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Pocket Jacks

in poker, there are a lot of people who say that pocket jacks is their least favorite hold 'em hand.

i used to hold that opinion too back when i was a more passive tight player. players of that sort have a mentality about it in a similar but different way to having AK or AQ. "this is a strong hand i should play aggressively preflop, but i don't like it." Their PFR range is probably that tight - AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK, AQ, AJ - and when they have AK or AQ and they miss the flop entirely or if they have JJ and the board comes out with an A, K, or Q, they give it a lot of "every time!" sort of negative bias because a) they're the kind of player that will only want to bet or stay in the hand on a sure thing, and b) they're more likely to remember times in which those hands got them into trouble than times that they've been successful, which in turn makes them less successful in how they play those hands.

When my play style changed to widen my PFR percentage way higher thus widening the range of hands people could put me on, my opinion about JJ shifted along with it. I like the hand pretty well because if i play it the right way, it can reap great rewards not just because of its strength but because the strength of my aggression can make people fold hands that have me beat.

So at the casino last night, this happened:

The table had been hot and cold. I sat down with $200 and won $100 early, but it had widdled itself back down to between $225-$260. During the hand in question, i had about $255 in front of me.

Someone in mid position raises to $12. He gets three or four callers. I'm in the small blind. I look down and see pocket Jacks. Diamond and club.

I'm way out of position here, and could decide to play this two different ways. One is passive - smooth call, and generally treat it like a weak holding like a mid-pocket pair, easily fold to continued aggression. The old me would have likely done that. The new me does that occasionally depending on the table. But in this instance, it felt wrong. I wanted to take control of the hand and i wanted to thin out the playing field. So i think for a bit, and reraise to $55.

Big blind folds.
Initial raiser calls.
Guy next to him calls.
Guy next to him calls.
Last guy, an asian guy who is a moderately loose aggressive player, says, "well shit. i can't fold now."

So yeah. Thinning out the playfield worked really well for me. I think i rolled my eyes and even joked out loud about it. $275ish in the pot preflop with five people in, and i'm in first position to act.

The flop comes out 10 7 2 rainbow. I have $200 left. Initial raiser has $125ish. Second caller has $202. Third and fourth guy have me covered.

I really only have one move to make. I pause to think about it because i've developed a habit of pausing at least a little bit before every hand to not give off a tell and to double-check my thoughts. And then i push it all in.

Initial raiser calls for his $125. I'm not worried about him. He's bought in on the table about six times for $100 and has gotten it in multiple times on marginal holdings. If he catches on me, he catches on me.

Second guy calls for his $202. He's a regular and a solid player, but he can be erratic at times. His call is a grumbling call - he hoohahs about "i'm taking a gamble - go big or go home" or something similar. I'm not sure where to place him on a comment like that because i've seen him hollywood on big hands. I don't put him on a draw - i put him on either a monster like a flopped set, a reluctant call on QQ because he thinks that i have KK or AA, or a "what the hell" call of AK with a backdoor flush draw.

third guy folds.

last guy, asian, tanks. In the hand i played a few weeks ago, there was an asian that tanked that suddenly got me worried. This guy was the opposite - he was a drama player when the hands were big. Tanking for him meant that he wanted to call even though he knew he was likely behind because the pot was so big. He looked at me, asked me if i liked my hand, ended up turning over 10K offsuit to see how i'd react. He took a good long while, enough that one of the more impatient players on the table started to grumble. Eventually he folded.

i turned over JJ. First guy folds face down. Second guy folds AK face up. I rake in a $750+ pot.

Overall the session ended up being pretty decent for me - $600 profit in about six and a half hours. I'm still in the red for the year, but i'm actually in the black for the games that i've played at Harrah's - most of my heavy losses were when i was trying out the bigger stakes game in Metairie that i stopped going to after four sessions because the game was too big for me and i was losing too much. I still have two months to try to make up for it and put myself in profit for the year, but even if it doesn't work out that way, i still feel pretty good about the direction that my play is going. i gained a lot of confidence last year, and i'm gaining more confidence this year as i continue to develop and shape my skills and consciously work on my weaknesses. i still make mistakes, but they feel less and less, and i feel optimistic about the next couple of years. we'll see what happens.

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