Jacks or Better is one of the most popular video poker games in Las Vegas as well as online. It is played with a standard 52-card deck. The objective of the game is to create a five-card poker hand that contains at least a pair of jacks or better. Let’s go over some of the basics and how to play so as to maximize returns on your wager. You can usually bet one or five bets at once with the payouts only disproportionately increasing on a max bet hitting a royal flush. Note this is not the case if you are playing in Illinois as their state regulatory gambling board caps the maximum amount one can be paid out on any given wager (likely hurting individual bettors).

Sample Jacks or Better interface. Note the payout increases.

How To Play Jacks or Better

  1. Place your bet: Before the game begins, you must place a bet by choosing a coin value and the number of coins you want to wager. The number of coins you bet will determine the size of your payout if you win.
  2. Receive your cards: After you have placed your bet, you will be dealt five cards. You can choose to keep or discard any of these cards to try to create the best possible hand.
  3. Choose which cards to keep: Based on the cards you have been dealt, you must choose which cards to keep and which ones to discard. You can choose to keep all five cards or discard some of them and draw new ones from the deck.
  4. Draw new cards: After you have chosen which cards to discard, you will receive new cards to replace them.
  5. Evaluate your hand: Once you have received your new cards, your final hand will be evaluated based on the standard poker hand rankings. If your hand contains at least a pair of jacks or better, you win a payout based on the paytable. The payout for each winning hand is determined by the paytable, which can vary depending on the casino or the video poker game variant.
  6. Collect your winnings: If you have won a payout, you can choose to collect your winnings or use them to play another hand.

Overall, Jacks or Better is a relatively simple and easy-to-learn video poker game that offers decent odds for players but let’s go over some of the odds of winning. Remember this assumes you are playing optimally, but the odds of hitting these winning hands with their probability (where 1 is 100%):

  • Royal Flush: 0.000025
  • Straight Flush: 0.000109
  • Four of a Kind: 0.002363
  • Full House: 0.011512
  • Flush: 0.011015
  • Straight: 0.011229
  • Three of a Kind: 0.074449
  • Two Pairs: 0.129279
  • Jacks or Better: 0.214585
  • Odds of losing a hand: 0.545435 (more than 50% chance)

Best Strategy For Winning Jacks or Better

Remember that Jacks or Better is a casino game and therefore, even when played optimally, will still have a house edge. If you are playing, you should be doing so because it’s fun. Having said, there are strategies that can be employed to help provide you with a way to maximize your winnings. Here are some of the basic rules to follow:

  1. Always hold a winning hand. This is true for every casino, never give up a winning hand. If you have a pair of Jacks or higher, or any other winning hand, hold all the cards and take the payout.
  2. Hold four cards to a Royal Flush. If you have four cards that could potentially form a Royal Flush (five cards in sequential order that are the exact same suits), hold all four and replace the fifth card.
  3. Hold four cards to a Straight Flush. If you have four cards that could potentially form a Straight Flush, hold all four and replace the fifth card.
  4. Hold three of a kind. If you have three cards of the same rank, hold all three and replace the other two.
  5. Hold four cards to a Flush. If you have four cards of the same suit, hold all four and replace the fifth card.
  6. Hold a low pair (tens or lower). If you have a pair of tens or lower, hold the pair and replace the other three cards. While counterintuitive, you want to play for the larger payoffs that a three-of-a-kind or two-pair brings.
  7. Hold four cards to an outside straight. If you have four cards that could potentially form a straight with a card at either end, hold all four and replace the fifth card.
    • Hold two suited high cards. If you have two high cards of the same suit (ten or higher), hold them and replace the other three cards.
    • Hold one high card. If you have one high card (ten or higher), hold it and replace the other four cards.