Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy: How to Play & Win?

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Today, I am going to share some useful Jacks or Better video poker strategy tips that will help you increase your win rate and generally play better video poker. These tips won't ensure that you win every time, but they can help you optimize your game play.

One of the most popular variants of draw poker worldwide, it is a well-known fact that Jacks or Better video poker has one of the highest payout percentages of all casino games!

While the house edge for typical casino games varies between 90 & 97 percent, some video poker machines can offer up to 99.54 percent.

But only if you know what you're doing. For that, you need a good video poker strategy.

In this article, we will delve into my favorite variation of video poker - Jacks or Better (Draw Poker). The beauty of this particular version of video poker is how simple and straightforward the game is (another great game to play is Deuces Wild, but we'll keep that to another article)!

To play successfully (aka. to win), a sound Jacks or Better strategy is a must. That's why today you are going to find out a few essential things like:

  • How to reduce the house edge.
  • How to play a low pair or a high pair.
  • When to draw and when to hold.
  • How to maximize your chances to win with your final hand.

If you already know how to play Jacks or Better and want to put your knowledge into action ASAP, you can visit any of these excellent casino sites below and play Jacks or Better video poker for real money.

As for the rest of us, let's continue with the article!

Want to play Jacks or Better for free? Check out our Free Jacks or Better Poker guide for the best ways to play this video poker classic free-of-charge!

How to Play Jacks or Better Video Poker

The crucial thing to remember about Jacks or Better is that this casino game depends on luck and your choices.

You get five cards and must choose the ones you want to keep for the next round. You click 'deal' and get your final combination.

The problem is: Which cards should you hold?

Luckily, this choice is not as difficult as it might seem. Below, I prepared an easy Jacks or Better strategy for beginners to use when dealing with your cards.

But first, let's take things right back to basics and discuss the winning hands in Jacks or Better video poker.

Looking for a Beginner's Guide to Video Poker? Look no further than our simple How to Play Video Poker Guide!

Understanding Winning Jacks or Better Hands

If you want to become good at Jacks or Better video poker, you need to understand its card combinations.

It goes without saying that you must know video poker rules strategy for a solid start - which you can check out here.

Now, let's check out the possible video poker hands that result in winning.

  • Royal Flush. It can't get any better than that. This hand has to include these cards: AxKxQxJx10x. Most games don't require them to be consecutive. All cards must be in the same suit.
  • Straight Flush. Five consecutive cards from the same suit. Example:34567.
  • Four of a Kind. Nothing complicated here: four cards of the same value. Example: KKK8K.
  • Full House. You collect Full House when you receive five cards that are comprised of one pair and three of a kind. Example: QQ444.
  • Flush. Five cards of the same suit. Example: A10348
  • Straight. Five cards that form a consecutive sequence. The suits are mixed. 678910
  • Three of a Kind. You get Three of a Kind when you receive three cards of the same value. Example: 88852.
  • Two Pair. Two pairs of two cards of the same value. Example: 998AA.
  • Jacks or Better. The easiest one to collect, this combination includes only one pair of jacks or a higher value. Example: JJ769

Suit abbreviations:

XSpades (S)
XHearts (H)
XDiamonds (D)
XClubs (C)

Don't worry if you can't remember them all - these video Poker machines online include a table with the winning combinations and payouts. And, even if you still can't remember, the machine has automatic payouts anyway!

The most important thing is to choose a game you enjoy at a great online casino with a high RTP rate.

Now we've established the pay lines, let's look at the best basic Jacks or Better strategy that can take your game to the next level.

Tip: If a game has full payouts, it should pay two times your bet for Two Pairs.

Jacks or Better Basic Strategy

Here are the best tips to follow for a basic Jacks or Better video poker strategy:

  • When you have four cards to a Straight or a Flush, hold all four of them and draw only one additional card.
  • When you have three cards to a Royal Flush, keep them! Draw two additional cards and you might be lucky.
  • Need only two more cards for a Straight Flush? Hold the three lucky cards you have and draw two more.
  • When you get a pair of cards, hold them and draw three additional cards. However, this tip is not always applicable.
  • If you have no matching cards in your hand, hold a card that is higher or equal of value to Jacks.
  • No combinations and no Jacks or higher? Draw five new cards.

Jacks or Better Strategy Chart

Jacks or Better Strategy Chart
An easy Jacks or Better Strategy Chart from PokerNews.

Jacks or Better Low Pair Vs. High Pair Strategy

A couple of the main questions that most video poker players have are as follows:

When is it best to hold a low pair? When should I hold a high pair?

Let's take a look at what you should do in different situations.

Jacks or Better Poker Strategy: Low Pair

Usually, I suggest you keep all the low pairs you receive. However, there are certain situations when it's better to skip them.

This is when you should keep a low pair:

  • When you have four to a Straight, always keep the pair that you got. Example: 55678. In this case, hold 55 and discard 678.
  • When you have three to a Straight Flush, keep the low pair. Example: 3h4h5h5s9c. Hold 5h and 5s.
  • When you have a low pair and two cards that could result in a Royal Flush… you should still hold the low pair! Example: 6s6h2cKhAh. Hold 6s and 6h and discard the rest.

