Jacks or Better is a simple video poker game to play, and it’s been around as long as video poker has. You start with a five-card hand dealt from a standard 52 card deck of cards and choose card to keep and cards to discard in hopes of improving your hand.
Even though Jacks or Better is a simple game, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances to win. Use these five Jacks or Better tricks to instantly improve your chances to win and reduce your long term losses.
1 – The 9/6 Pay Table
The first trick you need to learn about playing Jacks or Better video poker is the pay tables influence the house edge. The higher the house edge, the faster you lose. So you need to find and play the machines with the best pay tables.
The best pay table that’s commonly available for Jacks or Better is the 9/6 pay table which pays nine for a full house and six for a flush in the single coin column. But this can be somewhat misleading, because if it’s not a machine that pays the correct bonus for a royal flush you still might be on a poor machine.
This is why I always recommend looking at the payouts under the five-coin column. These are the payouts you’re looking for.
Royal flush 4,000 coins
Straight flush 250 coins
Four of a kind 125 coins
Full house 45 coins
Flush 30 coins
Straight 20 coins
Three or a kind 15 coins
Two pairs 10 coins
Jacks or better 5 coins
When you use the best strategy, which I cover later, this pay table has a house edge of around .5%, or a half percent. I never play on a Jacks or Better machine with a worse pay table, because there are other options in the casino that offer lower house edge. These options include some blackjack games and some Deuces Wild video poker machines.
2 – Maximum Coins
Notice on the pay table I listed in the previous section that you win 4,000 coins for a royal flush if you bet five coins. When you see an actual Jacks or Better pay table you’re going to see that if you bet one coin you don’t win 800 coins. In fact, you don’t win extra coins for a royal flush unless you bet five coins.
A 9/6 Jacks or Better is still the best machine available, but if you don’t bet five coins you lose out on the bonus for a royal flush and this makes the overall house edge go up. If you don’t bet five coins you should find another game to play.
The most common coin denominations for video poker include nickel, quarter, dollar, and five-dollar. This means the maximum coin bet costs .25, $1.25, $5, and $25 per hand. I stick with nickel and quarter machines because even with the best pay table and strategy there’s still a house edge.
The problem is that many casinos don’t offer the 9/6 pay table on the lower denomination machines. Even worse, some casino, both online and land-based, have machines that allow you to change the coin denomination, but they change the pay table when you switch the denomination. Keep a close eye on this when you play.
3 – Online or Live Play
I’ve played Jacks or Better in land-based casinos and online, and to me, there really isn’t much difference. It’s easier to find 9/6 pay table machines online, but they’re still available in many land based casinos. The rate of play is about the same in both online and land-based play.
One thing that’s more common online than it is in land-based Jacks or Better play is the option to play more than one hand at a time. While it’s fine if you want to play more than one hand at a time, this is simply a trick the online casinos use to get you to gamble more per spin. It doesn’t change the house edge.
Some online casinos trick players by offering the single hand Jacks or Better game with the 9/6 pay table and offering a lower pay table on their multi-hand games. If you decide to play more than one hand at a time, make sure you’re playing on a 9/6 machine.
4 – Easy Strategy for Big Gains
The best way to have a chance to win when you play Jacks or Better is to use the proper strategy. You need to find a machine with the 9/6 pay table I covered in the first section, but the next most important thing is to use strategy. The good news is it’s easy to use the best strategy.
Here’s a complete strategy list for playing Jacks or Better video poker. Once you receive your starting five-card hand read the list from top to bottom and keep the first hand that you come to that matches what you have. After you look over the list I’m going to explain how this strategy can be broken down to a few simple rules to make it even easier to use.
Four of a kind
Four cards to a royal flush
Three of a kind
Four to a straight flush
Pair of jacks or higher
Three cards to a royal flush
Four cards to a flush
Pair of 10’s or lower
Four cards in an open-end straight
Two suited cards jack or higher
Three cards to a straight flush
Two cards jack or higher
Suited face card with a 10
One card jack or higher
Draw five new cards
This is an extremely easy strategy to remember and use. I recommend printing it out or writing it down until you use it enough to memorize it, but you can see how simple it is to use. Basically you keep any paying hand of a pair of jacks or higher unless you have four cards to a royal flush. This rule takes care of over half the possibilities on the list.
The rest of the lines can quickly be memorized as you play, but you can simplify them using a couple more simple rules. Keep a pair of 10’s or lower unless you have three cards to a royal flush or four cards to a flush. Keep two cards jack or higher, but if you have three cards to a straight flush only keep the two high cards if they’re suited. The final rule is to keep a suited face card with a 10 and then a single card jack or higher.
5 – Tournament Play
They’re not as popular as slot machine tournaments, but some casinos run tournaments. Everything you’ve learned so far is applicable to a Jacks or Better tournament, but there are a few things you need to understand in tournament play.
Video poker tournaments are usually set up in a series of rounds. The top finishers in each round advance to the next round, so it’s important to do everything you can to finish the round with a high score so you can advance.
This means that you need to play as fast as you can until you hit a big win. If you hit a royal flush the best option is to stop playing until the next round because you’re likely to lower your total by continuing to play.
Hitting a straight flush is usually good enough to advance to the next round as well, so stopping is the best option when you hit one. When I play in a tournament I adjust my strategy slightly to take more shots at royal flushes and straight flushes to increase my chances to advance.
Take a few minutes before entering a video poker tournament to make sure you understand how many players advance in each round and how far you need to advance to finish in the money. This information helps you make playing decisions during the tournament.
Using these five Jacks or Better tricks is going to help you improve your chances to win every time you play. Stick with a 9/6 pay table, bet the five-coin maximum on every hand, and always use the strategy list. Take a few minutes to learn the four steps of the simple strategy list so you always make the best possible strategy play.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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