Basic Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

Published: January 6, 2012

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Jacks or Better is the most played variant of video poker at online casinos. It is a game of skill along with luck. Players must correctly select which cards to hold and which cards to discard. There are different strategies available for making this selection. The simplest of these will provide a return of 99.45% to the player. This means that if a player wagers $100 he will expect to lose 0.55 cents in the long term. The more complicated Jacks or Better video poker strategies improve the return to the player to 99.55%. This improves the player’s expectation by only 10 cents for every $100 wagered. Therefore most video poker players, especially new players, rely on the basic Jacks or Better strategy.

The basic strategy for Jacks or Better video poker classifies the hands into two groups. The first is the unmade hand that does not have a winning combination. In this case players have to memorize a list of hand rankings. They then have to hold cards so to have the highest possible of the hand rankings in the list. The list is not difficult to memorize because it follows a logical sequence. The list in descending order is as follows: four to a royal flush, four to a straight flush, three to a royal flush, four to a flush, low pairs, four to a straight, three to a straight flush, two to a royal flush, two unpaired cards higher than jack and one card higher than jack. Low pairs are a pair of tens or lower, which do not appear in the payout table for Jacks or Better. In the event that none of these combinations can be made the player should discard all five cards and take five new ones.

The second group of dealt cards is those that already contain a winning combination. The basic Jacks or Better video poker strategy states that never break a winning combination, except in two cases. The first case is that four cards to a straight flush is preferred over a jacks or better pair. An example is when the player is dealt nine, ten, jack and queen of hearts and queen of spades. The player must break the queen pair and discard the queen of spades in the hope of drawing an eight or a king or any heart. The payout for a straight flush seen in conjunction with the probability of drawing the fifth card to make a straight or a flush accounts for this exception. The second case is when the player holds four cards to a royal flush then the fifth card must be discarded even if it contributes to a paying combination. An example is when the player is dealt nine, ten, jack, queen and king of hearts. The player must break the straight flush and discard the nine of hearts in the hope of drawing the ace of hearts.

This basic strategy is for the 9-6 version of Jacks or Better. Most online versions fall in this category, but it is better to check out the payout tables to confirm this. The 9-6 version refers to a payout of 9 to 1 for full house and 6 to 1 for flush. The alternative versions are 8-6 and 8-5. These should never be played. 8-6 Jacks or Better offers a return of 98.4% and 8-5 Jacks or Better offers a return of 97.3%


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