Ace-Jack suited is one of the strongest hands you can get dealt in No Limit Hold’em. You should expect to win a good amount of money with it (on average).
There are, however, some fundamental mistakes that you should avoid in order to win the maximum amount in cash games with Ace-Jack suited.
In this article, I will break down the fundamentals of playing this hand so that you will be way on your way to making the most profitable decisions.
Let’s get started.
How to Play Ace-Jack Suited Preflop
Ace-Jack suited is always worth raising with preflop as the first player in. Limping with it is very inadvisable because you will win smaller pots on average over time.
Against an open-raise
When faced with a raise, you should 3-bet with this hand almost every time.
The exceptions are:
- When you are in the Big Blind against a Middle Position raise
- When you are in the Big Blind against an Early Position raise
In these situations, you should use a mixed strategy that includes both 3-betting and calling.
Against a 3-bet
Ace-Jack suited has great qualities as both a call and a 4-bet bluff.
The hand works well as a 4-bet bluff when the 3-bettor’s range is somewhat tight. This is because Ace-Jack’s blocker effects are more pronounced against tight ranges, blocking half the possible combinations of Pocket Aces and Pocket Jacks, plus a quarter of the combinations of Ace-King.
This means that when this hand is chosen as a 4-bet bluff, it will face a 5-bet shove significantly less than, say, Q6-suited. Additionally, Ace-Jack suited also has a lot of equity against the range of hands that calls a 4-bet.
Here’s a simplified way to approach playing Ace-Jack suited whenever you raise and face a 3-bet:
- Call when you are in position against the 3-bettor
- Mix between 4-betting and calling when you are out of position against the 3-bettor
The exception is when you are in the Small Blind and the Big Blind 3-bets. When that’s the match-up, you should always call.
Against a 4-bet
When facing a 4-bet, you will generally want to call with this hand. Since 4-bets are not usually bigger than 2.8x, the hand has good enough equity, great blockers, and playability in order to call profitably.
That said, if your opponent uses a much larger 4-bet size than 2.8x your 3-bet, or if your opponent is extremely tight, you can certainly consider folding Ace-Jack suited.
3 Tips for Playing When You Hit Top Pair on the Flop with Ace-Jack Suited
These tips are for when you’re playing as the preflop aggressor.
Tip #1: When in position, always bet for value
This includes both single-raised pots and 3-bet pots. Regardless of whether you hit top pair with the Ace or Jack, your hand will be very strong, and extracting value becomes a priority. Don’t slow play!
Tip #2: In 3-bet pots, use a smaller c-bet size
Ace and Jack-high flops are very advantageous for you as the 3-bettor, and you can leverage that advantage with a small bet size. This makes it much tougher on your opponent because he will be forced to consider calling with marginal hands. If you use a big size, your opponent will easily be able to ditch those marginal holdings and continue only when he’s strong.
Additionally, you will still find it very easy to get all the money in by the river, even if you start off with a very small c-bet, because the pot is already bloated from the preflop action.
Tip #3: Play more cautiously in multiway pots, especially when 3+ players reach the turn
Top pair is a strong hand, even in a multiway pot. Compared to heads-up pots, though, your equity will be a lot lower. And it’s even worse when 3 or more players reach the turn after calling your bet on the flop.
This happens because the burden of defense is dispersed between multiple players, which allows each player to (correctly) continue with a tighter range. Thus, when multiple players actually do call, they have significantly stronger ranges than what they’d usually have in a heads-up pot. This means you should often proceed with caution on the turn, especially if the board texture gets a bit scary.
3 Tips for Playing When You Miss the Flop with Ace-Jack Suited
Tip #1: Be more inclined to bet when you have some backdoor draws to strengthen your hand
Even when you miss with Ace-Jack suited, you will always have at least one overcard. That’s a good start, but it’s not always enough to justify a bet.
If you have some backdoor flush or straight draw to go with your overcard(s), however, you should generally be more inclined to c-bet.
Tip #2: After defending your Big Blind, you should check-call on the flop if you have at least 1 overcard and a backdoor flush draw
Having both an overcard and a backdoor flush draw will help you fight back against continued aggression. Sure, you might totally whiff on the turn, but you might bink top pair or pick up the nut flush draw.
Assuming your opponent doesn’t use an outrageously big flop c-bet size, you should continue with Ace-Jack of hearts on a flop like Q♠ 7♥ 2♥.
Tip #3: When the board is connected and you have nothing, it’s best to fold.
Example flops: 9♣ 8♣ 6♦ or 7♠ 6♣ 5♦.
Yes, you have a great hand preflop. But now you have been set into a part of the game tree where Ace-Jack doesn’t have much expected value (EV) at all, and that is fine. Don’t feel like you need to win every pot just because you had a great hand on the previous street!
Those are the fundamentals that you need when it comes to Ace-Jack suited. Make sure to always apply them when playing so that they become ingrained in your thought process. This leaves more mental energy for harder decisions on later streets.
If you enjoyed this article, you can let me know in the comment section down below, and if you have any other hand that you’d like me to cover feel free to tell me there as well.
Want to watch one of the world’s best poker players critique Doug Polk’s strategy? Check out Doug Polk Does The Thing He Said To Never Do (Analysis).
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!