Playing JJ in low stakes hold'em games - Part One
Pre flop considerations, good situations and bad situations
Sometimes referred to as "Hooks" a pair of jacks is usually a welcome sight to just about any hold'em player. Your first thoughts are probably "alright, I can win this" then things slowly move towards "Jeez I hope I nail a set on the flop" all the way down too "eeekk... I love jacks, but I usually have to work at it to win".
These are all common and very true thoughts about a pocket pair of jacks. While it is a great hand to be dealt, realize that almost 60% of the time there will be at least one overcard on the flop. With that in mind, there are some strategic considerations that will help make the most of your pocket jacks.
For the purpose of this article, we will assume you are playing in a typical low stakes no-limit hold'em game. These games are typically loose, have larger pots and have a fluctuating pool of poor to average players. Jacks play slightly different in these types of games because of the higher percentage of players seeing the flop.
What are my jacks good for in low stakes NLHE games?
Due to the nature of low stakes hold'em games, a pair of jacks plays best in the following situations:
- When you can limit the field to either one or two players, or isolate one of the blinds: Realize that this is the hardest condition to meet in a low stakes game. It won't come that often, but take advantage of it when it does.
- Late position when the pot is stuffed: While a hand like this is best played with few people, there is no reason not to play when you are in great position.
- Against players who routinely overvalue their face cards: Many low stakes players get very excited at the sight of a couple face cards. While queens, kings and aces all can be threatening to jacks, realize you do have the advantage with the pair and although you certainly will lose hands from time to time, it would be criminal not to punish inexperienced players who commonly misplay hands like KJ or QT.
When will Jacks get me in trouble?
If you are in middle or early position in a low stakes game and the pot is raised before it gets to you, then there might be cause for concern. First you need to know what kind of player the raise came from. Will they routinely raise in early position with AQ? Or does an under the gun raise indicate a powerful holding such as KK or AK?
If you don't know, then the best way to find out, especially with JJ, is to simply re-raise. Do not call. A player with QQ, AK, KK or better will almost always re-raise to the cap. If you find yourself in a raising war with an early position aggressor, you need to be careful. It is highly likely that you are outmatched with your JJ.
If you can take a flop cheaply or without incurring anymore raises, obviously do so, but if it is painted clear as day that your opponent is starring you down with AA or KK, then by all means fold the hand.
Pre flop poker strategy with jacks basically should be cautiously ultra aggressive. Confusing isn't it? What this means is that you need to play as aggressive as possible while constantly watching for signs of trouble. Indicators that you are outmatched or driving too hard are things like early position re-raises or check raises from seemingly quiet players.
In part two of this article, we examine some flop and post flop strategies for the hand.