inner page top left

Jacks or Better Poker Guide: Rules, Strategies & Tips

Jennifer Lynn Written by Jennifer Lynn
Richard Grant Reviewed by Richard Grant

Jacks or Better

The internet has caused a lot of things to change since its inception, one of the most striking is in the world of Video Poker. Although the first versions were released back in the 1970s, the look, feel and variations that are now available compared to when the internet was first launched are vastly different. The rules for each are very simple and only very slightly from one game to another, the easiest to play and one of the oldest and most popular is Jack or Better, which we outline below.
Before you read this strategy, ensure you know poker hand rankings.

Once you have mastered this, you are ready to consider the best way to play the Jacks or Better Video Slot.

How to Play Jacks or Better

There are lots of versions of video poker and although some differences between versions are fairly minor, the version does affect the best strategy.

All versions share the same basic rules, however, which involve you choosing your stake, receiving 5 cards from a standard 52-card deck (some versions have an extra Joker – not Jacks or Better though) after which you can discard as few or as many as you want. Any cards you discard are replaced using the remaining cards in the deck, at which point winnings are paid depending on the strength of your hand. You don’t need to worry about what the dealer or other players get as there are none, it is just you against the machine.

This article concentrates on the most popular version of Video Poker, Jacks or Better which pays out on any hand that has a pair of Jacks or better all the way up to a Royal Flush. A screenshot of a typical Jacks or Better Video Poker game is below.

Jacks or Better Strategy

Jacks-or-Better gives you a 99.54% expected rate of return when played correctly. On the front of the machine, you can check the payouts and pick the ones with the best odds.

Here are payouts for a Full House and a Flush respectively on various machines.

Jack Odds

The best odds when you play Jacks or better Are best on a 9 / 6 machine, it simply pays out more money to go with this machine.

Jacks or Better Paytables

Paytables can vary a small amount when playing Jacks or Better at different casinos, generally speaking though, the following is fairly standard:

Hand Payoff
Royal Flush 800
Straight Flush 50
Four of a Kind 25
Full House 9
Flush 6
Straight 4
Three of a Kind 3
2 Pair 2
Pair of Jacks or Better 1


As you can see, the difference between a Royal Flush and all other hands is huge, in order to win we, therefore, need to maximize the chances of getting a Royal Flush whilst banking as many smaller wins as we can to keep us ticking over until the Royal Flush arrives.

Jacks or Better PaytablesAnother thing to realize when playing Jacks or Better is that around 79% of hands will be losing hands, so don’t feel despondent if you go several hands without a win. Perseverance is the key to playing any form of Video Poker, what you need to do is keep plugging away picking up small wins wherever possible to keep your funds ticking over until the big one arrives.

When you decide on the stake to play, ensure you play the maximum coins if you can, this will give the biggest possible payout when the Royal Flush does arrive and ensures you get a nice return. It is much better to reduce the value of a coin and play maximum coins than play a higher-value coin but only bet 1 coin per go.

Patience is key, so take your time to study the strategies and make the right move, there is no time limit on Video Poker unlike some games as you are playing by yourself and others won’t be waiting on your move like you will get in some forms of Roulette and Blackjack. Make the most of this and get the decision correct to maximize your chances of a payout.

We have listed 2 strategies below, get used to the simple version if you are new to Video Poker, and feel free to jump straight to the advanced version if you are more experienced.

Jacks Or Better Strategy

Using this strategy should increase the return over time to around 99.45% if played correctly. Reducing the House Edge in any casino game is important and although this may not seem like much, over a long period of time, it can make a big difference.

As with all Video Poker, patience is key. The only real way to make money is by hitting a Royal Flush, and due to the low odds of this happening, it can take a long time.

Start from the top of the table below, and hold the first set of cards that are applicable to the hand you are dealt:

Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a Kind
4 cards to a Royal Flush
Full House, Flush, Straight, Three of a Kind
4 cards to a Straight Flush
2 Pair
High Pair
3 to a Royal Flush
4 to a Flush
Low Pair
4 to an Outside Straight
2 Suited High Cards
3 to a Straight Flush
2 Unsuited High Cards – Choose just 2 if more than 2
Suited 10/J, 10/Q, 10/K
One High Card
Discard All



In the above table, the following applies:

High Card – Jack, Queen, King or Ace. A Pair of these returns your stake, so it is worth holding.

Outside Straight – 4 Cards that are consecutive and where a card at either end can provide you with a Straight – EG. 5,6,7,8

Inside Straight – 4 Cards where there is one number missing that would complete a Straight. EG 5,6,8,9

Advanced Strategy

Once you have mastered the above, take a look at our more in-depth Advanced Strategy. This will increase the payout percentage to around 99.54%, one of the highest returns of any casino game. If you are lucky enough to hit a Royal Flush early, a nice return is on offer…

As with the Simple Strategy, start at the top of the below table and work your way down until you find the cards applicable to your hand.

