Jacks or Better

In the early days, Jacks or Better WAS Video Poker. The game is still popular amongst gamblers today, even though there are now dozens of other variants which (in my opinion) offer far more excitement than regular old Jacks or Better Video Poker.

Why is this? When Jacks or Better was first devised, its inventor chose to offer only small prizes for every hand other than a Straight Flush, or a Royal Flush. The problem is, both of these hands are just as rare in Video Poker as they are in a game of regular poker.

Even if you play this game for several hours every single day, it could still take many months – possibly even a year or more – before you hit one of these elusive top-tier hands. The reason for this is that your chances of being dealt a natural royal flush are 1 in 649,740.

This reduces enormously if, for example, you are dealt three to a royal and only need to hit the other two cards, but I think this makes it clear – you are going to be waiting a long time in between big hits if you stick to playing Jacks or Better!

Michael Shakleton, also known as the Wizard of Odds, has calculated that your chances of hitting a royal flush in Jacks or Better are 1 in 40,388 with all other factors taken into account. The craziest thing is that even though the Straight Flush pays a mere fraction of the prize awarded for a Royal Flush, yet your odds of hitting one are only marginally better.

These issues were quickly spotted by avid players of Video Poker machines, which led to the development of alternatives such as Deuces Wild, Aces & Eights, and Double Double Bonus Poker.

Essential Things to Know Before you Play

If you already know how to play poker, you’ll have no problem getting to grips with Jacks or Better, or any of its countless sequels and variations. There is one little oddity that has been part of the game since the start and persists to this day, despite being wholly unfair and unnecessary.

I am, of course, talking about the five-coin bonus that is attached to a Royal Flush. It works like this – the paytable shows a jackpot of 4,000 coins in the top-right corner, usually in a column labeled “5 Coins”.  When playing Video Poker, a “coin” is the denomination that you select before you begin to play the game.

Some players will stick to a 1c denomination – you could still win $40, after all, if that’s your thing. More realistically, a denomination size of 25c or $1 is often chosen as these two amounts have the possibility of paying you either $1,000 or $4,000 respectively.

Now here is the catch – if you choose a $1 denomination and choose to play all five coins, you will be eligible to collect the 4,000 coin bonus for Royal Flush. On the other hand, choosing a $5 denomination but setting the game to play only one coin is the worst thing you can ever do – if you hit a royal flush, you will receive just 250 coins back instead of 800.

This rule has stuck around for decades, despite it making little sense in the era of cashless gaming machines and bar-coded paper tickets. Every variation of Video Poker found on the casino floor seems to use this rule, but online I have noticed a few games where you win 800 coins for a royal flush even if you are playing only one coin. We can but hope that this becomes the standard in the future.

How to Play Jacks or Better

After hitting the deal button you will receive five cards, which are usually shown along the bottom of the screen. You can choose to hold any number of these cards – keep one, keep all of them, or keep none – it’s entirely your choice. Much like Blackjack, there is a mathematically correct decision that you should opt for in every possible situation, and every deviation you make from this moves you further away from the stated RTP of the machine.

Once you have chosen the cards you wish to keep, hit deal again and your “discards” will be removed and replaced with new cards. The five cards now on-screen make up your final five-card poker hand.

The minimum hand required for a win in this game is, fittingly, a pair of Jacks or Better. Sadly, this won’t give you any kind of profit, but you will receive your bet back. The minimum hand required to make any money in Jacks or Better is two pairs.

Some machines will give you the option to gamble your winnings after each hand if you wish. The gamble feature is popular with casual gamblers but completely ignored by those with a deeper understanding of Video Poker. The reason for this is quite simple – your bankroll won’t go very far if you keep losing your winnings to the gamble feature!

The History of Video Poker and Jacks or Better

Let’s rewind a little and head back to the middle of the 1970s. Intel had released its first Microchip in 1971, but it took a few years for engineers and techies to get to grips with the new technology. By 1975, Si Redd was well on his way to creating “Fortune 1 Draw Poker,”  the predecessor to the modern game of Jacks or Better.

