If you’re dealt ace-jack suited in a game of Texas Hold’em online, look sharp. Also known as Blackjack, Hijack, and Armani Jeans, a suited ace and jack in the hole is one of the strongest starting hands you can get. Played right, it should make a great deal of cash for you in the long run. However, it can also be unkind to beginners who make basic mistakes and end up falling into costly traps. Keep reading for a selection of beginner-friendly poker tips on maximizing your profits when playing this hand.
Ace-Jack Suited 101
It’s always good to be holding suited Broadway hole cards, and ace-jack is no exception. It’s a hand with great expected value (EV) that you can play from any position, and it gives you the chance to draw the top straight and the nut flush. The only downside is that, as with any pair of suited connectors, you must connect with the flop, or you’ll find yourself with a handful of air. But it’s not the end of the world if that happens because this hand also has great blockers, making for powerful bluffing possibilities. At the same time, you need to accept when it’s time to let this great hand go. Overall, holding a suited ace and jack makes for a versatile hand that challenges you to be disciplined, bold, and creative.
As always, when it comes to starting hands in poker, the fundamental decision is whether to bet, call, or fold before the flop.
With an unopened pot, the choice is simple. If the action folds and you’re holding ace-jack suited, the top poker tip is to bet from any position. This enables you to take control of the pot, so you can make the best hand if you hit the flop or bluff your opponents out of the pot. Avoid limping because you won’t have control, and any pots you win will be smaller than if you’d just gone ahead and bet.
If a player opens before you, it’s correct to three-bet in most cases, even when you’re out of position. The reason is that ace-jack has great card removal effects, blocking a broad range of strong hands like ace-king, ace-queen, pocket aces, and pocket jacks. This makes it an excellent bluffing hand.
When facing a three-bet to your raise, it’s usually correct to call when you have position on the bettor and mix four-betting and calling when you’re out of position.
Against a four-bet, you have good odds to call, although you can consider folding if the four-bet size is more than 2.8x your three-bet or if you’re facing an extremely tight opponent.
The ideal postflop situation with a suited ace-jack is to be in position and have the initiative in a heads-up pot. If this is the case, always bet for value regardless of whether you hit the flop or not. The reason is that your opponent’s range when they call you preflop consists of small pocket pairs, medium pocket pairs, ace-high hands, and Broadways like king-jack and queen-jack. A c-bet will put a great deal of pressure on them, and continued aggression will only add to the pressure. As a result, if the flop is ace or jack-high, use a smaller c-bet size so as not to scare off your opponent.
Be more careful in a multi-way pot. Even if you have the top pair on the flop, the burden of defense is shared among your opponents, so there’s a much greater chance that they’ll be ahead of you. This reduces your equity significantly, especially if your opponents make it to the river. Going back to pre-flop strategy for a second, you may even consider folding ace-jack from early positions on a full-ring table with good, aggressive opponents.
If you miss the flop, don’t panic — with ace-jack, you’ll always have an overcard. If you were the preflop aggressor and the flop gives you a backdoor draw, you should consider making a continuation bet. If you were the preflop caller, you should check-call to defend against further aggression.
If you’re looking at a wet board with many drawing possibilities (e.g., 9♣, 8♣, 6♦, or 7♠, 6♦, 5♣) and your hand doesn’t connect, your hand’s EV on the turn and river is significantly reduced. As a result, it’s time to let your Armani Jeans go and fight another day.
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