jacks or better strategy

Optimal Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

Jacks or Better is probably the video poker game that is most often played. Often, when someone uses the term video poker, they are specifically referring to the Jacks or Better game 52 cards, no wilds and you need to receive at least a pair of Jacks in order to win on your wager.

A beginner may be confused and approach playing this game as if they were playing a normal hand of 5 card draw. There are certain things that people reach for that isnt in your best interest when you are playing video poker. You may beat the odds once in a while, but overall there is a certain way to play the game.

Best Practices for Playing Jacks or Better

I am going to present you with different scenarios that you might face after you receive your first 5 cards. The obvious choices are to Hold or Discard any or all of the 5 cards. The following list shows you the strength of your hand from lowest to highest and tells you what decision you should make:

  1. You receive 5 cards ranked 10 or lower and no connectors:
    Discard all 5 cards
    This is because your chances of receive a pair of Jacks or higher is better than keeping any of the 5 cards.
  2. You receive 1 card ranked Jack or higher:
    Keep the high card and Discard the other 4 cards
    Obviously, you will have a better chance getting a matching card in 4 tries than getting a pair of Jacks of higher in 5 cards.
  3. You receive a Suited 10-Jack, 10-Queen or 10-King:
    Keep those two cards a discard the other three
    This will give you a small chance of drawing the Royal Flush. Otherwise, the 10s are useless.
  4. You receive 2 Unsuited high cards (Ace, King, Queen, Jack):
    Hold the 2 high cards and discard the other three
    You have a better chance of getting 1 of 2 face cards in 3 tries than getting 1 face card in 4 tires. If you have 3 Unsuited high cards, keep the lowest 2 cards (IE. Jack, Queen) and discard the other.
  5. You receive 2 Suited high cards:
    Hold those 2 cards and discard the other 3
    This will give you a chance at drawing a winning pair, flush or straight.
  6. You receive 4 cards to an Inside Draw:
    Hold the 4 cards and try to draw for the straight.
    The percentages may be low, but you have a larger upside winning the prize for a straight than discarding and trying for a pair of jacks or better.
  7. You receive a Pair of 10s or lower:
    Hold onto the pair and try for a 3 of a kind or 2 pairs
    The percentages are lower than discarding and receiving a pair of Jacks or higher, but not by much and the payout is worth the risk.
  8. You receive 4 cards to a Flush:
    Hold the 4 cards and try to draw for the flush
    This is a no-brainer, unless the 5th card gives you a pair of Jacks or better.
  9. You receive 3 cards to a Royal Flush:
    Hold onto the 3 cards and try to draw for the Royal Flush
    The prize offered for a Royal Flush will trump anything else. The only exception is if you already have a 5 card Flush.
  10. You receive a pair of Jacks or Better:
    Hold onto these 2 cards and discard the other 3
    The only case where you should throw away a winning hand like this is when you receive a good possibility of winning a much larger prize.
  11. You receive 2 pairs:
    Hold these 4 cards and try to draw for a full house
    Having already secured a 2 to 1 win on your bet, this is the only move you should make.
  12. You receive 4 cards to a Straight Flush:
    Hold these 4 cards and try to draw for the Straight Flush
    Because of the potential winnings, you will even throw away a Pair of jacks or better for this chance.
  13. You receive a 3 of a kind:
    Hold those 3 cards and draw for a Full House or 4 of a kind
    This is the only option here. You need to guarantee at least the 3 to 1 win on your bet.
  14. You receive a Pat Hand (straight, flush, full house, 4 of a kind):
    Do not discard
    The 4 of a kind is considered Pat because you cant receive a 5 of a kind.
  15. You receive 4 cards to a Royal Flush:
    Go for the Royal Flush!
    The only exception here is if you already have a Straight Flush. Otherwise, the prize is worth the risk for busting up a normal flush or straight.
  16. If you follow these rules and suggestions: you will have the best chance of winning money overall. This may not cover every single scenario; however this should cover about 99.5% of the hands that you will receive.