How to Play Pocket Jacks and Pocket Tens

Pocket jacks and pocket tens are one of the most difficult types of poker hand to play. On one hand they are very strong; they are in the top 4% of all poker starting hands. But on the other hand, when all the money goes in pre flop, you are frequently against better hands only.

The following article aims to give you tips for playing both of these difficult hands and how to profit the most from playing them.

Shallow Stacks

Any time stacks are lower than say 30 big blinds, you can pretty much always get pocket jacks and tens all-in pre flop, almost no matter what the situation is. There are some situations where it goes, raise, re-raise, all-in ahead of you where pocket jacks are no good, but in reality, these situations are relatively rare. So when you are playing with shallow stacks, try and get the money in pre flop as soon as possible and don’t be afraid of running in to a better hand.

When stacks become deeper the line becomes more blurred. Other factors come in to play such as position, your range, your opponents range and what you think of each other.

Calling With Pocket Jacks and Tens

There is nothing wrong with just smooth calling pre flop with pocket jacks and tens. Primarily I will smooth call pre flop when I feel like I cannot get all the money in the middle profitably. Common situations where this happens are as follows:

  • You are playing against a tight opponent who will only get better hands all-in.
  • Your opponent raised from early position and as such will have a strong range of hands. Re-raising him will over represent your hand and only allow you to get all-in pre flop against better hands.
  • You are trapping because you think an aggressive opponent will re-raise behind you, allowing you to back-raise.

Primarily what this means is that if someone raises from early position or they have a tight raising range from whatever position they are in, I will smooth call with pocket jacks and play it like a small/medium pocket pair.

Post flop you have the inherent value of your pocket pair and can make more calls than if you had a small or middle pocket pair.  IE – You flop more overpairs and middle pairs with pocket tens than compared to pocket fives. You can also set mine in the same way you would play a small pocket pair, but most of pocket jacks value comes from it being a large pair to start with.

3-Betting Pocket Jacks and Tens

In today’s aggressive games it is almost always profitable to get both pocket jacks and tens all-in pre flop from late position and in blind battles.

The reason for this is that when you get in to late position, there is more incentive to steal the blinds. In turn ranges get wider and players have to get all-in lighter to avoid getting exploited by their opponents 3-betting them.

The only time you will want to smooth call pre flop with pocket jacks and tens from these positions are when you think:

  • Your opponent will not get worse hands all-in pre flop. Will they ever get pocket nines all-in pre flop? What about Ace King and Ace Queen?
  • Your opponent will rarely 4-bet bluff you. Part of the value of 3-betting pocket tens is that your opponent will 4-bet bluff. You can then shove all-in and take down around 20-25 big blinds without going to showdown.
  • Your opponents will not call pre flop with worse hands and dominated hands. IE – Lower pocket pairs, suited connectors, Ace Jack, Ace Ten etc.

Usually your opponent will meet a variety of these conditions: Either 4-bet bluffing, flatting with a wide range or getting worse hands all-in preflop. If your opponent will not make these mistakes against you when you have pocket jacks and tens, it is best to keep the pot small and flat them pre flop. If however your opponent has an ounce of aggression in him, you will most likely be able to 3-bet pocket jacks and tens and happily get the money all-in.

Super Deep Stacks

As stacks get in to the 120+ bb range you will have to think twice about getting your hand all-in preflop, even from late position. 120 bb stacks become slightly awkward because they put you on a spot where you cannot really flat a 4-bet but you also don’t want to get all the money in. For that reason, you may want to just smooth call at this stack depth.

As you get in to the 200+ bb range, you can comfortably 3-bet the hand always. Your opponent will likely try and set mine or flop a big hand with suited cards and flat against you wide. Generally you should do pretty well as long as you do not felt the hand with just 1 pair 200 bb deep. If your opponent 4-bets you this deep, unless the sizing is huge, you can most likely flat to try and crack his monster hand.

 Post Flop Considerations

With the initiative in a single raised pot you can often get at least 2 or 3 streets of value. Of course this depends on the run out of cards.

On low boards you can frequently bet fold on all three streets and hope that your opponent calls with worse. In general though, it is best to use your judgement to decide whether betting 3-streets is too thin or not.

When scare cards come off on the turn I will generally continue betting them if I have the preflop initiative and are out of position. So for example, I raise from early position with pocket jacks. The flop comes down 652 rainbow. I make a continuation bet and my opponent calls in position. The turn brings a Q and I decide to continue betting. The reason i do this is because:

  • My hand is still likely good and i can continue betting for value.
  • If i check call the turn i turn my hand face up as a medium pair. This basically starts a guessing game and my opponent can bluff/value bet with whatever frequencies he wants and i am left guessing.
  • If my opponent was slow playing a big hand he will likely re-raise the turn and call with all hands that are worse than mine.

If the river blanks I can often go for a 3rd street of value. My opponent will think my range is polarized to a pair of queens and better and perhaps make a hero call with a weak hand. This is good for us.

If I am in position I may or may not check the turn. Here is an example where I would check the turn. I raise TT in late position and my opponent calls from the big blind. The flop comes down 973 with a flush draw. My opponent checks and I make a bet, he calls. The turn brings an Ace. On the turn I could continue betting but I feel like I will fold out most of the worst hands that my opponent has. I decide to check back, the river brings another 3 and my opponent leads out. I make the call and beat his busted flush draw. In this situation, checking back the turn has a few benefits:

  • We get to keep the pot small and avoid losing a big pot when we are beat.
  • We induce some bluffs on the river when our opponent does not hit his draw.
  • When we bet the turn, we get value from very few hands. Most of the hands we beat will fold to our turn bet. If we check we make some money if he decides to bluff and we avoid losing a big pot if he happens to be strong and has us beat.

Conclusion: Playing Pocket Jacks and Tens Profitably

Hopefully the preceding article has cleared up some misconceptions about pocket jacks and pocket tens. As you can see there are both situations where it is beneficial to play these hands both fast and slow pre flop.

Likewise the same goes for post flop, sometimes we should value bet ruthlessly, other times we should check and keep the pot under control. By accurately evaluating your opponents’ ranges and tendencies as mentioned earlier in this post, you should go a long way to not making mistakes with these tricky hands and thus making some good cash with them.