Playing Pocket Jacks

One of the most troublesome hands in poker is pocket Jacks. Its value is often over valued by most players, even experienced ones. It does have superior strength compared to most hands. It is after all, the 4th best pre-flop in Hold Em. But, the problem lies with how often players like to get the money in pre-flop with it.

This article will help to understand just how to play pocket jacks more effectively and stop losing money when you do mistakes.


One of the biggest occurrences with pocket Jacks is going all-in pre-flop. A player looks down and sees two good looking Jacks and gets that tingly feeling inside. They can’t wait to get the money in and look to either take the pot right there or go all in and hope to have the best hand.

Hoping to have the best of it is usually a sure way to lose at poker. If I was to base my career on hoping, I would definitely be broke by now.

The reason players will look to go all in pre-flop is partly due to the inexperience they have post flop. Making solid post flop decisions with Aces is difficult, let alone; a hand like Jacks. Going all in pre-flop eliminates the post flop decisions and technically makes the hand easy to play. However, making money in poker is not easy and taking the easy way out is not how you succeed in life.

I’m not trying to say that you should never go all in pre-flop with Jacks, but the reason for doing so should not be to make life easier and eliminate decisions.

All-in Ranges

If we think about what types of hands players are likely to go all in with, you may have a better understanding of why getting the money in with Jacks is usually a mistake.

A standard range for the typical player to go all in with will consist of- AA,KK,QQ,AK and the possibility of AQ or maybe even TT. There will inevitably be times that your opponent has a weaker hand, but this will not be the norm, especially at the lower stakes.

If we compare Jacks to the list of hands that a typical player will go all in with, we can easily see that Jacks are not ahead of many. The only hands are beating, we aren’t beating by much. Against the 2 that we beat, AQ and AK, we are only a 52% favorite.

What this means is, if we were to get the money in against this typical range of hands we will lose almost always. Not always, there will be times when you suck out and have the best hand, but in the long run you can expect to lose about 1 in 4 times against this range.

The Best Way to Play Jacks

The only way to play Jacks is a bit complicated. There’s no set way to play every hand in poker, you need to take into account all the variables at the table. Player tendencies, history between opponents and so on.

When you have Jacks you want to take all these factors and make the best decision possible. If a player is loose and you have a read that they will go all in with weaker hands, then going all-in with Jacks is perfectly fine. If you have a player who is extremely tight, you need to tread lightly and snap fold if they show any type of aggression.

These are basic ways to approach Jacks, but it makes the point I’m trying to prove. You need to play Jacks and every hand in poker, based on your opponent, not just the strength of your hand.

You also need to pay attention to your position and the other player’s position at the table. A raise from a player under the gun is more likely to have a hand that beats Jacks then a player who is raising from the button.

What I feel is the best way to play Jacks, is to keep control of the pot and don’t let it get out of hand. Keep the pot small and look to out play your opponents post-flop.

Unless the player is super loose and aggressive, calling with Jacks pre-flop is your best option. Once you reach the flop, you will need to use hand reading to make your decisions. Even if you feel you have the best hand, you still need to tread lightly and look to keep the pot small.

Overall, playing Jacks should be just like any other hand you play. You need to take into account all the variables at the table and base your decisions accordingly.

The question shouldn’t be how do you play pocket Jacks. The better question is - How do you not play pocket Jacks?