Before writing this article, I’d never even heard of “Fortune 1 Draw Poker”. The game was very similar to Jacks or Better but lacked the lowest payout for a pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings, or Aces. The reason why most people haven’t heard of Fortune 1 is that the game was a complete flop – with two pairs occupying the lowest spot on the paytable, this meant that you would only “win” roughly 13% of the time.

Effectively, nine out f ten plays on Fortune 1 Draw Poker resulted in a loss. The payout for two pairs was much higher than in Jacks or Better, of course, but this wasn’t enough – gamers found Fortune 1 boring to play.

The “Lightbulb Moment”

Si Redd then came up with the idea of adding a payout for a pair of “Jacks or Better”. This would mean players won much more often. The sneaky thing is, you only receive your original stake back for hitting a pair of Jacks or Better. This didn’t seem to matter to the casino patrons who were now getting hooked on this new form of Poker.

All of these early Jacks or Better machines were manufactured by SIRCOMA – shorthand for “Si Redd’s Coin Operated Machines”. Despite the company name and the professional image Redd tried to put across, the truth was that his new machines were being built in the garage next to his home.

When things began to take off in a big way, Simon approached his previous employer,  Bally, and asked them if they would be willing to produce the cabinets for this new single-person Poker concept.

Introducing the Game King

Bally declined the offer – a decision which must surely haunt Bally to this day. Instead, Simon went it alone, found new manufacturing and marketing partners, and soon began to sell his much-upgraded “Game King” cabinets to casinos across the United States, as well as smaller establishments in gambling towns such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Today, Game King cabinets can be found everywhere throughout Las Vegas, the United States, Macau, and Europe, to name but a few.  You might be wondering, “why haven’t I heard of SIRCOMA if they are now so successful?”. There’s a good reason for this – Redd renamed his company International Game Technology (IGT) in 1981.

These days, you can barely walk a hundred yards in most parts of Las Vegas without seeing a Game King machine. Reno and Mesquite, too, are filled with the things – from the largest casinos on the strip, right down to the tiniest bars at the edge of the desert. Rumour has it, Area 51 even have their own Game King machine located in the communal lounge area.

The Legacy of Jacks or Better and Game King

I can’t think of many other types of electronic gambling machines that have spawned the kind of legacy that Redd and his Jacks or Better cabinets have done. All the while, the debate rages on between players as to whether Jacks or Better is truly the best variant of Video Poker – Double Double Bonus has an enormous following, and the Deuces Wild crowd is a vocal bunch too.

If you already have a favorite, it’s unlikely we are going to change your mind with our analysis of Jacks or Better. We intend to run a poll soon to allow all of you to tell us which version of Video Poker is your favorite, and why. We can’t wait to see the results!

Modern Game King machines allow you to play countless variations of Video Poker, as well as other casino classics such as Blackjack, Keno, and even a handful of slots! Here are just a few of the best games you can find on a modern Game King Cabinet – all spawned by the creation of Jacks or Better.

  • Aces & Eights
  • Bonus Poker
  • Double Double Bonus Poker
  • Deuces Wild Bonus Poker
  • Deuces Wild
  • Deuces Joker Poker
  • Double Double Aces & Faces Poker
  • Triple Bonus Poker Deluxe
  • 10s or Better
  • Jacks or Better
  • Joker Poker

I selected these games because they are relatively well known, but there is a total of 45 poker variants, 20 different types of Keno, 4 slot machines, and 2 variations of Blackjack all available. That’s quite an upgrade considering the machine was created specifically for Jacks or Better!

Game King customers also benefit from regular updates to their cabinets, often adding new games as well as fixing bugs and occasionally even updating the user interface if the style has become outdated.

As the very first Video Poker game, Jacks or Better will allows hold a unique place in the history of digital gambling. It may not be the most popular form of Video Poker today, but for a long time, Jacks or Better WAS Video Poker.

