Dumb questions, bad assumptions, & shameless self-aggrandizing

pocket Jacks have befuddled me since i started playing. It’s a top 5 hand, but as often as not, i end up playing them like a pair of eights. Any appearance of the 12 overcards kills my action, and i’m now hoping for a set, or good draw, just like with most medium pocket pairs. I’ve gotten advice from articles I’ve read.
Keep the pot small, Raise from early position, limp and set mine from later position, try to trap from the blinds.
I’ve recently changed how i deal with pairs in general. i was watching some youtube clips a few days ago, and noticed the approach the pros take with their pairs, doesn’t resemble my play at all. Especially middle pair. I altered my game accordingly, and i couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Two 50K tourney wins, several; SnG wins and cashes, and hovering above the 1 million mark for the first time, on my own merit. (i broke 1M a couple of times for about 5 minutes, but with the help of purchased chips)
Could a simple adjustment to your game make this much difference?
I’ve either cleared a major hurdle in my game, or about to crash and burn when variance rears it’s bad side.
Still, i’d like to hear how you guys handle pocket J, in general. Pocket 9s is another. With Ts, i just sit and wait for them to treat me right. Seems to be working, so far.


How to play pocket pairs:

It depends.

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this comes under the assumptions heading…
i’m gonna assume that the SB is as lucky as it gets, when it comes to being lucky to have a crap hand.
i finished 4th. i only had a few BB, and had been looking for a spot, for a few hands, now.
2nd place pays somewhere around 65K, on a 25K entry

It does. it depends on how much people are willing to pay to see if it’s their time for that straight or flush to hit on the river. Don’t know the odds, but i’m betting middle pair beats a busted straight draw, most of the time.
At least i have been. Let ya know how it turns out.

To be more serious, it depends on a lot of things.

Ring game or tournament
If tournament, how deep are you into it?
How big are the blinds relative to the stacks at the table?
How many players at the table?

Pocket pairs are stronger the deeper into the tournament you get. Especially when you are heads up.

With a pocket pair, you are ahead of most hands, other than another, higher pocket pair. Odds of hitting a pair or better by the river are about 50%, so if you’re starting out with a pair, you’re already ahead of half of all hands.

This can change quickly on the flop, if the board makes someone else a pair or better, with an overcard to your pair.

The odds of hitting a pair on the flop are about 1-in-3, so if you have a pocket pair, you want as few players to see that flop as possible, and hope you’re still ahead of those who do see the flop with you.

If the flop has overcards and your opponent is betting, you may be beaten and need to dump the hand. But they might be bluffing, or betting a draw, in which case you should stay, obviously. It’s tough to know, which makes playing pocket pairs difficult for a lot of players.

Novices will tend to shove pairs at all times, which is dangerous, but it puts maximum pressure on the table to make a big decision preflop. You may steal the blinds, or you may get called and win, or you might lose. (Duh.)

If losing could KO you, you shouldn’t raise all in, unless you’re pretty sure no one will call. You don’t need to all-in to steal preflop, though, in many cases. In some situations, close to the bubble in a tournament, with blinds that are big relative to the stacks, you can steal with a min raise pretty often. But watch out for players who are nearly knocked out, who are more likely to call in the hope of doubling up to survive. And watch out for a dominant big stack who isn’t going to be intimidated by a bet that’s 1/10th to 1/4 of their stack, but all in for you. But if you can raise to more than 1/4-1/2 of the stack size of your opponents, most will not call unless they have a monster hand. Best case, it’s not a better pocket pair. But against two overcards you’re only a coin flip to win. You can find better odds than that if you are patient.

With higher pocket pairs, you may want to get called. With lower it’s best to steal preflop. If you do get called, if it’s an all in situation, just ride the roller coaster and hang on. There’s no more decisions left, so no strategy. This is great for players without skill, but with skill you can often do better.

How many players see the flop? The fewer, the better.

What’s the flop looking like for you? Suited, flush draw, and straight draws aren’t good, unless you are blocking them or drawing them yourself. If you hit a set or full house, or quads, that’s the best situation.

You can bet or check a strong hand, and either try to build a big pot, or take the hand early. Mostly you should be building for value.

If you don’t hit a set, you’ll still be ahead of your opponent 2/3 of the time when they miss. Or when the flop comes in low, giving you the over pair. In this case, try to end the hand here with a big bet. But not too much of your stack, and be willing to let go if you get signals that you’re beat6. People can hit two pairs, or trips, or even a better pocket pair, all of which are disasters for you. But if you’re playing an aggressive strategy, you need to be willing to get beat sometimes.

