Thursday Poker Blog! What Do Pocket Jacks Have to Do With James Taylor??

Good morning all, and welcome back to your Thursday Poker Blog!  On several previous installments of the poker blog you have heard me lament some of my pet peeves relating to poker chatter.  A first ballot hall of famer for this group is the neverending fleet of whiners who talk about how they hate pocket jacks or don’t know how to play pocket jacks.  It has become chic to complain about pocket jacks on the same level as it is en vogue for former jocks to lie boast about not knowing how to use a computer. 

Pocket jacks is the fourth-ranked hand in poker.  Sure, the hand brings about some difficult decisions, but if players approach tournaments with the proper mindset (I’m not gonna win every single tournament; hell, I won’t even cash in 3/4 of my tournaments), they will learn to appreciate this hand. 

Here are a few tips about how to best survive a pair of hooks (nickname for jacks ;-)):

1) The James Taylor Theorem–  I won’t post a whole paragraph of lyrics, but think of the song, “When you’re down, and troubled . . . .    You’ve got a friend.”  Pocket jacks is a superb shortstacked hand.  Whether you’re having a crappy first hour or so in a tournament, or you’re nearing the end of a tournament but are low on chips, pocket jacks are your friend.  In these situations, all you want is to have all your chips in the middle pre-flop against one inferior hand.  When you’re shortstacked, jacks will be the superior hand a substantial majority of the hand because a) it’s the 4th ranked hand to begin with; and b) opposing players assume (correctly) that short stacks will push with a wide range of hands.  Trust me, more often than not, when someone calls your shortstacked all-in with jacks, when you flip them over, their facial expression will sink!  Don’t worry about whether you are moving in after a raise.  You have no choice but to trust your friend 🙂

(BTW, this is in no way an endorsement of James Taylor.  You can put him and Paul Simon in a blender and make a Sissy Smoothie for all I care.  And seriously, that’s not a machismo thing cause I’m not into that.  Those guys remind me of the guy in Animal House who was playing a guitar and singing, “I gave…. my Love…. a chicken…. that haaaaaaad no bones….”  Did you cheer when John Belushi smashed his acoustic guitar to shreds?  Yeah, I did too!) 

2) Early in tournaments, treat JJ similar to AK.  JJ and AK are similarly overplayed by bad players early in tournaments.  Unless the pot has been raised and re-raised (unless re-raised to a modest amount), you should see any flop with JJ.  However, massive all-ins should not be called early in tournaments with JJ.  You will be crushed by a higher pair about 70% of the time, racing against AK about 25% of the time, and dominating another dolt pushing with 99 or TT about 5% of the time.

3) Post-flop, make a bet to see where you are.  While JJ and AK should be played quite similarly before the flop, after the flop the two hands are day and night.  AK is relatively easy after the flop (if you hit the flop, you’re in great shape most of the time, if you don’t, you’re probably beat).  Jacks, on the other hand, will require you to feed off your knowledge of your opponent and your instincts.  This is an instance, back before online poker was stolen from us in America, where I would rely heavily on my opponent’s statistics, particularly if it was early in a tournament.  First, I would normally show strength with a strong bet assuming the flop was favorable (all undercards or just one overcard, preferably not an ace).   Something like 80% of the pot.  At that point, if a good player comes way over the top of me, I feel pretty sure I am beat, with the rare exception being if the board is something like 2-5-7 and my opponent has TT.  Weaker players I often put to the test.  A weak player may easily shove with A9 on a board of 9-7-3 after my bet, or with a flush draw, or with a middle pair like 99 on an undercard board.  You will make your most miscalculations with JJ in these situations.  But that’s ok. 

See you tomorrow, folks!

Explore posts in the same categories: Poker Tips and Tales

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