Home Poker Starting Hands in No-Limit Hold’em: How to Play JJ

Starting Hands in No-Limit Hold’em: How to Play JJ

by Paul Hewson
0 comment
Poker Jacks

How did pocket Jacks become the most feared hand in Texas Hold’em? This is the fourth-best starting hand in Hold’em, one that should win you a healthy pile of cash in your poker lifetime. 

Maybe we should blame Norman Chad. He dubbed JJ the “Lon McEachern Memorial Hand” in honor of his long-time World Series of Poker broadcast colleague – who’s still very much with us, by the way. McEachern even won his first WSOP Circuit ring last year.

Or maybe we should blame whoever came up with this chestnut: There are three ways to play pocket Jacks, and they’re all wrong. Was that one of Chad’s? Probably.

In a way, the fear is understandable. Pocket Jacks have 78% hot-and-cold equity versus any two random cards, so you’re in great shape pre-flop – until someone raises you. Then things get complicated, and even more so if you have to see the flop. Danged overcards.

Let’s put that fear to bed right now. Thanks to the power of computers, we can play pocket Jacks in a near-optimal fashion pre-flop, using a poker strategy that doesn’t take forever to learn.

When Should I Raise With JJ?

First and foremost, we’ll be open-raising JJ from any seat at the table, whether it’s 6-max or full-ring, tournament or cash poker. And just like we did with pocket Queens, we’re never going to fold in the face of aggression.

Okay, never say never. You might be in a satellite tournament where you already have enough chips, or you might be on the bubble of a freezeout, with a massive pay-jump on the other side that you can’t afford to pass up. As always, adjust your Hold’em strategy to fit the situation you’re in.

Having said that, if someone else open-raises before you, or you get 3-bet after you open, you might want to slow down a little. There aren’t too many places here where you always want to raise in response:

  • In the cut-off, 3-bet the hijack
  • In the small blind, 3-bet any open-raise, and 4-bet the big blind
  • In the big blind, 3-bet any open-raise

Every other pre-flop situation in Hold’em requires calling with your pocket Jacks, or using a mixed strategy. If you’re a relatively new player, just remember to always 3-bet with JJ when you’re in the blinds. Let the hammer fall.

When Should I Call With JJ?

Anytime someone 4-bets (except for SB vs. BB as above) or 5-bets you. Once your opponents get this far into the mud with you, their range of hands is usually strong enough to make flatting that re-raise the right play.

You should also consider flatting just about every other time you open and someone 3-bets you. It’s a good approach as a simplified strategy for beginners, but it’s also the Nash-approved play whenever you open from the lojack or earlier.

If you open from later position, and someone in the blinds 3-bets you, this is calling territory as well. See the flop, and use your poker wisdom to react accordingly when your opponent fires out that inevitable continuation bet.

When Should I Use a Mixed Strategy With JJ?

Now and then – provided you know what you’re doing. The hands that call for mixed strategies involve two players who aren’t in the blinds; either you opened and someone else 3-bet while in position, or you’re the one in position with the choice to make.

Calling is the recommended play most of the time when you’re out of position. If you’re in position, increase your raising frequency as you get closer to the button, especially when you’re facing an open-raise from the lojack or earlier. Those players are more likely to open with hands like AQ or KQ that contain overcards to your Jacks, so there’s value in getting them to fold now if you can – while also discouraging the remaining players after you from making this a multi-way pot.

As you can see, pocket Jacks isn’t tricky to play at all, unless you want it to be. Want a hand that’s really challenging? Stay tuned for pocket Tens: the Paul Hewson Memorial Hand.

author avatar
Paul Hewson
Paul Hewson (not that one) is a poker player/writer from the Pacific Northwest, appearing on the World Poker Tour, MILLIONS Tour and the WSOP Circuit series. Hewson is the senior writer for the Bodog Poker family; Texas Hold’em is his specialty, with side hustles in 8-Game and Badugi. He’s an Abe Limon Guy.

You may also like

JoeWager is your leading source for trending topics relevant to offshore gamblers, including betting resources, sports & casino guides, entertainment topics, politics and more.

Editors' Picks

Latest Articles

Copyright 2023 – All Right Reserved.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More