Dissecting Jack-Ten Suited (JTs)
Again, I should note that the skill level required to effectively wield JTs is pretty high. If you are uncomfortable playing flops or you really don't know how to count outs and calculate pot odds, you might just pass on playing JTs. At some point in your poker career you will want to start experimenting with speculative hands, and this one is probably the one to start with. In this article I will try to arm you with enough information to start opening up your game with speculative hands.
Suited Connectors & Speculative Hands
I've already stated that I think JTs is the most valuable of the suited connectors. Let me explain what I mean. OK, it's pretty easy to understand why JTs is better than 98s - both cards are higher in value. But why would JTs be a better hand to speculate with than QJs? Comparing QJs to JTs could be an article of its own, so let me just give you the most important reasons that JTs is usually better to play than QJs.
When you play speculative hands like JTs or QJs, you're really hoping to flop huge hands or huge draws. There will be a certain number of times, though, that you actually flop a pair or even two pair. When you flop a pair, even top pair with QJs, you have to be very careful not to lose all your chips. The fact is that most players play big cards, so when you flop the top pair with QJ, particularly if it's the Q, you are playing top pair with a relatively weak kicker. When you raise on the button with QJs and are called by the player in the small blind and the player who limped in is early position, it is very possible that either or both of them are holding a hand that has you dominated: AQ, KQ, AJ, or KJ, and that puts you in a very dangerous situation. When you flop two pair with QJs, say with a flop of 9 J Q or A Q J, chances are that you are not the only player excited about that flop. There could be a player sitting on a set or a straight or a draw to a monster.
When you flop top pair with JTs it is less likely that you are dominated, especially when you hit the ten for top pair. Players play queens more often than jacks and jacks more than tens. The other reason that I favor JTs over QJs is that there are more cards above the jack than the queen, which makes it easier to hit a straight. When playing JTs you are really hoping to flop a straight or a flush or you are hoping to flop a draw to one of those hands. But when you hit the flop a bit more directly by pairing one or both of your cards, you still have made a pretty good hand that should be fairly simple to play.
When to Play JTs and Suited Connectors
Remember, we're not going to play every time we have JTs in our hand. I think most players play suited connectors incorrectly in that they play them from any position and play regardless of the pre-flop action. The most important factors I look at before deciding whether or not to enter a pot with JTs are (1) the size of the blinds relative to the stacks at the table and (2) my position relative to the dealer. If I'm playing in a cash game with blinds of say one and two dollars and all the players have around two hundred dollars in play, I will usually be willing to call a small raise if I'm on the dealer button or the cut-off seat (one from the dealer) holding JTs. I will limp in with the hand only from middle or late position. I'd play the hand similarly in the early stages of a tournament with, say, 1000 in tournament chips and blinds of maybe 10- 20. In the middle stages of 1000 chip tournaments, when the blinds are around the 50-100 stage, I will rarely play the hand at all. The only exceptions would be when I can limp in on the button or complete the blind from the small blind. Of course I will also open with JTs from late position if the players in the blinds are fairly tight, just trying to steal the blinds. I won't attempt to steal with any two cards, I need something that has a little potential after the flop, and JTs definitely qualifies.
Generally speaking, all suited connectors play best in multi-way pots, especially with passive players. You want to play JTs mostly against meek players because you will often get the right odds to chase your draws when playing against them. I've played at tables where I even started playing hands like JTs from early position, but that is a rarity. The reason is that I noticed no one was ever raising before the flop, and most pots were being contested by four or more players. These particular players would always give me the right odds to draw to my big hands, and often gave me free cards to chase flushes and straights. The opposite is also sometimes true. You may find yourself at a very aggressive table. When playing against savvy and aggressive players you have to be very picky about when you play JTs. Even when you are lucky enough to flop a draw to a straight or a flush with your hand, savvy players will be aware of the potential draw and you will rarely be given the correct odds to draw to it. That's why I will usually only play JTs from late position after a string of calls when I feel like my opponents are fairly strong players.
You should also know that JTs goes down in value during the late stages of tournament play when the blinds are getting stiff. JTs is just not a very good hand without strong implied odds, and implied odds require small blinds and large stacks. To illustrate that point I'd like to end our analysis of JTs with a list of percentages. These numbers will show you what your chances of winning a showdown are against various starting hands. You should rarely call raises at the final stages of a tournament with JTs, but sometimes pot odds will compel you to call even all-in bets with it. My favorite example is when you are in the big blind and everyone folds to the short stack in the small blind who then moves all-in. Very often you will have the odds to make the call even if you're pretty sure you are trailing in the hand.
Chances of JTs Winning Against Starting Hands
Hopefully you're starting to understand JTs on a fundamental level. These concepts and numbers change only slightly when you play other suited connecting cards like 98s. These speculative hands play best in late position, with small blinds and large stacks. Ideally you want to play them in multi-player pots. You would also prefer to play hands like JTs against passive players who are often willing to let you draw cheap or even free and who are kind enough to pay you off when you make your hand. Once you become comfortable reading players, counting outs and figuring pot odds, suited connectors can be lucrative hands to play in good position. In my opinion JTs is the best of the suited connectors, if not the best all-around speculative hand. I've made a great deal of money playing JTs, and with the information you've just read and all of the information available for you in the strategy section of toppoker.org, you should be well on your way to making big scores yourself. Until next time… Good "luck!"
Poker Hand Analysis Series by Dead Money
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