Do You Have Jack-O-Phobia? How To Play Pocket Jacks

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An image showing pocket jacks, three red dice, and red poker chips on a reflective white table.
BetMGM Sep 06, 2023, 2:27 AM

Players often complain about pocket jacks, even though it’s one of the strongest Texas Hold’em poker hands. If this sounds like you, perhaps you’re suffering from “Jack-O-Phobia.”

In this article, you’ll discover exactly why some people dislike this hand so much. You’ll also learn some top tips for making the most of a jack-jack starting hand. Whether you play poker online or in real life, this should help dispel any fears about playing pocket jacks.

What’s the Deal With Pocket Jacks?

Ultimately, jack-jack is the fourth-strongest pocket pair. And yet, there are memes about how annoying jacks can be. It’s a powerful hand, so why do many players complain about it? Before digging into the explanations, take a look at how good of a hand jack-jack really is.

Jacks Facts

There are obviously three starting hands that crush jack-jack right off the bat: ace-ace, king-king and queen-queen. Here, your odds of winning are about -400. 

You’re ahead against ace-king, ace-queen, and king-queen, but it’s fairly evenly matched — the odds of jacks winning are -127 at most. Against an ace, king, or queen plus undercard, you’re a big favorite. However, the odds of your opponent still outdrawing you are approximately +233.

This is the main reason that some players are wary of pocket jacks. It feels like a big hand because it is, so you get your hopes up. But despite this, you’ll still lose pretty often, so picking your spots wisely is important. Although, if you don’t know when to fold in Texas Hold’em, you’ll struggle no matter your starting hand.

Nevertheless, you can still extract a lot of value from a pair of jacks. After all, it’s a big favorite over most starting combinations. Additionally, you won’t lose many chips if you can recognize when an opponent has a premium hand.

Confirmation Bias

Humans have many biases, which helped your ancestors to think quickly and survive danger. While a bias might be useful to a prehistoric person, it won’t do you much good playing Texas Hold’em online.

Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that backs up their existing beliefs. Imagine someone suffering a bad beat with pocket jacks, which is supposed to be a good hand. When checking online forums, that player discovers many other people complaining about pocket jacks, too. Now, whenever they lose with jack-jack in future, that’s what they’ll remember. Jacks always lose, right?

As the earlier figures show, pocket jacks is a strong hand, but it’s far from unbeatable. If that means you want to believe that playing jack-jack is irritating, that’s up to you. But if it affects your playing style, making you fold too early and too often, that’s a big problem.

As always, in poker, you should aim to turn your feelings off and simply make the optimal play. In the next sections, you’re going to find exactly how to do that.


Given that jack-jack is one of the best starting Texas Hold’em hands, you should always bet for value preflop. You’re likely the favorite to win, so look to build a pot worth winning.

The ideal betting amount isn’t set in stone, But generally speaking, anything from 2.5–5x big blinds should be fine. As with most no-limit Hold’em tips, you’ll need to pay attention to how your opponents are playing. The wider your opponent’s calling range, the higher your bet should be and vice versa.

Against a Raise

What should you do when there’s a raise ahead of you? If it’s a single raise, you can confidently re-raise. In a 3-bet scenario, calling seems like a reasonable choice, but raising is still an option, albeit a riskier one. 

When facing a 4-bet, you should strongly consider a fold. It’s very unlikely that you’re ahead against this level of aggression. The indication is that someone’s holding aces or kings. But, as always, it depends on the players and their tendencies. If a tight player is the one betting, you definitely want to fold. 

The reverse is also true. If your opponents have been raising wide and spewing chips, you may be rewarded for raising. Since it’s easier to play poker online aggressively, you’ll likely encounter this style more than in live games.


Decisions with pocket jacks become much harder after the flop. They aren’t something your typical online poker cheat sheet can help you with. Instead, you should pay attention to your opponent’s individual style and look out for the presence of overcards.

On average, the odds of seeing an ace, king, or queen on the flop are around -133. That obviously means no overcard on roughly 43% of flops. So, how do you approach these situations?

Without Overcards

In a scenario with no overcards, you’re in great shape. You can afford to bet fairly aggressively for value, or ideally, just to take the pot there and then.

If flat-called, consider possible draws, then pay attention to the turn and river action. Should an overcard fall, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re beaten, so you’re probably not folding. But you don’t want to have too many chips on the line, either. So, look to try and control the pot with small bets or check-calls.

Generally, you don’t want to try your luck if your opponent starts re-raising. It’s better just to fold. However, one exception would be if they have a very loose-aggressive style.

With Overcards

How should you proceed in a scenario where an overcard hits the board? You’re obviously in a much worse spot, but you don’t have to fold immediately. A reasonable choice is to limit yourself to a single bet. If your opponent raises afterward, you can reasonably fold. 

Similarly, if your opponent leads out, you’re probably not in great shape, so you’ll want to slow down here. Depending on the exact texture of the board and your specific opponent’s style, you can possibly justify a call. But if they really did make an overpair, you’re now likely to be drawing to just two outs.

Not folding in such scenarios can cost you an awful lot of chips. In turn, this feeds the old confirmation bias and your unreasonable dislike of pocket jacks.

No More Fearing Jacks

Now you know how to approach a pair of jacks in poker. And it’s far from the horrible hand that some players like to claim. So, put this newfound wisdom to the test and register at BetMGM. 

You’ll immediately have access to online Texas Hold’em and many other popular poker variants. There are roulette, blackjack, and baccarat tables, as well as hundreds of the latest video slots.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.