Playing Pocket Jacks (hooks)

Here’s the story. You look at your hole cards and see two jacks, aka hooks. You aren’t sure whether to be excited or scared out of your ever-lovin’ mind. Pocket jacks are a tricky hand. There’s not a lot of hole cards that can beat ‘em. However, if you go in big pre-flop and your opponent calls you, you can be certain he or she has you beat or will before the end of the hand.

So, what do you do? Should you give up playing pocket jacks? No. They’re still in the top ten of starting hands. Yes, they’re tricky, and they can break your heart, but…if you learn that it’s better to win a small pot with this hand than to hope and pray your opponent won’t make an even better hand, you'll ahead of the game.

Pre-flop you should bet big with hooks in the hole no matter what you’re starting position. Sure, some experts might say you could limp-in from a later position. Others might tell you to not play from an earlier locale. It’s up to you what advice you choose to take.

Bet big means about 3-4 times the big blind. So, if the blinds are 50-100, you want to bet between 300-400 big ones. Why? Well, you want to get as many players out of the pot as you can. If you get everyone out, that’s cool. You’ve won the pot even if it’s not a big one. It still counts.

If you don’t bet big, you’ll get more players to call. The more players you have in the hand, the less likely you are to win. These people could beat you with crap starting hands like an A,3 or K,9 or Q,7. All it takes is an unkind board, and, let’s face it—we know the board isn’t always our friend.

If you do bet big and you get callers, you can assume one of two things—you’re looking at a powerful drawing hand (or bigger pocket pair than yours) or your opponents don’t believe how strong you are. Either way, all isn’t lost. You’re guaranteed about a 1 in 8 shot of hitting trips on the flop. So, see the flop and react accordingly…unless someone behind you puts you all-in. If you think you’re beat, fold. If not, go all-in with ‘em and hope for the best.

So, to sum up…when you’ve got pocket jacks in the hole, you’ve got to bet big or fold. You shouldn’t just call or limp-in. You’ve got to go big or not at all.