Playing pocket jacks

Playing pocket jacks

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There’s a common saying in poker: “There are three ways to play pocket jacks, all of them wrong.” The problem with pocket jacks is that while it’s considered one of the best starting hands, many players find themselves losing with them more often than winning.

Jacks are a good hand but are very susceptible to which cards fall. It’s easy to get glued to pocket jacks and aggressively play them to the showdown, even when one is clearly beaten. As good a hand as it is, if even one queen falls on the board, suddenly someone with Q2o has a better hand. But this doesn’t mean you should necessarily fold every time an overcard falls.

So what’s the best strategy then? Preflop, you don’t want to make the mistake of simply calling. While this might seem to be a way to minimize your losses, not raising allows more people to enter the pot, and pocket jacks is a hand that wants as few people as possible seeing the flop. The more people in the hand with you, the greater the chance of someone making their flush or set, or having someone beat you with a pair of aces, only to see that they had A3 and would have likely folded to a raise preflop.

Play the jacks aggressively as long as they seem to be the best hand. However if an overcard comes, you need to be cautious. If an ace comes and there are more than 2 or 3 players still in, chances are someone has an ace and it’s best to simply check and fold. But if, say, a queen comes and there are only a few other players in with you, back off on the betting and try to see it to the showdown as cheaply as possible. If at any point there’s a lot of action going on, it’s best to let your jacks go.

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