The Pros and Cons of Online Jacks or Better Video Poker

Online Jacks or Better video poker stands as perhaps the most popular of all online video poker variations. That’s pretty impressive considering that it was essentially the first type of video poker created. We’re here to tell you about both the pros and cons of online Jacks or Better video poker so that you can decide if it’s the right game for you.

In the world of online video poker, you can find an impressive amount of variations on the basic format of the game. Many players like to sample all of these different formats to see which game suits their gambling needs the best. And that variety is one of the reasons many gamblers prefer video poker to all other possibilities.

But it is interesting that the version of the game that’s most popular is the one arrived first. It’s called Jacks or Better, and it was the format used when video poker first came into existence. Not only is it the most popular online video poker version, but it is also the most-played version of the game in casinos.

For those who don’t know, online Jacks or Better video poker is named because the minimum hand that you have to achieve in order to receive payback (or “win” the hand) is a pair of Jacks. As it turns out that’s the case in many other video poker games, so the thing that actually distinguishes Jacks or Better is the structure of its pay table.

On a Jacks or Better pay table, pay is ladled out directly in accordance with the likelihood of your achieving a hand. The less likely it is that you’ll achieve a hand, the more it pays. Many of the sites that branched off from Jacks or Better deviated from that formula to an extent.

When you check out online video poker, you can see that many of the games available to you are variations on Jacks or Better. The pay table might be slightly altered in terms of what certain winning hands award. But the overall structure is pretty much standard among all online Jacks or Better video poker games.

On the one hand, online Jacks or Better video poker has sustained the way it has because a lot of people are more than happy to play it. Yet the other way to look at it is that there are dozens of online video poker versions that are quite different. That wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t a demand for people for something different than Jacks or Better play.

Pros and Cons of Online Jacks or Better Video Poker

With that in mind, we’re going to look into the pros and cons of online Jacks or Better video poker. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll know everything you need to know about the game’s advantages and disadvantages. And, as a result, you’ll be able to decide if it’s the game for you.

Pro: It’s Easy To Understand

When you’re playing online Jacks or Better video poker, you’re playing the most basic version of video poker that can be found. There aren’t any special features, and the pay table is easy to understand. As a result, it’s an excellent game for beginners.

For the most part, online Jacks or Better video poker breaks down a replication of the card game known as Five-Card Draw. You’ll be getting five cards and will have a chance to discard cards while holding others. New cards will be drawn to replace the cards that are discarded to complete the hand.

But Five-Card Draw requires you to beat everyone at the table. Five-Card Draw often includes several betting rounds, where the players often try to bluff their way to winning the hand. This basically ups the difficulty level and can be quite confusing for beginning players.

In the case of video poker, you don’t have to worry about the betting aspect. You just have to make one of the winning combinations on the pay table:

  • Two pair
  • Three of a kind
  • Straight (five cards of consecutive rank, like 3-4-5-6-7)
  • Flush (five cards of same suit)
  • Full House (three of a kind and two pair in the same hand
  • Four of a kind
  • Straight flush (straight with five cards of same suit)
  • Royal Flush (ten, jack, queen, king and ace of the same suit)

Con: Less Spice

For people who have played video poker for a long time, online Jacks or Better play could conceivably seem stale. This is especially the case if they’re playing a single hand at a time. It can seem like drudgery if they’ve played the game often.

This is one of the many times in the article where whether something is a pro or a con can come down to personal preference.

For Example:

For example, if you’re the type that is all about the end result, you might not care how you get there. You might be able to put aside any concerns about stale game play if it means that you can end up playing the game at a high level.

The other way to look at it is that there is a way to spice up online Jacks or Better video poker somewhat. If you can find a gambling website offering you the chance of multiple play, you can pick up the pace of play considerably. You could play anywhere from three or five hands at a time to even 25, 50 or 100 hands at once.

That said, no matter how many hands you play, you’re still left with the basic style of play. For some, online Jacks or Better might be too much of a bore to consider. If you fall into that category, there are many different games you can try.

Pro: Most Like Poker

We mentioned above that online Jacks or Better is the video poker version that offers payback strictly based on how often hands come up. Well, when you’re playing other forms of poker, such as Five-Card Draw or Texas Hold ‘Em, the rankings of winning hands are based on the same idea.

