How to Play Jacks or Better Video Poker

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Video Poker, unlike many casino games, has a large skill element – the better you are at the game, the lower the house edge will be. In fact, if you add in incentives at certain casinos or online sites, it’s even possible to move that edge in your favour.

In this article I explain basic strategies you can use at ‘Jacks or Better’ video poker.

Jacks or Better Strategy Guide

Here is a strategy chart you’ll be able to use when playing ‘Jacks or Better’. To use it, you’ll look at your five cards, and see which sections of the list your cards apply. In many cases you’ll find that your cards may actually fall into more than one category, and in this situation you’ll choose the higher option on the list.

For example, you might receive a hand like the following:

Jacks or Better 1

In this example, you meet three different categories. Firstly you have one high card (number 15). Secondly you have three cards to a straight flush (number 12). Finally you have a low pair (number 9).  As the low pair is ranked highest on the list, in this hand you’ll hold both of the two 8’s and discard the other three cards.

  1. A Royal flush, 4 of a kind or a Straight Flush – If you land any of these hands you’ve hit the Jackpot – be careful and make sure you hold them all!
  2. Four cards to a Royal Flush – Discard the other card and hope to hit the one (or two if open-ended) card that will give you the Jackpot. You might hit a flush or a straight even if you miss the royal flush.
  3. A full house, Flush, Straight or 3 of a kind – You’ll hold all of your cards with the Full House, the Flush and the Straight – discard the other two kinds with 3 of a kind.
  4. Four cards to a Straight Flush – Discard the other card, and hope to land the one or two cards that will give you the second best hand in the game.
  5. Two Pairs – Discard the other card and hope for the card that will improve your hand to a Full House.
  6. High Pair – Stick with any pair that is Jacks or higher. Discard the other three cards.
  7. Three cards to a Royal Flush – Discard the other two and hope you hit a Royal Flush, a Flush or even a straight.
  8. Four cards to a Flush – Discard the non-suited card and hope you hit the Flush card.
  9. Low Pair – With any pairs between 2-2 and 10-10, you will hold these paired cards and discard the other three.
  10. Four to an Open Ended Straight – These are four cards in a row, such as 7-8-9-10 or 3-4-5-6 where you’ll have opportunities to hit the straight at either end. Discard the other card.
  11. Two Suited High Cards – Hold two suited high cards between a Jack and an Ace and discard the other three.
  12. Three Cards to a Straight Flush – Keep these three cards and discard the other two.
  13. Two Unsuited High Cards – If you have two unsuited cards between a Jack and an Ace, you’ll keep them and discard the other three. If you have more than two, you’ll keep the lower two and discard the highest of the three.
  14. 10/J, 10/Q or 10/K Suited – Keep these two cards and discard the other three.
  15. One high card – If you have any card between a Jack and an Ace, keep it and discard the other four cards.
  16. If you have five cards which fall into none of the above categories, you’ll discard them all and hope to land a hand with your five new cards!

Notes on Applying the Strategy Correctly

Your ‘basic’ strategy when playing ‘Jacks or Better’ will change depending on the payout at the games. The strategy listed above is designed for the ‘standard’ 9/6 game (named because the Full House and the Flush payouts are 9 and 6). The chart below shows these ‘standard’ payouts.

Jacks or Better 2

If finding a game with a different payout (perhaps a 9/5 or an 8/6 game) the strategy outlined above will not be optimum (although will still give you a very high return percentage).

The House Edge when using the Basic Strategy

If using this strategy at ‘Jacks or Better’, you’ll have a return of 99.46%, meaning that for every $100 you play with, you’ll expect to lose $0.54. If playing using guesswork, as many players will, the house edge will be much, much more – so employing this strategy will make your casino funds last longer, and give you more chance of hitting that big huge profit hand.

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