Here are the cases when you should discard your low pair:

  • When you have three to a Royal Flush. The probability of getting the best outcome is too high to keep the low pair. Example: 2sJhJsQsKs
  • In case you have four to a Flush, break that low pair! Example: 5d5h8d9dQd

Jacks or Better Game Strategy: High Pair

The crucial difference between a low and high pair in video poker is that the latter is a guaranteed win. However, certain situations will occur when you think you need to break the pair for a bigger win.

But - a seemingly right decision can cost you your bet.

Here are the cases when you have to keep your high poker pair no matter what:

Note: A high pair consists of two cards of the same value (Jacks or higher).

  • If you have four to a Flush and a high pair, hold the pair and draw three other cards. When an identical situation occurs with a low pair in hand, you should break it.
  • When you have four to a Straight, keep your high pair for a higher chance of winning.
  • If you have three to a Royal Flush, it is still better to hold the pair! The odds to get a Royal Flush are not high enough in this case.
  • Keeping the high pair is more beneficial when you have three to a Straight Flush. Over time, this will produce better results.

However, there is one case when you should break your high pairs in a Jacks or Better poker game:

  • When you have four to a Royal Flush! It would be a waste not to do it in this situation, as the odds are simply too high for that sweet winning sequence!

As soon as you decide to use a video poker game strategy, stick to it. Whether you play online or at a land-based casino, discipline is your only true friend when it comes to winning at Jacks or Better.

jacks or better
A typical Jacks or Better interface from Playtech.

Where can I play Jacks or Better Video Poker?

After reading all of the tips & strategies, you're probably wondering where you can play Jacks or Better video poker - whether for free or real money.

Play Jacks or Better for Real Money

Well, look no further, as the button below will take you to the best online casino in your area to play Jacks or Better. Please be aware that this will vary depending on location, as will any bonus information. If you decide to play, remember the strategy, gamble responsibly, and have fun!

Play Jacks or Better for Real Money

Play Jacks or Better for Free

Looking to play Jacks or Better for free at a social casino? No problem at all!

Playing games online for free is a brilliant way to test out new strategies, have fun, or get involved in the casino fun if real money play is not allowed in your location. Click the button below to play free video poker today (this will vary by location):

Play Jacks or Better for Free

Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy FAQs

What is Jacks or Better video poker?

Jacks or Better video poker is a popular casino game that is based on five-card draw poker. The goal of the game is to get the best possible poker hand with five cards. The lowest winning hand is a pair of jacks, hence the name of the game. Jacks or Better video poker is a game of chance, but there are some strategies that players can use to increase their chances of winning.

What does Jacks or Better mean?

In the game Jacks or Better, the lowest value hand you can achieve a payout with is a pair of Jacks. Better hands will result in bigger payouts. Hence the name Jacks or Better.

Should I always hold a pair in Jacks or Better?

Put simply, it depends on which pair you are holding! Generally, a pair, especially Jacks or better, is a guaranteed win. However, there are exceptions, such as when you have four cards to a straight flush or royal flush. All is explained in detail in this article.

When should I keep a high card in Jacks or Better?

If you have no combination that pays, keep any high cards (Jacks or better). If you have multiple high cards, keep only the lowest ones, as this increases the chances of getting a pair on the redraw.

Is it worth going for a flush or straight in Jacks or Better Video Poker?

Whether you should go for a flush or straight depends on the situation. If you have four cards to a straight or flush, it's often worth drawing for the fifth card. However, if you need more than one card to complete these hands, the odds are generally against you.

Should I ever discard a winning hand in Jacks or Better Video Poker?

In some cases, yes. For example, if you have a low pair but also four cards to a royal flush, the potential payout for the royal flush can justify breaking the pair.

What is a good strategy for Jacks or Better video poker?

There are a few different strategies that you can use to increase your chances of winning at Jacks or Better video poker, and the best strategy will vary depending on the cards you are dealt. You can read in full what you should do at each stage of a Jacks or Better hand in the article above.

What is the basic strategy for Jacks or Better?

The basic strategy in Jacks or Better involves holding onto cards that give you the best chance of forming a high-ranking poker hand. The key is to always keep a pair of Jacks or better, and to know when to break up a hand in favor of a potentially higher-paying combination.

What are the odds of winning at Jacks or Better?

Jacks or Better, as with nearly all video poker variations, has very high RTP rates that will see players winning more often than on many slots games, for example. On many Jacks or Better games RTP rates can hit as high at 99.54%! However, it's always important to remember that casinos have an edge (even if it's a small edge in this case) and to gamble responsibly at all times.

Where can I play Jacks or Better?

There are a number of great online casinos where you can play Jacks or Better video poker. Please follow the link to be taken to our favorite place to play Jacks or Better in your area.

How do I play Jacks or Better video poker?

To play Jacks or Better video poker, you will need to find an online casino that offers the game. Once you have found a video poker machine, you will need to deposit and determine the amount of chips you want to play. You will then be dealt five cards. You can choose to hold any of the cards by pressing the corresponding button. Once you have made your selections, you will press the draw button. The machine will then deal you new cards for the cards you did not hold. The machine will then pay you out based on the poker hand you have.

Is there a difference between online and physical Jacks or Better games?

The fundamental game and strategies are the same, but online games might have different paytables and can offer more convenience and faster play.

This article has been updated since its first publication - last update Nov 2023.

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Casino Content Executive

Casino Content Executive