For Example:

A royal flush is the highest-ranking hand in poker games because it is the hardest achieve. It’s also the highest-paying of all online Jacks or Better video poker hands.

In other words, online Jacks or Better video poker will probably seem the most familiar to you if you’re used to playing other poker games, either at casinos or among friends. Your strategic instincts will be better as well. You’ll understand the dichotomy between playing it safe for an easy hand to make and trying to do better with one of the rarer, higher paying hands.

When you start to move away from online Jacks or Better video poker, those strategies will get mixed up a bit. For example, once you move on to some of the Bonus pay tables, you’ll be dealing with four of a kind hands that often pay more than a straight flush. This is despite the fact that you have much less of a chance of achieving four of a kind than you would getting a straight flush.

That can be a confusing spin for people who are used to playing other forms of poker. And if you don’t take the time to learn the specifics of each alternate pay table and how they alter strategy, you could end up making mistakes when it comes to what cards to hold and what to discard. Those mistakes will eventually damage your payback percentage.

Con: High-Paying Hands Are Difficult To Come By

Let’s take a look at the most common pay table for online Jacks or Better video poker:

Jacks or Better Pay Table

Coins/Hands 1 Coin 2 Coins 3 Coins 4 Coins 5 Coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 6 12 18 24 30
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5

Imagine that you were playing a Jacks or Better game with a denomination of a dollar. When you do it this way, you can imagine that the payback amounts on the pay table are directly related to the dollar amount.

As you can see, there are only three ways for you to win over $100 on a single hand. You would have to bet at least five dollars per hand and achieve either four of a kind, a straight flush, or a royal flush. If you’ve ever played poker before, you probably know that these hands don’t come up very often.

You can narrow your chances by selling out to achieve these hands. But doing so might compromise proper strategy and cause you to lose some of your potential payback in the long run.

In other words, you often have to nickel-and-dime your way to success playing online Jacks or Better video poker. Many gamblers simply don’t have the patience to do that.

Pro: Low Volatility

When you play online Jacks or Better video poker, you’re playing with one of the lowest volatility rates of all video poker games. And video poker ranks pretty low on the volatility scale anyway when you compare it to other casino games. In other words, you can expect pretty steady play when you’re dealing with online Jacks or Better.

Remember that volatility is a measure of how frequent and how steep the shifts between winning and losing will be when you’re playing a given video poker game. To illustrate, imagine a graph with a horizontal line as being representative of a game where you broke even every single hand, not winning or losing a cent along the way.

In a low-volatility game, there would be just slight bumps above and below the line. Whereas a high-volatility game would look like giant mountains and cavernous valleys rising and falling all along the line.

The big advantage of a low-volatility game like online Jacks or Better video poker game is that you can usually play for a long time on a small bankroll. As the volatility rises, the chances that you won’t be able to sustain the bankroll rises as well. This is known as the risk of ruin, and you can keep it under control by playing online Jacks or Better video poker.

Con: Low Volatility

You might think that low volatility is always a good thing. Well, that’s not necessarily true. This is another case where you might have a different outlook which could affect whether it’s a pro or con.

If you’re the type who just wants to play for as long as possible, more for enjoyment than anything else, online Jacks of Better video poker gives you the best opportunity to do that. But what if you like a bit of a rollercoaster ride? You won’t really get that from Jacks or Better play.

Pretty much any other video poker game that you find online will feature a volatility level higher than Jacks or Better. In some cases, high volatility might be what you’re seeking.

For Example:

Maybe you don’t have the time or inclination to play video poker for a long stretch of time. You instead want to see what you can get out of the game in the short time that you have. One of the characteristics of high-volatility video poker is that it gives you a better chance of winning a lot in a short amount of time.

That means that you probably won’t be as worried about the risk of ruin. If you fall into this category, you’ll be thinking of low volatility level of online Jacks or Better video poker as more of a hindrance than a help.

Pro: Easily Found

When you’re choosing a game to play online, there are two factors that should go into it. First of all, you should base your choice on the characteristics of the game itself. We’ve been talking about the good and bad of online Jacks or Better video poker to this point.

But the other major factor should be the website that hosts it. There are hundreds of gambling websites out there from which you can choose. Only a small fraction of those websites are actually solid options for gamblers.

