Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy
If you’ve played just one video poker game, chances are that it’s Jacks or Better. Jacks or Better is probably the world’s most common video poker game, and it’s also one of the simplest. Given the right pay table and the optimal strategy, Jacks or Better is also a pretty fair game for the player, making it a great game to play if your favorite casino offers it.
The way Jacks or Better Video Poker works is pretty simple. The player is dealt five cards from a simulated 52 card deck, and then may choose to discard as many of these cards as they want to. Every discarded card is replaced by a different card; there is only one copy of each card in the “deck.” Once the player receives their new cards, they are paid based on their final five card hand. If the player has made a pair of jacks or a better hand, then they win!
How much they win depends on the pay table used on the machine. Unfortunately, not every Jacks or Better Video Poker machine offers the same payouts, and finding one with the maximum (or “full”) pay table can sometimes be hard. Here’s the pay chart you should be looking for:
Royal Flush: 800 per coin
Straight Flush: 50 per coin
Four of a Kind: 25 per coin
Full House: 9 per coin
Flush: 6 per coin
Straight: 4 per coin
Three of a Kind: 3 per coin
Two Pair: 2 per coin
Pair of Jacks or Higher: 1 per coin
If you can find this pay table – usually called the 9/6 pay table, thanks to the payouts for a full house and a flush – then you’re in luck, as this table offers the player a return of 99.5%. However, it’s important that you play the maximum number of coins allowed; playing less than this will usually result in a royal flush payout that’s severely reduced. This has a severe effect on your potential return, meaning you should always play on machines where you don’t mind playing for the full five coins.
Even on the 9/6 pay table, you’ll need to play perfect Jacks or Better strategy to get that 99.5% return. Playing that optimal strategy takes a lot of studying, or requires reading for a rather long chart while you play. However, there are shortcuts you can take to get very close to the maximum return.
One such strategy was outlined by Michael Shackleford, who runs The Wizard of Odds website. His strategy will allow you to get a return that’s only 0.1% worse than the optimal strategy, but requires only a fraction of the work to utilize. A similar strategy is outlined below.
A Simple Jacks or Better Strategy
To use this strategy, just look at your initial five card hand, and then follow the chart to determine which cards to keep. You’ll want to keep the top hand possible from the list, and discard any cards which don’t contribute to that hand. Here are the hands to keep, from best to worst:
1. Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, Full House or Three of a Kind
2. Four Cards to a Royal Flush
3. Flush or Straight
4. Four Cards to a Straight Flush
5. Two Pair or a High Pair (Jacks or Better)
6. Three Cards to a Royal Flush
7. Four Cards to a Flush
8. Low Pair
9. Four Cards to a Straight (Open-Ended)
10. Two Suited High Cards (Jacks or Better)
11. Three Cards to a Straight Flush
12. Two High Cards (Jacks or Better)
13. One High Card and a Ten of the Same Suit
14. One High Card
15. Discard Everything