5 Steps to Improve Your Jacks or Better Play

5 Steps to Improve Your Jacks or Better Play

January 18, 2011.

Jacks or Better is the most popular video poker game in the casinos. The game is based on five-card draw poker. The player is dealt five cards after making their wager, and can choose which ones to keep and which ones to discard. After the player makes his or her decision, the discarded cards are replaced with others in the deck. The resulting five-card hand is then scored according to the paytable, and the player is paid accordingly.

The game is often cited as one of the best bets in the casino. However, if played incorrectly, Jacks or Better can be an expensive gamble. Many people want to learn how to play this game, but don’t want to take the time to learn optimal strategy in-depth. Instead of memorizing a huge list, just keep these five tips in your mind to greatly improve your Jacks or Better play.

#1: Look for the best paytable you can find.

Above all else, this is the most important factor to consider. Casinos have become increasingly stingy over how hands are paid in Jacks or Better, and often increase the house edge by reducing the payout for a full house and a flush. The best machine is the 9/6 machine. This means that a full house pays 9 coins and a flush pays 6 coins. The house edge of this game, when played perfectly, is an incredibly small 0.46%. Compare that to an 8/5 machine, which has a much higher house edge of 2.71%. Online casinos generally use the 9/6 paytable, but be sure to look for the best deal before you start playing.

#2: Play max coins.

The second fundamental rule that all Jacks or Better players should know is to play max coins. If you can’t afford max coins with your bankroll, step down to a lower coin denomination. It’s important to play max coins because you get a bonus on the royal flush. Although it doesn’t happen very often, this bonus significantly increases the return of the machine. All house edge figures you find online are based on a max coin wager, and since we’re looking to lower the house edge, be sure you set the machine to max coins before playing!

#3: Low pairs are your friends.

When it comes to how to hold cards, one of the most costly mistakes is not properly holding low pairs. Low pairs (a pair of deuces through a pair of tens), while they don’t pay themselves, greatly increase your chance of hitting a two pair or better. If you only have a low pair, hold the pair alone. Don’t hold any high cards with the pair. While it’s a common move in five-card draw poker, there is no reason to do so in Jacks or Better.

#4: Don’t go out of your way to get a straight or flush.

Many players are too aggressive when trying to get a straight or a flush, and aren’t considering the odds of it actually happening. Suppose you have 3 cards of spades in your hand. That would mean there are 10 more spades in the virtual deck. By doing the math, there is only a 3% chance of getting a flush: certainly not worth getting just six times your bet. Only go for a straight when you only need one more card and have at least 3 high cards in the straight or no gaps. Only go for a flush when you only need one more card.

#5: Hold high cards in twos, not threes.

Many times, you will be dealt several non-paired high cards. The important thing to remember in these cases is to hold the two lowest and discard the rest. For instance, if you are dealt 2-9-J-K-A, and none of the high cards are suited, you would hold the jack and the king. Do not keep the ace, and obviously discard the 2 and the 9.

However, if there are suited high cards, always pick a set of suited high cards over a set of non-suited high cards. If, in the above example, the king and the ace were suited, you would hold them and not the jack.

That’s all! By following these five basic tips, you’ll greatly increase your long-term return playing Jacks or Better video poker, one of the most exciting (and fair) games in the casino.