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A question about Jacks
 by Mike the Dealer

Dave writes in and asks

I'm searching for a general 'rule of thumb' for playing Jacks that works for me. 
Have you any thoughts/suggestions as to how to play hole cards that include at least one Jack?

Now all questions about starting standards fall into a further discussion based on position and where you are 
compared to the button. Now generally you shouldn't play a Jack with any small card, I'd say you should never 
play J-2 to J-6 unsuited, as they can't make straights or flushes, you shouldn't play J-7, J-8, or J-9 if you're in 
early position, either suited or not, now once you get to middle position, I'd allow for J-8 Suited, or J-9 suited
or not. By middle position I mean 3 or more people have acted before you. J-T is a good starting hand, suited 
or not, because when it makes a straight, that straight will be the winning straight, you can never have the 
'sucker straight' when you make a straight with J-T in your hand. Even with a hand as good as J-T, if your table 
is full of people raising and re-raising, you should most likely fold it in early position. This is a hand that wants to 
take a flop cheaply. If the table is passive, limp in with it and hope for the best.

Now in late position, where you're either the dealer, or 1 or two players away from the dealer, you should play 
your J-7 and up if you've gotten two or three people to limp into the pot. You have position and have the 
advantage of seeing what they'll do after the flop. This advantage is the biggest one you can have in the game, 
so you want to take as many flops as you can in position.

Now the bigger hands, like Q-J, K-J and A-J are all playable from middle position and late position, and you 
can even raise with them if you're the first one in. Your play in early position with all these hands is again dictated 
by the type of table you're at, if it's passive, limp or raise, if it's aggressive, you may want to fold. While it make 
seem llike a waste to throw away A-J pre flop, it's just not that strong a hand pre flop, you can get your money 
in way bad against A-Q or A-K, and heaven forbid the maniacs at your table wake up with Aces or Kings, 
you could get a ton of money invested and be crushed. Position is king in this game

Now for the big one, pocket Jacks. 
It has been joked that there are "three ways to play pocket Jacks, all of them wrong."

If you're the first one into the pot you should raise with the Jacks from any position, unless again the table 
is full of crazy people ramming and jamming, then you should limp and then either re-raise big when the 
maniacs start going to war, or just call and take a flop depending on your view of the action.

Let's say from middle positon you're at an aggressive table in a 1-2 no limit game. Everyone folds and you 
limp for 2 dollars, the maniac makes it 15, and another guy who's been playing along with the maniac calls, 
this is a perfect time to bring down the hammer, raise to 50 or 100 dollars, there is only 3 hands that have 
you beat at this point and it's very unlikely either man has one of them, so you're getting your money in good, 
odds are they'll both fold, and if not, then barring a disaster of a flop (Like one with 2 of the three overcards 
to your jacks, like A-K-6, or A-Q-7) you should just move in on the flop and finish the hand. The funny thing 
about this play is a lot of times the maniac will call you with lower pairs, they get married to such hands a lot 
and give away a great deal of money with them.

Now let's make it a little different...Let's say you limp in middle position, and the maniac raises, and the guy 
playing along with him calls, and now a conservative player raises to 30. Now we're in a bit of a bind, as the 
conservative player could very easy be sandbagging a monster of a hand, hoping the maniac will either call 
or re-raise. We do have to call here just on the general expectation that the maniac will also call (And cross 
our fingers he won't raise) because we're playing our Jacks now for set value. If everyone at the table has 
3-400 dollars in front of them, then paying 30 to hit a set and bankrupt the conservative player with Aces 
seems like a fine idea. Now by the same token if after you call the maniac re-raises and the conservative 
player moves all in, your hand is worthless, throw it away. Do not get married to the Jacks if there's to 
much heat pre flop. Folding Kings in cash games takes a lot of work also, but there are times it's clearly right.

Now the bad news with Jacks is often an over card will flop, if you have position, you can see your opponent's
reaction to the flop, if they check, you should bet to try to take the pot down. If they call and you don't improve, 
then it may be time to slow down and keep the pot small, it's deeply annoying when the idiot calls your pre flop 
raise with K-5 or some other such garbage and gets bailed out by the flop, but that's poker.

Now if you flop a set of Jacks, the good news is that it'll often be top set. The bad news is that it'll be top set. 
Top set is a very hard hand to beat unless the board is scary corrodinated (Like J-T-9, or J-5-6 all clubs) and if 
you're getting action on a board that corrodinated, it's possible you're beat. If you do catch the lucky flop with 
both an Ace and a Jack on it, then you stand a good shot of getting paid off by players with Aces. If you flop 
top set on a board that isn't scary (Just a possible flush draw, like J-5-8 2 clubs) then if I wasn't the player who 
raised pre flop, I'd raise them if they bet into me, or I'd check raise them if I was first to act. If they are willing 
to invest on a flop like this, then you should start building a pot to make yourself some money, and if they fold, 
odds are they were bluffing and that was all you would get out of them anyhow. If you were the bettor, then 
I'd suggest betting 75% of the pot on the flop, and then if you get action, make pot sized bets on the turn and 
river as long as nothing stupid happens (Like 4 of a suit showing up without the board pairing to give you a 
full house, or a very obvious straight forms.) cause you have to get money into the pot. The game is all about 
winning money.

Well this has been a pretty long attempt at dealin with Jacks in all their forms, hope it was of some help. 
And if anyone else has any questions, please please please write them in. I'm here to do my best to answer them

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