Jacks before the flopArticle By: RuffPoker.com
One of the most difficult hands to play well in poker is pocket Jacks. Particularly difficult is a pair of jacks before the flop. Granted, they are a good opening hand, after all you’ve already made a good pair, but several players around the table will have you beat on the flop if it delivers an A, K or Q. That is 12 cards that beat you straight away, and you only have 2 outs in the deck that can give you trips J’s.
Pocket Jacks (and Queens for that matter) are difficult hands to play because you have to play them differently depending on position and players in the hand. The most important thing you must do with pocket Jacks is rid yourself of as many players as possible from the hand. Your Jacks wont stand up against more than 3 or 4 players because of the overcards that make better pair than yours, and somebody will have an A, K or Q. At least one of these cards has a good chance of showing up somewhere amongst the community cards. What you must do is different depending on position.
From early position, it is a good idea to play J’s aggressively pre flop by making a 2x or 3x the bet raise. That way you force out straggler hands and limit the number of opponents to only those that have a seriously good hand. Remember you want all those people with A/x, K/10, Q/8 to fold before the flop, before one hits you with an overpair. Your hand stands a much better chance of holding up against only one or two opponents.
From late position you can also play in this aggressive manner, if there has been no raising of the blinds. Again, the fewer callers the better, and if you can make a considerable raise and limit the hand to two or three then all the better. If however there has been raising of the blinds, whatever the stake, you are going to struggle to get rid of your opponents. They obviously have something in their hand they like and it probably involves an A or K. Therefore look at the pot odds and your potential outs (2 jacks left in the deck). If the call bet is anything over 4x the blind it is probably worth folding at this point. The pot odds on hitting trips J’s just don’t make it worth calling. If it is anything less than 4x to call then use the opportunity to see the flop and hope you hit trips. Of course if the inevitable overcard comes on the flop you have to hope nobody caught it (which is why getting less players to see the flop is so crucial). In this instance you can wait and see if a bet is made in front of you. If so, consider the persons style of play, and unless you are sure they are trying to steal, fold your hand. If everybody does check to you, again you want to be looking to make a substantial bet, to scare people away from staying in and getting to see another card on the turn.
Many players think that a pair of J’s should be played slowly as they are a power pair. Of course they are a decent opening hand, but the very fact that 3 cards beat you make it important you act fast whenever possible. That doesn’t mean being gung-ho when its obvious people are going to stay in the hand no matter what, but it rarely pays to limp around with J’s. By all means call a raise or two, as we say, the pot odds will look attractive in this instance and there is always the chance you dodge the overcard they are holding. What makes this strategy even better is when a J does materialize on the flop. Then you are very nicely placed and can capitalize on those players that did potentially catch a top pair scenario. Remember, the chances of hitting on the flop to make trips J’s are remote, and you’ll need to be extremely lucky to beat any more than three players at a ring table if the hand gets to the flop.
This said, you should still consider your opponents style, what they have previously entered hands with, how they play when hitting top pair, etc. It is also important to look at the community cards. If your J’s are still top pair, bet big and get people out of the hand, especially if there are flush/straight draws in the offing. If there is an overcard on the board, did someone bet into you? If so does that raise mean they have that top pair or are they trying to bluff? Are they regular raises? do they do it only from certain position? In all, don’t get too excited by pocket J’s. They are good for opening, but lose considerable value with every card that is shown on the board.