Ace King (AK) vs. Pocket Jacks (JJ): Graph and Examples


When it comes to Ace-King vs. Pocket Kings the decision on which hand is better is easy. With Ace-king (AK) vs. pocket jacks (JJ), the choice is not clear anymore. Even the pros sometimes can’t have the same point of view. Some prefer JJ, while others like AK more. I will show you my graphs of both hands and also introduce you to some basic percentages, so you will be able to see for yourself how good each of both hands do.

Which makes more money? Every time you get dealt Ace-King, you will earn roughly the same amount of money as you will with pocket jacks in terms of big blinds per 100 hands (bb/100). But you will get AK a lot more often than JJ.

ace king (AK) vs pocket jacks (JJ)
Both great hands, but which does better?

Head to head, both hands are close in equity, but pocket jacks are ahead by a little. With AK, we are 44% underdog against JJ 56% to win. Things get a bit better for AKs. In that case, we have 46% to win, and when we have AKo, we have only 43%. Those percentages are already a bit off from what many players quickly label as a ‘flip.’ This is only the raw equity. Often it might happen that you won’t just get it all-in preflop with those two hands. Most likely, there will be a 3bet or even a 4bet and then a call. 

Ace King vs Pocket Jacks equity
AK vs JJ: preflop raw equity. but raw equity isn’t all. Postflop matters also. And in the end it matters which hand makes you more money. Check below.

It is crucial to analyze how good those hands also do post-flop – more on that below.

Ace King vs. pocket jacks preflop

I already explained to you head to head comparison above. Now it is time to have a look at how good each of those hands does preflop against other hands. Both hands are great hands to have, they make a lot of profit, and you should be thrilled once you see either of them in your hole cards.

AK preflop

AK, AKs, AKo equity vsKKAAA2-AQJJ
AK suited and off suit31%8%73%44%
AKo (off suit)30%7%73%43%
AKs (suited)34%12%74%46%
Table 1: AK has an 8% chance to win against AA and 31% against KK.

AK is the best non-pair hand preflop.

But this doesn’t mean you need to go absolutely crazy with it. After all, they are even small underdog against pocket twos.

As you can see from the table, the suited hand does a bit better than off-suit counterpart. In our case, AKs gains 2-4% of equity.

Proper strategy with AK preflop is:

  • open from any position (on 6max as well as on FR tables)
  • 3bet almost all the time
  • if you open from late position and get 3bet, then 4betting is a good play

It comes as no surprise that ace king is open from any position. It dominates many worse Ax hands that will call preflop. It also does well against all pairs, except for KK and pocket aces. It is true that pocket aces dominate you, but that is only 0.5% of all hands. Against pocket kings, you will already have 31% to win.

AK plays excellently as a 3bet also. If an opponent calls your 3bet with Ax or Kx type of hands, then they will have a hard time folding when they hit top pair. Not to mention you can make a small bet on the flop as a bluff and take the pot down; you were preflop aggressor after all.

In late positions when your opens are wide, and opponents 3bet are wider also, it makes complete sense to 4bet AK, as we dominate opponents 3betting range. Just be careful you don’t start stacking off preflop against nits, as they most often have aces and kings.

JJ preflop

Just like Ak, pocket jacks play great preflop. JJ was in the top starting hands in many old books already. In Phil Hellmuth’s – Play Poker Like the Pros, he puts JJ in the top 12 hands. Similarly, it is put in top rank in David Sklansky’s hand grouping. Preflop strategy with pocket jacks:

  • open from any position
  • 3bet most of the time
  • Maybe a bit too light to get it all in preflop, but don’t start folding to 4bets either

As you can tell, pocket jacks play very similarly preflop as ace-king. After all, both are powerful hands.

JJ Equity vs:TT-22QQ-AAAK, AQ, KQA2-AJ, KJ
JJ 81%18.5%56%70%
Table 2: JJ has 81% equity against pairs from 22-TT.

Pocket jacks are ahead preflop of all non-pair hands. It also beats most of the pairs. Against 22-TT it has a significant equity advantage of 81% to win. And of course is an 18.5% underdog against QQ, KK, and AA.