When you’re seeking out lesser-known video poker games because you might like how the pay table is set up or because it has an interesting twist, you might only be able to find them at sites that are less than reliable. If that’s the case, it might not matter if you do well or not playing the game. The negative experience that you have might outweigh any possible positives.

In the case of online Jacks or Better video poker, you can go into it knowing that you’ll have a pretty good chance of finding at just about any site that offers video poker. That means that you can choose a website that suits you in terms of what it has to offer. When choosing top video poker websites, always look for these characteristics:

  • Variety of games
  • Solid bonuses
  • Reliable withdrawals and deposits
  • Many different funding options
  • Mobile betting capability
  • Excellent customer service

Con: Less Jackpot Potential

Let’s take a look at one of the more popular video poker variations that diverges from an online Jacks or Better game:

Triple Double Bonus Pay Table

Hand/Coins 1 Coin 2 Coins 3 Coins 4 Coins 5 Coins
Royal flush 200 400 600 800 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind – aces 2, 3, 4 kicker 800 1600 2400 3200 4000
4 of a kind – 2s, 3s, or 4s A, 2, 3, or 4 kicker 400 800 1200 1600 2000
4 of a kind – aces 5s – Ks kicker 160 320 480 640 800
4 of a kind – 2s, 3s, or 4s 5s – Ks kicker 80 160 240 320 400
4 of a kind – any other 50 100 150 200 250
Full house 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 7 14 21 28 35
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 2 4 6 8 10
2 Pairs 1 2 3 4 5
Pair of jacks + 1 2 3 4 5

You can see that, when you compare it to Jacks or Better, there are many more opportunities for high-payout hands in Triple Double Bonus. Every four of a kind hand pays back twice as much as is the case with Jacks or Better.

The drawback is that you’re only getting 2 to 1 for three of a kind and even money for two pair when playing Triple Double Bonus (compared to 3 to 1 for three of a kind and 2 to 1 for two pair on Jacks or Better.) But if it’s jackpots you’re after, you’ll gladly make those tradeoffs.

Pro: Solid Payback

Online Jacks or Better video poker might not be the fanciest game around, but it does well in the payback area. That is especially the case for the pay table listed above, also known as 9/6 Jacks or Better because of the payback for a full house (9 to 1) and flush (6 to 1.)

When you find this pay table on an online gambling site, you’ll be looking at a payback percentage of 99.54 percent, assuming you play the game with expert strategy. That means you’d be facing a house edge of only .46.

When you consider that you should be able to earn bonuses and rewards from gambling websites for frequent play, such payback percentage is highly beneficial. You can actually hope to make a profit playing a game like this over a long period of time.

Very few casino games, online or otherwise, give you the chance to eliminate the house edge. Online Jacks or Better puts that within reach for you. If the bottom line is the real reason you partake in online gambling, that factor should mean more to you than anything else we’ve brought up to this point.

Con: Tough To Find That Solid Payback

That 99.54 percent that we mentioned as potential payback for online Jacks or Better video poker only comes into play if you find the specific 9/6 pay table above. And, quite frankly, that isn’t the easiest thing to do. Many gambling websites understand that such a pay table is advantageous to gamblers and might try to limit exposure to it as a result.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to spot where an online Jacks or Better video poker is altered to offer less payout. You’ll see a discount in either (or both) of the paybacks for the full house and the flush. These are generally the two hands where adjustments are made.

If you see that the full house is only paying 8 to 1 or lower, your expected payback percentage will drop as a result. You might see the flush payback drop to 5 to 1 as well. When they both go down, your payback will take a double whammy.

Once these hands are adjusted for less payback, the payback for online Jacks or Better video poker will indeed drop below 99 percent. And once you’re below that threshold, it will be tough for you to imagine making a profit in the long term, even with bonuses factored into the equation. Keep that in mind if you indeed have to settle for one of these lesser pay tables.

Conclusion

We hope that you now understand all the potential pros and cons that go along with playing online Jacks or Better video poker. If you do, you should be able to decide whether this is the right game for you or if you should be searching elsewhere on the online video poker spectrum.

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Jim Beviglia

Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog. For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a harness racing establishment near his home. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Marie and daughter Daniele, both of whom are used to hearing his long-winded monologues about either the struggles of his Fantasy baseball team or which Beatles song is definitively the best.

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