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 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.
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:
Four of a Kind
Three of a Kind
Pair of Jacks or Better
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.
Another 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, 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
3 to a Royal Flush
4 to a Flush
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
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
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
3 of a Kind
4 to a Straight Flush
3 to a Royal Flush
4 to a Flush
Unsuited 10, J, Q K, A
4 to an Outside Straight that includes 2 High Cards
3 to a Straight Flush
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
2 Unsuited High Cards with K s the highest
Suited 10 K
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
The 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.
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.
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.
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