"There are 3 different ways to play pocket jacks – their all wrong."
Ok, so it isn’t a movie quote above but I heard this little line at a poker game over the weekend. I’m sure it’s been said a million times before, but this was the first time I heard it and I thought it was right on the money. And for the rest of the night, I had a real hard time with Jacks as well.
The first session of home game poker in 2008 was very good and I ended up in front a reasonable amount. I was well in front at one stage, before I went on a river-beat run for maybe an hour. Some were of the 2-3 outs variety, others were just having mediocre hands beaten by something less mediocre. But I was making some excellent reads on the night and that was an encouraging sign. Two hands in particular against one player – early in the night calling a large river bet with 2nd pair because the betting pattern and amounts suggested to me that he had nothing, and then later in the night when his betting patterns told me he hit his hand on the flop and then wasn’t scared of the flush coming on the river made me lay down a strong hand. Turns out I was right, but for the wrong reasons – I thought he flopped a full house and it turns out he rivered it, but either way I saved quite a few chips by folding that hand and I felt good about it.
I had a 3 buy-in profit, and the best hand I hit all night was three of a kind, so that was interesting considering I never had any monsters. All my profit was from making big protective raises when I had two pair, top pair, trips or good drawing hands and then firing another bullet when I missed or checking it down when my opponent missed and getting paid off. Interestingly, the majority of my losses came when opponents made the same calls but hit instead. When that happens on the same night, and you end up in front, you can see that something right is going on when the wins outweigh the losses.
The first session of online poker in 2008 was just about the opposite. I played poorly except for maybe 2 hands (and one of them was not raising when I had a feeling my turned set of sevens were behind to a flopped set of kings) so not many pots or chips came my way. But I try to look on the bright side of things here, and at least I could see where my errors were and I know I was playing badly and not just getting unlucky. In fact, I even got lucky on one hand hitting a gut shot straight on the river when holding…pocket jacks. Ace-rag was not happy about that, but he shouldn’t have been in the pot in the first place. That happens some time.
So what have I learned so far in poker for 2008? Playing good gives you a better chance at winning than playing bad.
And they say poker theory is complicated!