Sometimes middle pair can win, but it always makes you feel like you got away with it. It’s better if the pot doesn’t get too big, and if you’re leading, since you can win by getting your opponent to fold. If they’re betting, you can either call, but it might be a good idea to raise. Raising will often freeze your opponent. If they show hesitation or weakness, you may have caught them in a bluff. If they re-raise, then either they have a strong hand, or they’re doubling down on the bluff. Take note of your opponents previous decisions and call/raise buffers. If they check to you on the next street, often a strong bet will end the hand.

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Of course there are many things to consider. wouldn’t be holdem is there wasn’t. I’m thinking more in an overall approach to the game. I’ve been checking and calling mid pocket pairs, checking when i hit the set, constantly working for the trap and payoff on the river.
when i hit middle pair, i often check along or call a min raise, at the most.
I’ve begin to think this is a mistake.
i hate beating a busted draw with my middle pair, and finding myself winning a couple of BB for my troubles.
I think i’m getting less value for my sets by wasting a street, on deception. It’s ok sometimes, if that’s the read you’re getting, but i’m getting away from a lot of hard and fast rules i’ve been following.

pocket jacks, HU, is truly the 4th best starting hand.

I think i get more value from my pairs, overall, by betting them, and being good at bailing, when necessary. And really, don’t you want opponents drawing to overcards, without good odds to do so?

TBH, what i see a lot, is the field folding to a 2 or 3BB bet. Probably because i end up repping a bigger hand, a lot of the time.

stack size bets get attention, and show up in a lot hands that get posted. in spite of that, i really don’t go all-in all that much, if i can help it. There are times when i play to shove, such as my stack being 10BB, or less. I’ll go all-in with bingo players, but not blindly. I call a lot more shoves with a large pair, than i shove with one.
Speaking of betting your stack, you should check out the hand above where this one guy goes from 5th to 2nd, with less than 700 chips, by folding the SB.

When playing JJ, it helps to type in “I regret this hand” into the chat after the flop brings an Ace and a King.


i like it when people throw chips at me.

Flop a flush, what’s your rush?

not to mention hitting the gutshot 11:1

Flush on the river
Payback can be bitter

At least i got my entry +change, back.

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Sometimes hands go like that. It’s exciting when more than one player hits a very strong hand early. Sucks to be on the wrong end of it.

Usually it’s fine to pay off the nut hand in a situation like that, but going all in on a three of a kind flop with just an Ace high flush wasn’t really the best play. You can check there, and you can lay down. Boards with three of a kind, two pair, and even just a pair aren’t certain wins for any flush hand, unless a straight flush.

Likewise, 73s flopping flush shouldn’t have felt secure going at risk with such a small flush, let alone a paired board. I can’t review the hand just now, but I wonder what the action was at the flop… Either way, it was a lucky thing your two pair improved on the Turn.

i had another, but after review, found it simply too embarrassing to post.
i was just looking at one of your hands from a different thread. you had jacks over Queens, against the nut flush. Really nice hand, i thought, and it is, but then i started to list the hands that could beat you and was kinda surprised.
problem with boats is when they lose, it’s usually substantial.

Yes, I was playing a risky hand there, but I felt like I had little choice but to see it through. I don’t mind being beat by a better hand nearly as much as I mind being beat when someone makes a terrible call and rivers a 2-outer or 4-outer, or backdoor nonsense. If I run a strong hand into a well disguised nut monster, ok, good hand. If I should have seen it, but didn’t, shame on me. If you should have laid down, but didn’t, and it pays you off, it burns.

If you’re playing T4s from the cutoff 7-handed, you’re WAY too loose. Not sure what the preflop action looked like, but you played it wrong. Of course, 73s should’ve been sent to the muck as well after seeing earlier players show interest, but their bad play doesn’t excuse yours.

Tighten up the hands you play, and stop limping. Try to knock players out of the pot by raising large enough that they’re incorrect calling you to see a flop. Sometimes that’ll only require a minraise, but early in a tourney with a bunch of passive stations, it might need to be as large as 10x. The bigger your raise, the tighter your range should be.

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I’ll sort of disagree.

I may not advocate playing T4s either, but deciding your range is a personal choice, and up to you and the type of game you want to play.