Against Ax type of hands up to AJ, it also is a big favorite (70% to win). Only non-pair hands that aren’t crushed preflop by JJ are AK, AQ, and KQ, with combined equity of 44% against JJ.

AK vs JJ postflop

Ace King postflop

With AK, we are most often the preflop aggressor. So on the flop, we will usually continue with aggression. But it depends on what kind of board it is, and there are a few different scenarios postflop:

Q83 rainbow dry flop
Great example of a dry board. Perfect for making a bet with AK. Opponent is likely to miss this board. We still have over-cards and a chance to hit top pair on turn or river.
  • Flop is very dry, and we have nothing: A good example of this is Q83 rainbow type of boards. Make a bet against a single opponent, as on such board, they are also likely to miss the flop. We still have 2 overcards with which we can hit a top pair on later streets. With 3 kings and 3 aces, that’s 6 outs that are often good. So around 24% of the time, we can expect to hit top pair from flop to the river (roughly 12% on each street). 
  • We have hit top pair: With AK, you will always hit top pair top kicker when you hit a pair. This is an excellent time to start value betting. There are many worse top pair type hands, 2nd pairs and even often some draw, who will be calling one or two streets of bets. This is where the most value with AK comes from, from proper value betting.
  • Flop is very draw heavy, and we have nothing: This is most often easy check, play it passive and give up to bets scenario. Flop examples of this are 678 with a flush draw, 79T monotone board, where we don’t have the flush or flush draw.
very wet flop, pot control
It is a bad idea to start bluffing with ace-king on such board. Even with pocket jacks we need to be careful.

Pocket Jacks postflop

Unlike with AK, with pocket jacks, our postflop approach is a little different. We will still often value bet on the flops, but there is one crucial difference. Different postflop scenarios:

  • Overcard hits on the flop: If you played some pocket jacks before then, you know, that there often is an overcard on the flop. In fact, you will see overcard 57% of the time. In those times, you can still get 1 street of value. But you need to be careful a bit, don’t start calling opponent’s bets too much. Calling too much is a recipe to start losing in poker. Don’t do hero calls, and you will do just fine.
  • We have overpair on the flop: This is a great spot to value bet with our jacks. Unless the boards is very draw heavy, we will want to value bet. We generally don’t want to give free cards, as it can quickly happen that overcard hits on the turn or river. Charge opponents for their draws and lower pairs.
  • Very draw heavy boards: Here you can still call one, sometimes two streets if faced with a bet. You shouldn’t be betting too often yourself. It is instead better to pot control and see safe turns.

Multiway pots with AK and JJ

Multiway, you need to be careful with AK. Don’t start bluffing when you have nothing, check and hope for a free card. It is fine to give up and wait for better boards. Once you hit something, you can value bet, but if you get re-raised, it is a smart idea to fold. With more opponents, it is much more likely someone has hit at least two pairs.

With JJ, if an overcard hits, then it is best to play it very passively and fold to bets. It is just too likely that one player has at least a top pair. For the times when you still have overpair on the flop, don’t be afraid to value bet, if the board is not too draw heavy. If any of the opponents have hit something really good, they will often show you that with the re-raise, and you can reevaluate your hand then.

ace king winrate with a graph
Ace king winrate with graph.

Winrate comparison of pocket jacks (JJ) vs. Ace King (AK)

As you can tell, my winrate is almost the same with both hands (a mixture of 6max and FR). Both have pretty steady graphs, pointing upwards. There aren’t any major downswings.

This shows you how good starting hands they are. If played correctly, both are real money-making machines. The only difference from the graph is that in the number of hands I played, I got AK a lot more. This is entirely normal.

There are more combos of AK than JJ, and therefore you are more likely to be dealt ace king than pocket jacks. 

pocket jacks winrate with a graph
Pocket jacks winrate with graph. Notice how many times we get dealt JJ compared to AK (11,000 for JJ and 29,000 for AK).

Conclusion

Now you know that both AK and JJ are great starting hands. They both play good postflop. With JJ, it is easy to give up when facing some heat on overcards. You also know a bit more about how often you should win with either of them. You might wonder where to go from there? Well, you can start by reading about similar articles for other poker hands, check the links below.

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Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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