Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The best way to play pocket Jacks

I don't know a poker player who likes pocket Jacks. There is probably one weirdo out there who will profess his or her love for them but I'm yet to meet them. Jacks suck. There's no good way to play them. There's a more than 100% mathematical certainty of at least one overcard hitting the flop and at least one of your opponents flopping a set.

I might have made that last bit up just to emphasise how much I hate them but you get the drift.

But I had a session recently in which I had an epiphany on how to play them. I couldn't lose. It came to me in a flash the first time I was dealt them and I sat there wondering how it has taken me so long to realise this. If you're thinking I'm going to say fold them straight away you're sorely mistaken. There's only a few situations where I open fold a small pair preflop and that's not the answer we're looking for. Jacks, although rubbish, are too good for that.

So now to my session. I've only been sat down 15 minutes and am halfway through my second beer of the night and I've not played a hand when I'm dealt JJ under the gun. I raise and get given literally no respect by getting 6 callers. The flop is a wonderful J-9-9. I check and a guy from late position bets $25. I'm the only caller and we see a 2 on the turn. Again I check and the other player bets $50. Now should I call or raise? He only has $125 or so left so I decide to minraise, hoping he ships it all in. Oh joy - he does. Meaningless river and I take it down - I assume he had 9-x but he mucks as soon as he sees my cards. Now I've finished my beer just as the waitress is taking orders again. Super.

I've played about 4 hands in the next hour before getting JJ again - surely lightning can't strike twice can it? I bet from late position and we're 4 to a flop of J-A-x rainbow. I'm giddy. Although that might have something to do with my beer intake - it's been over a hundred degrees today so I'm determined to stay hydrated by turbo necking beer and the waitresses are doing a sterling job keeping me refreshed. I call a bet on the flop and turn before raising his bet on the river. He thinks for a bit before mucking and stating I must have his ace outkicked.

Now about 4 hours into the session I've not hit another set all night - I've had my share of pocket pairs and the only one I've won a pot with was Kings where I led preflop and everyone folded on the flop when I continued.

I'm only going to play for one more round and I'm in MP with JJ again. I raise and get 3 bet shoved from the button. It folds back to me and I don't really have much choice. He only has $60 or so and it's an easy call. He turns over Ad-Kd. The dealer shows a King in the window as he turns over the flop. But there's also a Jack. Lovely. I play round to my blinds and am quite happy to have racked up a $225 profit for the evening. Luckily the waitress has just been round again so I grab my beer for the drunken stumble back to my room.

So the best way to play pocket Jacks is simple - just flop a set every time you have them!!


  1. I actually do pretty well with Jacks. I think they attract another one of their kind on the flop! The hands that I have lost the most with? A-Q and Q-Q. Congrats on the night!

  2. Thanks Lightning. Unfortunately I got bitten in the ass with jacks (among other premium starting hands) on my next session - write up to come.

    I don’t have too much luck with AQ either - it’s not called FAQ for nothing!!