Jonathan Little Loses the Minimum with Pocket Jacks

Jonathan Little
  • @JonathanLittle shows how to conserve chips by not playing big pots with a small equity advantage.

  • Consider how you would play pocket jacks in this multi-way hand from early in a tournament.

This week’s educational poker hand involves a not uncommon situation — picking up pocket jacks and having to negotiate postflop with an overcard on the board.

The hand came early during the first level of a tournament when the blinds were just 25/50 and the effective stacks about 10,000 (200 BBs).

A player who looked to be about 40 years old raised to 150 from early position, and it folded to me on the button where I’d been dealt {J-Clubs}{J-Diamonds}.

As I explain in the video below, this is a spot where for several reasons three-betting with jacks makes sense. That said, if you think your opponent might be weak in a situation like this and you’ll have an advantage postflop, you can also just call and see a flop with them.

I did call, but then the small blind — a 30-year-old guy — reraised to 325, a play that represented a lot of strength given how he was showing he was willing both to play from out of position and to give us good pot odds to call him.

Both the original raiser and I called, making the pot a little over 1,000. The flop came {A-Clubs}{8-Diamonds}{2-Spades} and it checked around to me. I chose to check behind as well, then the turn brought the {10-Diamonds}. This time the player in the small blind bet 850 and the original preflop raiser called.

What would you do here? Take a look at what I decided to do and hear my analysis of the situation:

This hand demonstrates how to conserve chips early in a tournament by declining to play a large pot with only a small equity advantage. Especially when you are unsure how to proceed, it is usually wise to keep the pot manageable with your decent, but non-nut hands.

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $6,500,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

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