The fact that the game is still around, and new variations are still being created nearly fifty years later, is a true testament to the hard work and dedication that Si Redd and his team put into creating the first Video Poker machines.

Hand Rankings & Payouts

Once you have mastered the operation of a Video Poker machine (or its online equivalent), the first thing you’ll need to learn and memorize is the order of each hand. As you should already be aware, the amount you win from each hand is determined by the five cards you are holding after the draw has been completed.

If you have any experience playing a table poker game such as 7 Card Stud or Texas Hold’em, then you are in luck – the hand rankings in those games are identical to those used in Jacks or Better, so you should have no problem picking things up quickly.

For those who are completely unfamiliar with hand rankings in poker, don’t worry – we have created a handy “cheat sheet” below, which you can print out and use whether playing at home or on the casino floor. Oh and by the way, don’t let the term “cheat sheet” confuse you! Using a table such as this is absolutely NOT cheating the casino.

Listings of hand rankings such as the one we have provided ¡below are no different from the blackjack “basic strategy” charts that are ubiquitous in the gift shops of Las Vegas. Browse a few of these shops, and you will almost certainly find a chart that is very similar to ours on sale, too. Rather than purchasing one, feel free to print out our version completely free of charge!

Quick Notes Regarding our List of Hand Rankings

First of all, remember that in the vast majority of cases, the suit of each card is not important, with the proviso that there is still the same number of cards with a matching suit. For example, a Royal Flush consists of a ten through to an Ace, all in Spades. If all five cards were Clubs, Diamonds, or Hearts, you would still have a royal flush. All five cards MUST be suited to qualify, or your hand is nothing more than a straight.

The logic described above also applies to a Straight Flush. Fortunately, there is only one way to make a four-of-a-kind, so that one is simple! As for three-of-a-kind, any three cards of matching value are acceptable regardless of their suit. Should your two remaining cards also happen to be of matching value, you’ve made a full house!

A Flush consists of any five cards of matching suit, regardless of their value. Conversely, a Straight is formed by catching five cards with sequential values, irrespective of their suit. If four of your cards include two pairs of equal rank, you have a two-pair hand – once again, this is regardless of the suit of each card. Last but not least, any pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings, or Aces qualifies as the eponymous “Jacks or Better”.

 

9/6 JoB Card One Card Two Card Three Card Four Card Five Odds Payout Per Coin
Royal
Flush
649,740/1 If 5 Coins Played:
800
Otherwise:
250
Straight
Flush
72,193/1 200
Four

of a Kind

4,165/1 125
Full
House
694/1 45
Flush 509/1 30
Straight 255/1 20
Three

of a Kind

47/1 15
Two

Pairs

21/1 10
Jacks

or Better

7.69/1 5

Fig 1. Order of Hands and Standard Payouts in Full Pay Jacks or Better.

 

Just Incase you were Wondering…

The odds shown on the right-hand side of the table show you your chances of being dealt a royal flush, four-of-a-kind, straight, etc, on the initial deal. They do not take into account what happens after you draw. The decisions you make concerning which cards to hold, and which you will swap, are what determines the final odds of you hitting a specific hand, and consequently, the overall RTP of the game.

With regards to the Royal Flush, if you are dealt four of the five cards required to make a royal and hold them, you now have a 1 in 47 chance of scoring a royal flush. I can think of a dozen or so times this has happened to me over the years, and every time I would think to myself (often out loud) “Ha, as if I’ll get that ONE card that I need…”.

Of course, on the majority of occasions, I was right – if I needed the Queen of Spades, I would manage to get the Queen of Clubs instead – winning the prize for nothing more than a measly Straight. On two other occasions, I received an Ace or a King, leaving me with an even worse payout for just Jacks or Better.

But do not lose hope! On another day, I was holding the 10, J, Q, and K of Diamonds, and whilst I didn’t get the Ace, I did get a 9, making a Straight Flush!

