Ace King (AK) vs. Pocket Queens (QQ): It is Not a Flip!


AK vs QQ
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Some players prefer to have ace-king (AK), and there are ones who are more thrilled to see QQ in their hole cards. But if you are an experienced player like me, you will be pretty satisfied to see either. It is no secret that both are excellent hands.

But which makes you more money? Which hand does better preflop, and which postflop? How about heads-up and in multiway spots? With more than 5 million hands that I played online, I have plenty of data to share with you and answer all of these questions and more.

Many people simply say it is a flip when you put ace-king against pocket queens. 

But how good is ace-king against pocket queens actually in terms of raw equity (if both players would go all in every time and nobody folds)? Well, actual odds are a little bit different. For someone who also plays a lot of Omaha lately, every percentage matters. AK, including both suited and off-suited combinations, has 44% equity against QQ. This is quite a few percentages away from a flip. But there is more to hands than just the raw equity.

Ace King against pocket queens equity
Contrary to popular opinion, QQ is a favorite when up against AK. It is not a flip!

Ace King vs. pocket queens preflop

If we compare AKs (ace-king suited) against QQ, then we have 46%, which is better – suited hands always have a little more equity. And AKo (ace-king offsuit) has a 43.24% chance to win. When postflop play doesn’t matter, then you would be happier holding QQ every time, it simply has more equity. Even when you are up against more opponents, this doesn’t change.

Both hands are at the top of our range and are really good hands. Look at the graph of both (images below), and you will notice a big, straight line up. Both are great money making hands. There aren’t any big swings, just consistent profit, once you have a large enough sample.

Both hands are good enough to 3bet preflop with for value. Depending on how loose the opponent is, these can be good enough to stack off even preflop.

But poker plays primarily postflop, so it is essential to check how different flops affect our approach with these two hands.

AK vs. QQ postflop

pocket queens (QQ) winrate
My winrate with QQ, including 6max and full ring games.

Pocket queens postflop

Pocket queens aren’t a sure thing to win postflop, far from that. Even pocket aces don’t win all the time. But if played correctly, it can result in a nice steady wins time after time. The biggest problem is, of course, overcards on the flop.

How often do you think you will see an overcard on the flop when you hold QQ? Actually quite often.

Whne you hold QQ, you will see an overcard a bit more than 42% of the time on the flop. If we discount the times that we flop a set, then the odds to see overcard on the flop and we didn’t hit a set is 38%.

So more than one-third of the time, if we are faced with pressure from the opponent, we need to give up our hand, maybe not on the flop, but certainly on turn on the river. But at times, we also get free showdowns, where we are faced with only one street of bet, and the rest is checked down. You can expect to win a fair share of those small pots.

overcard on flop with pocket queens
There will be at least one overcard on the flop 42% of the time when you have QQ (38% of the time, if we discount times when you hit a set).

In a scenario where we don’t see the overcard and flop is not to draw heavy, we can usually extract 2 streets of value, sometimes three, and this really makes for a majority of our winrate – along with 3betting the hand preflop of course.

Our Equity against:Broadway cards9989sKKAAAgainst random
AK (suited and offsuit)63.4%45.4%61%31%8.1%65.75%
QQ68.7%81%79%18%18.5%80%

When the flop is full of draws, imagine 789 with two spades flop, then it is best to pot control with our hand. We still do okay in terms of equity, but building the pot is not smart anymore.

QQ on 789
Example of flop where it makes sense to pot control with our QQ. Especially in multiway pots.

Ace King postflop

Ace king is a good hand to have postflop. We will hit top pair around 30% of the time. Sometimes we will also have the nut flush draw or a gutshot straight draw or other backdoor draws, like a backdoor straight draw.

ace king winrate graph
My Ace-King (AK) winrate, including 6max and full ring.

All is not lost if we miss the flop. We can apply aggression and bluff on some of the driest flops, or just take a free card or call one street to see if we improve.

Every time we hit a pair on the flop, it will be top pair with a top kicker (assuming board doesn’t pair). This allows us to extract the value of all the draws and other top pairs with a lower kicker. We can very often go for two streets of value, sometimes even all 3. 

As you can see, my AK winrate is very smooth, with no big swings. Pretty much, AK is a consistent money maker. There are some draw heavy boards where it is best to just give up, for example, 789 with 2 spades board, might still be fine to call a bet on with QQ, but AK isn’t good enough call a bet. It is best to give up and look for a better spot.

AK on 789
On flops like this, with many draws present, just give up with your ace-king. There will be many better spots.

Ace King vs. QQ multiway

The general idea is to not bluff in multi-way pots. Therefore folding with AK will often happen if you don’t hit anything on the flop. It is the best decision to give up and wait for better spots.

On the other hand, on many flops, QQ can bet or at least call a bet. If we hit a set, it will more often than not be a top set, and then we get paid off nicely if someone else has a good enough hand willing to play for stacks.

Position matters

Like with any hole cards in poker, position matters with AK and QQ also. We often have a different strategic plan when we are in position, compared to out of position. Playing in the position, we can pot control more and have easier decisions on the river.

With AK, if you miss the flop, it is much easier to bluff in position as you get to see opponents’ actions first before you make yours.

On some flops, it is better to make a cbet with QQ when OOP (out of position), where on the same board, we would check back and take a free card if we were IP (in position). Therefore it is no surprise that with both hands, it is easier to play in position.QQ can withstand more pressure from opponents, even when out of position.

Winrate comparison of pocket queens (QQ) vs. Ace king (AK)

As you can tell both, Ak and QQ are substantial winners. The graph goes up smoothly for both. I can’t imagine anyone would be losing money with either of those. But QQ significantly outperforms AK. Winrate is more than doubled. I have quite a significant sample of 6max, and Full ring games and my winrates are the following:

  • 150 bb per 100 hands (150bb/100) for AK.
  • 360bb per 100 hands (350bb/100) for QQ

This means that for every AK I get dealt, I win one and a half big blinds. Which is a great result! For QQ, I do even better with 3.6 big blinds every time I receive them.

Just a side note, do you see how big of a thing it is if we get a fold by everyone preflop when we open? We win as much as if we would be holding AK, with no need to play postflop. 

Conclusion

Preflop QQ is a better hand, it will win more often, and it also beats AK with a small equity advantage.

When it comes to postflop, you were able to see that both hands are really good. In some scenarios, AK does better, especially postflop when A or K is present on the board, but on those times, we also can let go of our pocket queens quite easily. The other times QQ can extract value from all the top pair types of hands and lower overpairs.

While it makes sense to bluff often with AK, with QQ, we already have strong showdown value.

Bluffing often with QQ doesn’t make sense, but still be cautious to not inflate the pot blindly for what you might wrongly believe is value betting. It is better to check and pot control sometimes, depending on the board and your position.

If I would need to choose, I rather have QQ both preflop and postflop, except for multiway spots, where I am fine having AK (but QQ still does better).

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Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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