DRAWING POCKET aces or kings is one thing. You suddenly get filled with a sense of power. You want to build a big pot with a big hand.
Drawing queens or jacks in the hole is another thing. They can fill you with a sense of power, or with a case of the shakes, especially if you find them when you are in one of the blinds and have to act before everyone after the flop. "Jacks and queens are really tough hands to play from out of position," young, aggressive pro Kenny Tran said.
Two of the keys are getting a good read on your opponent and managing the pot size to give yourself a chance at showdown, as Tran did in this hand from the 2008 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event at Las Vegas' Rio Hotel.
With blinds at $100-$200, a player in early position made a standard raise of three times the big blind to $600. Action folded around to Tran, who found pocket jacks in the big blind. Some players might raise as a way of trying to define an opponent's hand, but Tran only called.
"I never thought of raising," said Tran, who won the WSOP $10,000-buy-in Heads Up No Limit Hold'em bracelet in 2008. "With two jacks, you can't raise there or play too aggressively because you're out of position. You just hope you hit a perfect flop, and your opponent has something and you can milk him."
The flop came A-4-9, rainbow, hardly the perfect flop that Tran was looking for.
Tran checked. The initial raiser bet $900, almost three-quarters of the pot. Did Tran's opponent hit an ace, or was he playing position aggressively?
"I just wanted to call and see what happened because he can bet with any two cards there," Tran said. "I don't think he'd bet a set of aces there, but he acted very fast, so I sensed he was weak and thought I should take one off."
The turn came the queen of spades, putting out two to a flush, along with a second overcard to Tran's jacks. Tran could bet out to represent strength, but he chose to check.
"I was prepared to give up the hand right there, but he checked," Tran said. "He can't check with any ace or any queen right there, so I put him on a small pocket pair."
The river came the king of spades. Now the board was coordinated in a big way, potentially completing a flush and a straight, and adding another overcard that Tran couldn't beat.
He checked, and his opponent checked behind him again, then mucked his hand when he saw Tran's jacks.
"I probably would've called him on the river because I didn't think he'd have J-10 or something like that." (That's because Tran had two of the jacks and his opponent likely would have bet an open-ended straight draw behind Tran's check on the turn.) *