Finally, there was one, single, probably never to be repeated moment when I was dealt four cards to a royal, held my breath, and hit deal, before seeing the King I needed somehow magically appear in the empty space.

It didn’t matter that I was playing online – it didn’t even matter that I was sat on my own, with nobody else to celebrate with. Seeing that card drop in and my balance instantly jump by more than 20 times its current value was an incredible moment that I will always remember.

Oh, and by the way – if you are dealt three cards to a Royal Flush, your odds of hitting the remaining two cards are 1 in 1,081. Should you be dealt two cards to a Royal, it is likely there will be a better combination available that you should try for rather than going for the big one. If you do decide to try your luck though, your odds with just two cards are 16,215 to 1.

Finally, should you be dealt any single ace or picture card and want to go completely crazy, your odds of drawing the other four matching cards is 178,365 to 1.

Common Paytables & House Edge

The paytable we used in our printable example sheet is known as the 9/6 or “Full Pay” paytable for Jacks or Better, but there are dozens of other common payout schedules in regular use throughout the casino industry. When we talk about a “9/6” paytable, we are referring to the payouts for two mid-level hands – the Full House, and the Flush.

Using the “Full Pay” paytable the game of Jacks or Better has an RTP of 99.54%, assuming you play with perfect strategy. It is that last part – it’s that “Perfect Strategy” that is the key here, as Jacks or Better is full of borderline situations. If you are familiar with Basic Strategy in Blackjack, you might know a few borderline decisions – a 12 against a 3 and a 13 against a 2 are two classic examples, but both of these decisions can have a much larger effect on your session RTP than borderline situations in Jacks or Better.

Following our “Simple Strategy” shown further down this page will result in an overall RTP of 99.46% – a difference of less than one-tenth of a percent. There are also “Intermediate Strategies” that can get you as high as 99.52% – just 0.02% away from the best possible way to play – yet require much, much less memorization than the “Perfect” or “Optimal” strategy for the game.

Playing Jacks or Better Online

Finding full-pay Jacks or Better online is much easier than on the casino floor. The vast majority of top-tier developers offer at least one Jacks or Better game using the original, Full Pay 9/6 paytable. One or two have even devised new paytables which INCREASE the house edge even further! Here’s a quick overview of the RTP offered by all of the developers currently producing online Jacks or Better games around the world:

Developer House Edge Payout Schedule Note
NetEnt 0.44% 800 – 40 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 5 – 3 – 2 – 1 Higher than Full Pay
Vista Gaming 0.44% 800 – 40 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 5 – 3 – 2 – 1 Higher than Full Pay
Cryptologic 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
BetConstruct 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Octopus Gaming 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Wager2Go 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Funfair 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
NuWorks 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Reatime Gaming (RTG) 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Microgaming 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Red Rake Gaming 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Top Game 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Habanero Systems 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Pragmatic Play 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
1×2 Gaming 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Saucify 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Rival 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Pala Interactive 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
WGS 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Amaya 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Playtech 0.46% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 9/6 Full Pay
Novomatic 1.55% 800 – 50 – 25 – 9 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1
SoftSwiss 1.61% 800 – 50 – 25 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1
BGaming 1.61% 800 – 50 – 25 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1
BetSoft 1.75% 800 – 40 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 Sneaky Paytables!
888 (Random Logic) 1.75% 800 – 40 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 See Notes Below
DragonFish 1.75% 1000 – 40 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 5 – 3 – 2 – 1
Arrows Edge 1.75% 800 – 40 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1
Nucleus Gaming 1.75% 800 – 40 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1
Evolution Gaming 1.75% 800 – 40 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1
GameSys 2.81% 250 – 50 – 20 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 No Bonus for 5 Coins
Amuzi Gaming 2.70% 800 – 50 – 80 – 40 – 8.25 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1
Slotland ????% 800+ – 50 – 25 – 9 – 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 Progressive Jackpot
Ace Gaming 3.37% 1000 – 50 – 20 – 8 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 Don’t be fooled!
Play’N’Go 5.00% 800 – 50 – 25 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 Shocking!
AmigoTechs 5.03% 800 – 50 – 20 – 7 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 Worst Paytable Online

