Whether you play online poker tournaments or live cash games, playing pocket jacks can be difficult. But this guide is here to help you tighten up your strategy with this potentially problematic hand.
Building the following advice into your game will not just help you to win more with pocket jacks. It should stop you from unnecessarily spewing chips, which significantly impacts your bottom line.
1. Always Be Aggressive
First and foremost, it’s vital to remember that two jacks constitute a strong hand. Yes, it’s vulnerable to have an overcard hand, which always seems to get players into trouble. And no, you can’t play it as strongly as aces or kings. But the odds that those fish hooks will beat a random hand are about -335, and it’s unquestionably one of the best starting combinations.
When you play Texas Hold’em online, you’ll burn through many more hands than playing live poker games. So those bad beats will come around more often, and you’ll tend to remember them. But don’t be swayed by that. Make sure you raise preflop as much as 70% in tournaments and up to 80% of the time in cash games.
Keep pushing aggressively postflop, as continuation bets can earn you easy money and help build a stack. If you raised before the flop, as you should with jacks, a queen, king, or ace connects nicely with your range. So there’s more reason for an opponent to fear the overcard than you.
2. Stack Depth Matters
As with any poker strategy advice, there are many variables to consider. There’s rarely a single golden rule that applies in all spots. Tendencies of other players at the table, the game format, and your relative positions all come into the equation. Stack depth is another crucial factor.
When playing hooks, different stack sizes dictate your actions somewhat. For instance, if you’re the short stack in a tournament, you’re already looking to get it in with far less than two jacks. Sticking to your usual strategy of shoving any half-decent ace, king, or pocket pair means you’ll constantly push with jacks.
However, shoving is still the best play, even if you’re playing a stack that’s 30 to 40 big blinds deep. After all, with so few hands beating you and so many players willing to shove with a wide range, why not?
Imagine you’re in the last position, the pot is unopened, and you raise around 2.5x with your two hooks. The button comes over the top of you. What are you doing here? It’s a no-brainer to push all in.
Folding is simply out of the question, given the strength of your hand. Your opponent would have to fold to a shove if they were attempting to steal with a bluff. Calling leaves you playing the hand out of position, which is never good, but what do you do when an overcard falls? It’s much easier to push now and at least protect your hand’s equity, of which there is plenty.
3. No Getting Married
In truth, this is one of those generic Texas Hold’em poker tips that applies to any big hand. But it’s especially relevant to jacks since it’s tempting for less experienced players to overvalue the hand. You simply can’t fall in love with this hand.
Yes, it’s essential to be aggressive preflop, and continuation bets can pick up easy chips. But, like anything, common sense is required. While it’s okay to fire that c-bet with one overcard, a flop of an ace of clubs, king of clubs, and 3 of clubs when you’re holding two red jacks is a different story. That’s a great spot to recognize the danger and check instead of needlessly spewing chips.
Of course, you’ll have to factor in your opponent’s skill level and tendencies before deciding. An absolute rock is likely terrified of such a board, and a C-bet may still get through. But a maniac will probably be betting and raising on such a board.
Think about their bet sizing, too. If you know they tend to fire tiny bets, check-calling them down might be justifiable.
4. Don’t Tilt
Finally, don’t let those jacks put you on tilt. As previously stated, you’ll get through many more hands playing poker games online than live. The human brain tends to focus on the negatives, like the bad beats. It’s easy to forget about the positives, like taking down a big pot.
This confirmation bias makes it easy to tell yourself that you “always lose with jacks,” or equally negative ideas like, “Well, if I can’t win with a good hand like that, I’m never going to win.” Keeping a positive mindset when things are going against you is crucial.
Tilt always leads to donking off chips unnecessarily, and if there’s one hand that can tilt you, it’s jack-jack. Refuse to let it happen. Smile, breathe, and remind yourself that it’s just variance and your process is good. Walk away from the table for a while if you have to. But don’t let a bad beat with jacks put you on tilt.
Get Hooked on Hooks at BetMGM
Now that you know how to play pocket jacks more effectively, there are no more excuses. Apply these top No-Limit Hold’em tips to your game — suddenly, those fish hooks won’t seem so troublesome.
Why not put your newfound knowledge to the test at the BetMGM tables? Register to play Hold’em tournaments, cash games at various limits, and many other popular forms of poker.