OCCASIONALLY mixing in some random junk can really pay off. It makes you harder to put on a range of possible cards if you show you’ll play garbage. You can completely surprise an opponent with a very strong hand you “shouldn’t” be playing in the spot you’re playing it, and that can win you a huge pot, plus put your opponent on tilt.

Don’t do it a whole lot, and don’t throw a lot of chips away with junk hands, but do try different types of starting hands and get a feel for how they play. It can give you a lot of options rather than waiting for a high pocket pair, going big with it.

Definitely not for novices though.

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Following that advice has been the cornerstone of my game improving. However, if my goal is a flush draw, and i have the nut, wouldn’t i want more people there to leach from, if i hit? (i know i didn’t have nut here). the betting was fairly tame, until i hit 2pr on the flop. I limp nowdays about 20% of the time, and min raises are pretty much a thing of the past. most of the hands i play are un-raised blinds, but discount those, and i might play 1/6, with most opening 3BB, plus 1 per limper.

Three straight majors. A first for me. Woohoo.

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I think the one thing that has followed me from the beginning has been the draw from what i’m taught to be solid poker techniques, back to practices that you only encounter with free chips. Sometimes it’s too easy for us rookies to relax, be social, and start limping unconnected suited hands, or unprofitable starting hands, in hopes of a productive flop. Especially when no one is punishing people for limping If people are gonna let you play blinds and build hands for almost nothing, should you pass that up? Thing is, It may seem like boring poker to fold hand after hand, but for me, playing mediocre hands, checking, hoping something comes to help you out, is about as bad as it gets. Best to wait for that monster, sit forward, refocus, and make some money. Yet, I still find myself falling back into old habits, and being dumb enough to post them. lol

So what about this hand?
I mean
I’m just sitting here, not bothering anyone, with no desire to play T7o. Then, someone says “Psst, want to see a flop for free?” So I go "Sure, what can that hurt? " I never asked to flop top 2pr, but who’s to argue with destiny? Apparently no one knows i’m on a roll. I’m roaring through the SnG leaderboards.
the turn bet was a misclick. meant to check.
It just seemed silly not to cover the remainder of his stack, on the river bet.


Straight flushes are rare enough that you might as well pay someone off when they have one.

I mean, you “could” have laid this down on a lot of hands, if the blinds and bets were such that it didn’t demand a call at the river… If this had happened in the early game, blinds say at 30/60, stacks even at 2500 each, and you had thrown in a quarter your stack on the flop, gotten called, and then gotten to the river with half your stack in, and your opponent shoved, you should have easily been able to lay it down, even with making the straight, knowing that just one diamond was all it would take to beat you.

You hit two pair on the flop, and improved to a straight on the river. That’s normally great. But there’s four diamonds on the board, and any diamond, even 2d, beats your straight. That makes this an easy fold – if the pot was smaller – but you’re pot committed, the odds to call are good, and you might as well see it through.

If you wanted the best chance to take the hand, it would have been shoving on the flop. But with top pair and a Jack kicker, probably he’s going to call, unless he’s good enough to think that you could have two pair, or an overpair that dominates here. Normally, of course, you would welcome that call, because your 2 pair is very likely good here… unless your villain flopped a set, which is always possible, though unlikely, and even less likely than a set normally is, since you’re holding one of each of two of the cards that he could have made a set with, so 77 or TT would have been less likely, although 66 still could have been in his range and allowed a call here.

The backdoor straight flush draw is supremely unlikely (and yet it happened, making it a “ridiculous” hand) and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it when a board runs out like that, it’s just destiny.

Don’t beat yourself up here or feel bad about it. @#%! happens.

I don’t feel bad too often. Too busy looking for the humor in stuff.
there just wasn’t enough chips to work with. the 2BB bet didn’t fold him. i doubt 3BB would have. He only had 100 or so chips beyond that. I was ahead until the 8d came on the river. Even then, he could have had a lot of hands he could have called a 2BB bet with.
I really did mean to check the turn. Yesterday, i was about to lower the hammer on a pair of Jacks with my rockets, when my hand suddenly checked, and being first up, insta-folded. Lost a lot of my stack, and wasn’t the same after. So, when i heard the alarm, and saw time running out, i just hit the nearest button, and ended up with a min-raise. I don’t think that, or anything else would have made a difference, in the end
I try to look for unusual and funny, when i post, or hands i might learn from. The hand that finally KOed me was like that. I had the second best hand, but lost the main and side pot. the hand posted above, where the field goes from 5 to 1 in 2 hands, with the short stack taking second, is one of the strangest SnG endings i seen yet.