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Complete Guide to Jacks or Better Strategy

Complete Guide to Jacks or Better Strategy

Poker has different variations, and both new and experienced players enjoy Jacks or Better for its simplicity, fast pace, and high odds of winning. Even though it is a straightforward game, developing the best Jacks or Better strategy is key to success. 

Yes, there's a strategy that will help you maximise your chances of finishing the game with more than you started with. 

Hold! We'll explain how to play Jacks or Better effectively and make the right decisions as different combinations of cards appear in front of you. Deal!

What is Jacks or Better?

Jacks or Better is one of the most popular video poker variants, and it can be found in many online casinos. It is similar to five-draw poker, except the lowest winning combination is a pair of Jacks.

If you’ve played video poker before, you can jump to Jacks or Better and enjoy the game. If you’ve never played poker, this game is excellent for kickstarting your journey. Arguably, it is the easiest version of poker to play, so you have nothing to worry about.

How to Play Jacks or Better

Playing Jacks or Better doesn’t require special skills, but we recommend you try a demo version before you start wagering real money. Before we start discussing strategy, we have to look at technicalities. In a nutshell, the game goes like this:

  1. Place your bet
  2. Deal five cards
  3. Hold and discard
  4. Draw remaining cards

The first thing you must do is place your bet. Usually, online video poker has minimum and maximum limits. Once you place the bet, five cards will appear on your screen. In live environments, this is when the dealer hands you cards.

You then have to decide which cards to hold and which to discard. You can do so simply by clicking the card or the hold button. This is where the Jacks or Better video poker strategy comes into place, but we’ll discuss it later.

You draw the remaining cards once you choose the combination of cards that gives you the most chance to win. You don’t have to hold any card if you don’t like the combination you’ve received or can hold all five cards, which is rarely something to do.

You win if you have a pair of Jacks or any better combination. The win will be displayed on the screen. Win or lose, the game resets, and you start over.

Jacks or Better Hand Ranking

At the end of each round, you receive a payout based on the strength of your hand. Understanding hand ranking is critical to determining which cards to hold.

The Jacks or Better hand ranking is easy to grasp. As the game's name suggests, you must have Jacks or better to receive a payout. This is the weakest pair in this video poker variation, and it pays 1x. In other words, you’re getting your wager back. The same goes for the pair of Queens, Kings or Aces.

As you climb up the ladder, you can expect payouts for two pairs, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush and royal flush.

Jacks or Better Basic Strategy

Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

The RTP for the standard video poker can range from 90% to 97%. Why is this important? Because the first part of your strategy is choosing the right game, we recommend “9-6” Jacks or Better. Apply the right strategy to this version of Jacks or Better, and the RTP can reach the maximum of 99.54%.

To win at Jacks or Better, we advise you follow the five basic rules: 

  1. If you hold one high card, draw four cards, hoping to get a pair or a better combo.
  2. Always hold three of a kind and draw the remaining two.
  3. Hold four of a kind, two pairs, or four cards to a straight or flush and draw one.
  4. A straight, flush, full house, a straight flush, and a royal straight flush are winning. Don’t make a mistake by drawing a new card.
  5. If there are no potential combinations and no Jacks or higher, draw five new cards.

As you can see, the basic video poker Jacks or Better strategy revolves around keeping the winning combinations and not trying to pull out something almost impossible, hoping for a big win. It’s much better to build up your balance slowly as you go. 

Learning the five basic rules sets the foundation for the advanced strategy. Play around with these until you’re comfortable enough to recognise the winning combinations and know what you must hold and draw to win. You’d be surprised how many players blunder a winning hand out of the lack of focus.

Let’s move to some advanced scenarios to help you take your game to the next level.

Advanced Strategy for Jacks or Better - Tips and Tricks

To truly learn how to play Jacks or Better poker, take a look at these advanced tips and apply them to increase your chances of winning: 

  • If you have a suited 10 and an Ace, always keep the Ace and discard the 10.
  • When you start with three cards to a royal flush and no pairs, keep the three cards and draw two.
  • If you have 3 unsuited high cards and the highest card as an ace, then keep the lowest two high cards.
  • Keep the high cards if you have 4 to an inside straight and 2 high cards or 1 high card.
  • If you have 4 to an inside straight but not any high card, discard everything.

For clarification, the inside straight is known as a gutshot. It is a straight draw, but the card you require to cash out is in the middle. For example, you may hold 10 Jacks, King and Ace and require a Queen. Although intuitively, you’d want to go for it, the chances of hitting one specific card are really low.

The five rules we’ve mentioned can trick you. The combination of cards may seem reasonable to pursue, but the odds aren’t in your favour. 

We’re not done, though. Let’s talk about pairs!

Hold or Break High and Low Pairs in Jacks or Better

Whether you hold or break the high pair depends on the situation. For example, you’re advised to hold the pair if you’re four to a flush, four to a straight, or three to a Royal Flush. It's better to hold a pair still when you’re three to a straight flush, but some players love to risk it, and we fully understand. But when you’re four to a Royal Flush, that opportunity doesn’t come as often, so go for it. 

It’s a bit different when it comes to holding a low pair. Even though low pairs aren’t paying, there’s a better chance of landing three of a kind or two pairs, than scoring with one of those combinations. However, low pairs aren’t paying and we get why people tend to discard them, although it’s going against the odds.

Statistically speaking, these are the best plays, but some players like to risk it. If you’re one card off, trying and hitting the high-paying winning hand can be tempting.

Jacks or Better Video Poker - Common Mistakes to Avoid

Jacks or Better video poker is a game of skills that involves knowing your odds well. For best results, nail down the basic strategy and follow the advanced strategy strictly. 

One of the most prominent mistakes players make is going with gut instincts. It’s a game of numbers, so always keep that in mind. 

If we had to select one important rule, it would be to never draw when you have inside straights! Lastly, as with other casino games, don’t chase your losses; cash out when you make a profit. 

Overall, Jacks or Better is an excellent game for poker enthusiasts. It is easy for beginners to learn and offers great chances to walk out winning. Learn the strategy first, and don’t hesitate to follow it, despite your instincts suggesting otherwise.