Dealt Royal Flush
Dealt Straight Flush
Dealt 4 of a Kind
4 to a Royal Flush
Dealt Full House
Dealt Flush
3 of a Kind
Dealt Straight
4 to a Straight Flush
Two Pair
High Pair
3 to a Royal Flush
4 to a Flush
Unsuited 10, J, Q K, A
Low Pair
4 to an Outside Straight that includes 2 High Cards
3 to a Straight Flush
Suited JQ
4 to an Inside Straight, all High Cards
Suited QK or JK
Suited AK, AQ or AJ
4 to an Inside Straight, 3 High Cards
Unsuited JQK
Unsuited JQ
Suited 10J
2 Unsuited High Cards with K s the highest
Suited 10 K
Discard Everything


Borderline Hands
The below are hands that very nearly make it into the above list, but an optimal play would be to make a different decision.
Suited 10 A – Hold the A only
3 Unsuited High Cards with A as the highest – Keep the lowest 2 High Cards as the chances of a Straight are higher when open-ended
4 to an Inside Straight with 2 High Cards – Keep the 2 High Cards
4 to an Inside Straight with 1 High Card – Keep the 1 High Card
4 to an Inside Straight with 0 High Cards – Discard all

Jacks or Better Tips

Jacks or Better TipsThe jacks or better tips are the same for any video poker game, the only thing that’s different is the strategy card. I will go over some of the basic tips as part of our jacks or better strategy.

  1. Always play the maximum number of coins in order to be eligible for the bonus payout for a royal flush. You can’t win without hitting it in any video poker game so this is the hand that is vital. To do this you need to be able to play for a long time banking smaller wins until you hit it.
  2. Take your time to study every hand and play correctly. The machines at casinos are in no hurry when you play Jacks or Better and neither should you be.
  3. Only 21% of the hands dealt are winning ones in Jacks or Better, meaning 79% are losing hands. The difference between success and failure for players is the ability to convert the 79% of losing hands to potential winners and this involves using strategy. If you follow the rules below you will convert a good number of losing hands to winners in Jacks or Better video poker


inner page bot left

About the author

Jennifer Lynn
Head of Content
Jennifer Lynn has spent 14 years working in the online casino industry, making her a real expert in the field. She's not just skilled at writing about casinos; she also has a deep interest in online gambling games and is a passionate researcher and player. Jennifer offers her expertise on a range of casino games and the smart strategies to use. But her life isn't all about gambling and casinos. She also loves riding horses and practicing yoga, showing that she knows how to balance her professional interests with personal passions.
Last Updated: May 29, 2024



What is Jacks or Better?

Jacks or Better is the original Video Poker game with the main goal of assembling the best possible poker hand that contains at least a pair of Jacks. It is very similar to Video Poker, and by association with the 5 Card Draw Poker, that said, you are playing against a computer, and it's a casino game that is both based on your own luck and decisions. You will be dealt five random cards; you then choose which cards are valuable to hold onto and which you should disregard.


Which cards should you hold when you play Jacks or Better?

Your choices are important when you play Jack or Better, which is why you should learn more about the cards that you should hold onto when you are looking to potentially complete a winning hand. There are several scenarios that you have to be aware of before you start playing. If you hold a pair, then you should try to draw three cards. If you hold onto one high card, then you can draw four cards. When you have three cards to a Straight Flush, then you can draw one card. Finally, if you came across the Straight, Royal Straight Flush, Full House, a Flush, Straight Flush, you shouldn't draw any cards. In any case, make sure to hold a card that is higher or equal in value to Jack if you get no matching card combination.


What do Jacks or Better split mean?

Jacks or Better split actually comes from Stud. It's a pair where your card is paired with at least a Jack, while the second is one of your two hole cards.


Where can I play Jacks or Better online?

You can play Jacks or Better on reliable online casinos that offer the game as part of their regular gaming collection. Online casinos nowadays provide a huge variety of casino games, and even though Video Poker isn't as popular as other titles, there are licensed casino sites where you can try different Jacks or Better games for real money. The gameplay might be similar to the digital versions; they might have different RTP and special features.


How do you win Jacks or Better?

As the name suggests, you need to hold onto a hand with Jacks or Better in order to win the game and receive a payout. Of course, it's not that simple, as this is still a game of chance, but having basic knowledge of Video Poker games can ultimately help you make better decisions.


What are the most important Jacks or Better Poker hands?

As one would expect, the most important Poker hands include Jacks, which are crucial for winning. That said, a pair of Jacks is considered the weakest winning hand, although you still have a chance of grabbing the main prize, while a Royal Flush is the best winning hand, and it doesn't get better than that. Otherwise, watch out for the following combinations: Straight Flush, Flush, and Full House.


Are Jacks or Better Video Poker games rigged?

No, they're not, but always make sure to look into the legitimacy of the casino that hosts the game. Jacks or Better casino games in online casinos are based on RNG software which means that the games' outcomes are randomly generated. That being said, always keep in mind that online casinos that are legal and licensed need to offer RNG-based casino games, but if you play on a rogue casino that operates without a proper license, you're basically on your own, and you can't be sure that the games are not rigged.


What are Jacks or Better odds?

Jacks or Better odds are around 0.46% which is a low house edge, and it's one of the main advantages of playing the game. That said, keep in mind that the RTP varies based on the developer and the type of Jacks or Better game you are playing.

Full Screen +