Fig. 2 – House Edge & Paytable Details for all Common Online Gaming Providers

Analyzing the House Edge & Paytable Data

As you can see, most of the biggest, most well-known developers of online video poker machines offer at least one variant which pays the full 9/6 schedule. This doesn’t tell the whole story, however – some developers will offer more than one version of Jacks or Better, so be sure the paytable of the one you select matches the numbers shown in our table in Fig. 2.

Special Mentions

Special mention should be given to NetEnt and Vista Gaming for offering a slightly better RTP than the usual 9/6 paytable. The way they have done this is to increase the payout for a common hand – a Straight – whilst decreasing the payout for a much less common hand – four-of-a-kind. This is likely to be in line with the majority of people’s tastes, although it does make it even more difficult to build a significant balance from playing Jacks or Better.

Sneaky Developers

As for the developers using poorer paytables, Novomatic, SoftSwiss, and BGaming have all changed one of the 9/6 values, making it obvious to most video poker players that they are not playing Full Pay Jacks or Better. I find this to be preferable in contrast to the paytables offered by BetSoft, 888, DragonFish, Arrows Edge, Nucleus, Evolution, and Gamesys. All of these developers have left these two crucial numbers at 9/6, perhaps hoping that players will not notice they are getting an inferior deal.

The Worst of the Worst

DragonFish boosts the payout for a Royal Flush up to 1,000 coins, at the expense of the payouts for the Straight Flush and Four-of-a-kind. On the plus side, the Straight does at least get a nudge upwards.

On the other hand, Gamesys decided that the bonus for playing all five coins was entirely unnecessary. Reading that statement, I would assume this meant that they pay the full 800 coins regardless of the size of your wager. However, this is not the case – GameSys pay just 250 coins for a Royal Flush for each coin wagered, leaving you 2,750 coins short of pretty much every other game on this list if you are playing all five coins and are lucky enough to hit a royal flush.

Playing Jacks or Better in Person

As previously mentioned, finding a “Full-Pay” game of Jacks or Better has become much more difficult over the past decade, but the machines are definitely still out there if you are willing to look for them. Our list of alternative paytables taken from online developers applies just as well to the games found on the casino floor, so consider taking a printout to the casino to help you confirm the house edge of each machine.

Other Variations of Jacks or Better

We have not discussed “Power Poker” or Multi-Hand variants of Jacks or Better in this article – frankly, both of these subjects would require a full article of their own to explain their intricacies in a satisfactory level of detail. Multi-Hand versions of video poker present you with a single set of cards from which to hold or discard, but the draw will be performed multiple times, similar to “running it twice” in table poker.

Jacks or Better Strategy

The absolute optimal strategy for 9/6 Jacks or Better is extremely complex but results in an overall RTP of 99.54%. There is a much simpler strategy, however, which is easier to learn and still provides an excellent RTP of 99.46%.

This means that when you deviate from the optimal strategy by following this guide, it will cost you a total of 0.08%. Is this a lot? The way I choose to look at it is that using this simple strategy will cause you to make a mistake once out of every 1,178 hands you play.

Even the best players will struggle to play more than 180 hands per hour, which works out to one mistake every six and a half hours. Personally, I think this is an acceptable loss in return for a much-simplified strategy – complex strategies can turn your gaming session into a chore, rather than a fun pastime.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the simple strategy for 9/6 Jacks or Better!

Deciding Which Cards to Keep

The following list is ordered by the value of each of the hands described. Making the best decision is simply a case of comparing your hand to this list, working out the highest item with a description that matches your cards, then holding all of the cards described.

I will give one or two examples afterward, to ensure you understand the process.

