Fishhooks, Hooks, Jokers, Johnnies… Whatever you call them they can be bad news!

Jacks Back!
Image by rubyblossom. via Flickr

No matter what you call them, they can spell trouble in either a cash game or a tourney. I have been told that there are three ways to play pocket Jacks:  call with them, raise with them, or fold them. I have also been told that all three choices are wrong. I have had pocket Jacks. I have called with them, I have raised with them, and yes, I have folded them.

The problem with pocket jacks is that they can be beaten pre-flop by AA, KK, QQ and after the flop by AK and AQ. If you don’t hit your flop by getting another jack, your opponent who had Ax, Kx or Qx might have hit. Also, those players with smaller pairs from TT, 99, 88 on down to 22 might hit their card and have a set and if you did not get a Jack you might be out “jack”.

Even if you raise in early position, you might get callers and still don’t know where you stand until the flop and post-flop betting takes place.

I would not always throw these cards away.  As a rule, if I raised in early position or UTG, under the gun, and was re-raised, I might consider folding.  A re-raise in early position usually indicates pocket Queens or higher. Depending on the size of my stack, I might call and hope to hit a set on the flop. I would bet or raise if the flop had small cards with a Jack. If the flop were AKJ or AQJ, I would be very careful and might just check it down or fold to a raise unless I was pot committed.

How do you play pocket Jacks? Have you ever busted out with them because you gave them too much value? Were you able get away from them if the flop had two or more over cards?

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