Jacks or Better is one of the most popular video poker formats. This has been the go-to version of the game since video poker terminals hit casinos and bars. It is based on draw poker, when you get a single draw and aim to hit jack-jack or better to win.
You’ll get to choose whether to hold or discard any or all of your five cards. The best payout in Jacks or Better is for a Royal Flush, which pays 800 coins (or in some casinos, a progressive jackpot prize).
Jacks or Better can be played in regulated states both at online and live casinos. This page details exactly how the game works, the best payouts you should look for and the optimal strategies behind playing the game.
Jacks or Better – Look for a full pay table, otherwise known as 9/6
There are two important considerations when you first play Jacks or Better. The first is the pay table, to ensure you are gaining the best odds possible. The second is the number of coins in play, which also has a large effect on the odds.
The first thing you should look at in the pay table are the prizes for a full house and a flush. You’ll want to ensure that the payout for the full house is 9 coins and that the payoff for a flush is 6 coins.
In some variations of the game, these payouts can be lowered to 8 and 5 coins respectively. While these differences might seem minor, the house edge increases from around 0.5% to 2.5% in the lower paid version. This is a 5x difference in the house edge. Take a quick glance at the pay table, and ensure you are playing the higher paying games (there are plenty of variations to choose from, especially online).
Number of Coins in Play
This is another serious consideration, as you should always opt for the 5-coin option. The payout for a Royal Flush betting one coin is 250 coins. If you bet 2, 3 or 4 coins, the payout increases to 500, 750 and 1,000 coins respectively.
However, if you play for the maximum 5 coins, the Royal Flush payout jumps to 2,000 coins (instead of the expected 1,250 coins).
Therefore, if you were to play a game with a total stake of $5 for example, you should always play 5 coins for $1, instead of 1 coin for $5. If you don’t play for 5 coins you are missing out on expected value.
How Jacks or Better Works
To start the game, you’ll hit the ‘Deal’ button which will deal you five cards. You’ll now get to choose how many of those 5 cards you want to hold or discard. Any of the cards you discard (which when playing the best strategy will usually be most of them) will now be replaced by new cards. You now have your final hand and you’ll be paid if you do indeed have Jacks or Better.
Here is an example payout for Jacks or Better (with the 9/6 pays for the full house and flush).
- Royal Flush: 800
- Straight Flush: 50
- 4 of a Kind: 25
- Full House: 9
- Flush: 6
- Straight: 4
- 3 of a kind: 3
- 2 Pair: 2
- Jacks or Better: 1
Strategy for Playing Jacks or Better
Much of the strategy around playing Jacks or Better is seemingly common sense, especially if you are dealt a series of big cards. However, things can get a little tricky when you have two potential ways to go (such as five cards that include a pair and the potential of a straight).
Here are some key pointers you can use in your strategy:
If you are dealt a royal flush, a straight flush, four of a kind, a full house and a flush, these hands play themselves and you should hold all cards. If you have four to a Royal Flush, hold those above a full house and a flush.
Pairs are all-important in Jacks or Better. If you receive a single high pair (Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces) within your five cards, these should be held instead of four cards of the same suit or even three of the five cards that make up a Royal Flush.
Even holding a low pair is deemed the best strategy over a number of deals. For example, if you are dealt a pair of 3’s in a hand that includes 7, 8 and 9 that are suited, you should hold those 3’s and discard the straight flush opportunity.
If you have a hand with just two high cards (with no other possibilities such as flushes and straights), or even just a single high card, you should simply hold them and discard the others. You’ll hold those high cards to give you a better possibility of hitting those high pairs.
Remember, when you are playing Jacks or Better, a high card is considered to be any picture card or an ace.
Jacks or Better Cheat Sheet
This strategy chart (cheat sheet) outlines what you should do in the event you are met with the following conditions.
- 2 Pairs: Unless you’re drawing to a four card royal flush, you should always keep any two pair combination.
- 4 card straight flush: You’ll want to keep any 4 card straight flush.
- Jacks or better: Hold if you have a pair of jacks or better (any).
- 3 cards to a royal flush: Hold if you have three cards to a royal flush.
- 4 cards to a flush: Hold if you have four cards to a flush
- Pair lower than J’s: Hold if you have a pair lower than J’s.
- Open straight draw: Hold if you have any four card open straight draw.
- AKQJ: Hold if you have unsuited AKQJ in your hand.
- 2 suited high cards: Hold if you have any two high cards (suited).
- 3 cards to a straight flush: Hold if you have three cards drawing to a straight flush.
- KQJ: Hold if you have any KQJ (unsuited).
- Unsuited high cards: Hold if you have any two high cards (unsuited).
- K, Q, J + 10 of same suit: Hold if you have any K, Q, or J, but only if you’re holding a 10 of the same suit.
- High card: Hold if you have any single high card.
- None of the above: Draw five new cards
Jackpot Variations of Jacks or Better
Occasionally, you can come across jackpot versions of this popular game, with the maximum prize for the Royal Flush awarding you a progressive jackpot. If the jackpot prize is much larger than the standard payout for the Royal Flush, this can change your video poker strategy slightly, especially in situations where you have three cards to the hand (at this point you should prioritize the Royal Flush more).
Wrapping Up – Is there a ‘Better’ Video Poker Variation than Jacks or Better?
Jacks or Better can be considered one of the classic video poker games. With no wilds thrown into the mix, the big hands can be hard to land. While this sounds like a bad thing, it’s actually the opposite – due to that difficulty, the payouts are that much bigger in Jacks or Better.
Likewise, if you can find a full pay table, you can decrease the house edge significantly. Correct play,
The game can now be enjoyed online, as well as in the live casinos. Online casinos in NJ, Pennsylvania, MI and WV are regulating online casinos, giving you the chance to play the game if you are located within the state lines. Check out Jacks or Better and many other video poker formats online.