people around with your stack a lot on prior hands.

This was a ring table, not final table in a tournament. I expected to be losing the hand, too, and was surprised to be called and win. I was pretty sure I’d be raised and fold either the turn or the river. I got called by Q3 clubs. Couldn’t quite understand it.

LOL… Q3 of clubs… If Q3 of spades it might have made a smidgeon more sense. Well, I suppose everyone gets sticky with top pair and no kicker at least once in a while.

I wonder if they were only thinking of their own hand “I have top pair… top pair it is… I bet they don’t have top pair. I have top pair.” Or if it was a hero call… but even as a hero call it makes no sense, as most of the reasonable bluffs from prior streets are also now beating Q3.

I guess that goes to show how ranges never seem to look like they should from a theoretical perspective.