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Your Opponent Is a Maniac: How Far Do You Go With Pocket Jacks?

Jonathan Little

Today I'm reviewing a hand I played early in a side event at a recent major poker tour.

As I talk about at the beginning of the video, you can encounter a variety of players in these events — some very strong, some not so strong. Sometimes a preliminary event with the same buy-in as a main event can have a tougher field. For example, a €5K side event on the European Poker Tour will have a higher percentage of strong players than will be the case in the €5K Main Event.

In fact, the hand I'm discussing this week all by itself involved a variety of different players in a multi-way situation. It was early in the tournament with the blinds 100/200 with a 25 ante. A very loose-aggressive or "LAG" player opened to 450 from middle position, then a semi-active player sitting to his left with a short stack three-bet to 1,100.

It folded to me in the cutoff where I was dealt {j-Hearts}{j-Diamonds} and just called, something I normally wouldn't do but in this case wanted to keep the LAG player in the hand. Then a tight player also called from the small blind, and when it got back to the LAG player he went all in for almost 19,000 and the player to his left folded.

I had almost 24,000 behind and so had the player covered. I also had to think about the tight player in the small blind who had about 10,000.

The question was did I want to play a huge pot early in a tournament with pocket jacks? Answering that meant thinking primarily about the very wide all-in range this LAG player had — much wider than most players against whom I wouldn't want to call with pocket jacks.

I talk through the decision below — hear what I say and see what happened:

Normally you should avoid large all-in confrontations with non-nut hands, but was this situation different? How would you have played the hand?

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $6,300,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

  • Normally avoid huge all-ins with non-nut hands, but versus some opponents you might play differently.

  • @JonathanLittle reviews a side event hand where he has to decide how far to go with J-J vs. a maniac.

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