  1. Four of a Kind, Straight Flush, or Royal Flush
  2. Four Cards to a Royal Flush
  3. Three of a Kind, Straight, Flush, or Full House
  4. Four Cards to a Straight Flush
  5. Two Pairs
  6. Pair of Jacks or Better
  7. Three Cards to a Royal Flush
  8. Four Cards to a Flush
  9. Low Pair
  10. Four Cards to an Outside Straight
  11. Two Suited High Cards
  12. Four Cards to an Inside Straight
  13. Three Cards to a Straight Flush
  14. Two Unsuited High Cards
  15. Suited 10/J, 10/Q, or 10/K
  16. One High Card
  17. Garbage – Discard Everything

 

A Little Terminology

The first three items on the list should be no problem for anyone to understand – if you have already been dealt a great hand, hold it! The only area at the top of the table which could confuse is the fact that holding Three-of-a-Kind is always preferable to holding four cards that have the possibility of producing a straight flush. It can feel a little bit wrong, but the math leaves no room for doubt – keep the three, and hope you catch the last one for a Four-of-a-Kind!

A “Low Pair” refers to any two cards of equal value of a rank lower than a Jack. These stand a good chance of becoming Three-of-a-Kind, so are preferable to hold over the items lower down the list.

When the term “Outside Straight” is used, it refers to any situation where you have four cards that have two possible ways to be converted into a straight. For example, 5, 6, 7, 8 is an “Outside Straight” whereas A, 2, 3, 4 is not.

Conversely, the term “Inside Straight” refers to a straight which is missing just a single card – A, 2, 3, 4 would qualify here because there is no card lower than an Ace. Just as valid is 3, 4, 6, 7, where one card is missing in the middle of the hand.

Example Hands

Here are two examples using the strategy laid out above, just to be sure you are understanding the procedure correctly.

Example One

                    

In this first example, you have a pair of sevens, but you also have four cards to a flush in Diamonds. Making your choice even more difficult, you also have two high cards – the Ace and the King! So what do you do?

Well, the pair of sevens (low cards) is listed at position 9, the four cards to a flush are at position 8, and the two suited high cards are all the way down at position 11. This means that the correct move here is to hold the four Diamonds and discard the seven of clubs.

Even if you don’t hit your flush, you could still land another Ace or King for a Jacks or Better payout.

 

Example Two

                    

 

In our second example, the pair of fives immediately stands out. But what other possibilities do we have? Looking more carefully, notice that you are also holding a 5, a 6, a 7, and an 8 – four cards which give you the possibility of making an outside straight. Complicating things further, you also have three cards to a Straight Flush in Spades too – the 5, 6, and 7.

Once again, work down our strategy list and locate each of the possibilities we have identified. The pair of fives is listed at number nine, and the four to an outside straight is just below it at position 10. Finally, the three spades for a possible straight flush are sitting much lower than both of your other options at position 12.

Therefore, this time around you should hold the pair of fives and discard the remaining cards. I checked and re-checked the math on this, as I couldn’t help but feel sure the four to an outside straight would have a better chance at scoring a win. It didn’t matter how many times I ran the numbers, however – keeping the low pair always came out on top. Incredibly, it leads by quite some margin, too.

And with that, you should now be ready to take on Jacks or Better Video Poker. Are you feeling lucky?

Your Jacks or Better Questions Answered (FAQ)

My local casino has their Jacks or Better (Game King) cabinets set to use the 9/6 “Full Pay” paytable. Do you believe it is fair to assume their slots will also be configured to the most generous setting?

Making any assumptions based on evidence from a completely different source is almost always a bad idea, though I do understand your point; if the casino is generous with their Video Poker, are they going to be generous with their Slots too? The great thing is, most jurisdictions now require all slot machines to state their RTP somewhere during the loading sequence or within the paytable. Search and ye shall find!

I can always tell when I am on a hot streak whilst playing my favorite slots. Do Video Poker machines go through the same hot/cold cycles?

First of all, assuming you are definitely playing a real slot machine and not an AWP or Fruit Machine, the “hot streaks” you have experienced whilst playing are, without question, caused by swings in luck – nothing more. The random number generators used in these machines do not look at past results when determining outcomes – the same is true of video poker machines. Every round is an independent event. There is nothing to stop you from hitting a Royal Flush twice in a row.

I’ve heard that using my player’s club card can be detrimental to my “luck”, especially after hitting a big win. Do the casinos use the data on my card to influence future outcomes?

Absolutely not! Rumors such as this are spread by people who do not understand the mathematics around gambling. Remember, every casino game has a built-in house advantage – they do not need to “cheat” you, as the odds are already in their favor. All casinos simply want to keep you playing as long as possible – play their machines for long enough, and you will go bust. This isn’t conjecture – it’s a scientifically supported, mathematically guaranteed fact.

But if these games genuinely are completely random, how is it that a casino can promise that their version of Jacks or Better has a specific payout percentage, such as the 99.54% number you have specified for the “Full Pay” version?

You might be amazed at just how easy this is In a card game such as Jacks or Better. While the number of possible combinations which can be dealt both before and after the draw is mind-bogglingly huge to us humans, computers can make short work of the possibilities and outcomes that can occur whilst playing Jacks or Better.

For example, 47,093,167,764 hands will payout for four-of-a-kind. This sounds like a lot until you realize there are 19,933,230,517,200 possible combinations of five unique cards from a deck of 52. The casino can calculate the probability of every single hand appearing, and use this data to create their paytable. Add up all of the probabilities correctly, and you will have covered 100% of the possible outcomes. Add up the payouts for all of those outcomes, on the other hand, and the total is just 99.54%

Where can I find the Perfect Strategy for the version of Video Poker at my local casino?

The strategies we have discussed further up this page should be suitable for the vast majority of Jacks or Better games. If you are desperate to make sure you are getting those last few percentage points of RTP, there are many Video Poker calculator programs available in both the App Store and Google Play. We are hoping to create something of this nature ourselves in the future, so check back here regularly if you are interested in that!

My friend claims he makes a living playing Video Poker. Surely he has to be … ahem, bending the truth a little?

It isn’t impossible, but it is certainly very difficult. First of all, you need to find a casino offering a Video Poker game with a return above 100%. There are not many of these around in 2021, especially in land-based casinos. The games I would suggest searching out are Deuces Wild, Triple Double Bonus Poker, and All Aces. There may be others, but these are the three that I have personally encountered over the years.

Once you’ve found the right machine, you are going to need a seriously hefty bankroll – big enough to withstand the typical swings that go with the territory when it comes to playing Video Poker.

Another approach would be to monitor the progressive games in your local area, and save your money until the progressive reaches a number that should guarantee you a large profit. However, I’d advise employing the services of a statistician for this before beginning to play, unless you have a degree in Mathematics!

Is Jacks or Better the best version of Video Poker?

This question strongly comes down to opinion, and different people will give you dramatically different answers. Some players believe that Jacks or Better is the best game because it is very good at keeping your balance topped up while you wait for those heavy hitters to come your way.

On the other hand, my own opinion is that Jacks or Better can be quite boring, as even the Four-of-a-Kind and Straight Flush hands don’t pay out all that much. Both of these hands are so rare that you might only see them appear two or three times during an entire night’s session. Switching to Double Double Bonus or Deuces Wild provides endless more opportunities for a big win, is far more exciting, and the RTP of these games is very similar to Jacks or Better, too.

So what’s the catch? Variance. You will need a bigger bankroll to weather the storm while playing these alternative variants of Video Poker. This is because they both pay much less for the smaller hands, the same ones that keep your balance topped up when playing Jacks or Better. This is a worthwhile trade-off in my view – I usually hit at least two or three big combinations every time I play Double Double Bonus.

It doesn’t guarantee I walk away with a profit, but it certainly FEELS more profitable – and it’s much more fun, too!

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