Jacks or Better Strategy – Learn How to Play the Best Video Poker Game

jacks or better strategy

7 minutes

Posted by: Ivan


Ever since it first appeared in the late 1970s, video poker has been one of the favorite pastimes for gamblers.

Different variations, gameplays, and strategies have allowed video poker to keep its place as one of the top casino games even after the invention of newer and more modern games.

One of the main reasons why gamblers enjoy playing video poker is its high return.

Some variations of the game such as Jacks or Better give a return of up to 99.54%. However, to achieve this high of a return you need to implement the correct Jack or Better video poker strategy.

To help you get the best possible return on this popular video poker variant, we have prepared a guide on how to play Jacks or Better video poker.

Why You Should Play Jacks or Better Video Poker?

There are several reasons why, if you want to play video poker, you should stick with Jacks or Better:

  • It is the most popular variant of video poker and the one that is the most available
  • Jacks or Better is one of the video poker games with the lowest volatility
  • It is a low-risk game that will allow you to play more with the same bankroll and thus collect more player points or loyalty points
  • Because Jacks or Better is a low volatility game you can play longer sessions and spend more time having fun
  • The strategy for Jacks or Better video poker is easy to learn and implement

Jack or Better Video Poker Rules And Hand Rankings

Before we start explaining the correct Jacks or Better strategy, we first need to explain the rules of the game.

This is important because you need to know the rules to better understand why we advise specific actions in certain spots.

Jacks or Better is one of the simplest video poker variants and it is based on 5-card draw poker.

The goal of the game is to achieve a payout and to do this you need to have a hand with at least two Jacks. If you fail to get a hand that contains two Jacks or better, the house wins.

After each round, and based on the strength of your hand, you will receive a payout. You can check the hand rankings and Jacks or Better odds below.

Hand Odds
  1. Royal Flush
1 in 649740
  1. Straight Flush
1 in 72193
  1. Four of a Kind
1 in 4165
  1. Full House
1 in 694
  1. Flush
1 in 509
  1. Straight
1 in 255
  1. Three of a Kind
1 in 47
  1. Two Pair
1 in 21
  1. Jacks or Better
1 in 7.69

As you can see, the worst hand that you will be paid for is a pair of Jacks, if you have a pair lower than Jacks you will not achieve a payout.

The best hand you can achieve and the hand for which you will receive the biggest payout is Royal Flush.

Jacks or Better Video Poker Paytable

Although every Jacks or Better video poker game has the same rules and hand rankings, there are some differences in payouts.

jacks or better video poker strategy

Because the game is based on a 52-card deck, it always has the same number of combinations and the only way for casinos to increase their edge is to lower the payouts.

With this in mind, you should always check the paytable on the Jacks or Better game that you want to play and make sure the game is 9/6 Jacks or Better.

Here is an example of the 9/6 paytable in which we highlighted the information you should pay attention to.

Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
Four of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a king 3 6 9 12 15
Two pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5

The numbers 9 and 6 represent the number of coins you will receive for a hand that contains a Full House or a Flush if your stake is 1 coin.

If the payouts for the Full House and Flush are lower than in this example, you shouldn’t play that game as the house edge will be much higher.

How to Play Jacks or Better Video Poker

Following the Jacks or Better game rules, the only way you can influence the outcome of the game is by choosing which cards you will keep and which cards you will replace.

For this reason, the whole Jacks or Better video poker strategy revolves around correctly choosing the cards you will hold.

Hands That You Should Never Play

Before we jump into more details about the hands you will play, to make things easier to understand, we prepared a list of hands that you shouldn’t play if you want to maximize your chances of winning over the long run.

No Hold Hands:

Hand Hand Example Action
Five unconnected cards without a face card 873102 Discard all
Three unsuited high cards that include an ace AKJ75 Keep the two lowest high cards (K & J)
Ace ten suited A10894 Keep the A only
Four cards to an insight straight with two high cards 89JQ2 Keep the two high cards (J & Q)
Four cards to an insight straight with one high card 781062 Keep the high card (10)
Four cards to an insight straight without high cards 34579 Discard all

There are two major reasons why you shouldn’t play the hands mentioned above:

  • You will have a better chance to make a good hand by keeping only a part of the hand
  • You will have a better chance of making a hand from scratch than by keeping a part of the hand

Hands You Should Keep

A good starting point to build a solid Jacks or Better strategy is to learn all the hands that you should keep and then apply this knowledge when the time comes to keep and discard cards.

Below you can find the list of the hands you should keep listed based on the overall strength of the hand:

  1. Keep a Royal Flush
  2. Keep a Straight Flush
  3. Keep Four of a Kind
  4. Keep Four to a Royal Flush
  5. Keep a Full House
  6. Keep a Flush
  7. Keep Three of a Kind
  8. Keep a Straight
  9. Keep Four to a Straight Flush
  10. Keep Two Pair
  11. Keep a High Pair
  12. Keep Three to a Royal Flush
  13. Keep Four to a Flush
  14. Keep KQJT offsuit
  15. Keep a Low Pair
  16. Keep Four Cards to an Open-Ended Straight
  17. Keep Three to a Straight Flush
  18. Keep Suited QJ
  19. Keep Four to an Inside Straight with 4 High Cards
  20. Keep Suited KQ or KJ
  21. Keep Suited AK, AQ, or AJ
  22. Keep Four to an Inside Straight with 3 High Cards
  23. Keep KQJ offsuit
  24. Keep QJ offsuit
  25. Keep JT offsuit
  26. Keep two offsuit High Cards (king highest)
  27. Keep Suited QT
  28. Keep two offsuit High Cards (King Highest)
  29. Keep a J
  30. Keep Suited KT
  31. Keep a Q
  32. Keep a K
  33. Keep an A

Playing these hands in the correct order will help you achieve the highest possible return on a 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker machine, which is 99.54%.

If you are a beginner, we recommend that you have this list near you while playing. Use it anytime you have a doubt or you don’t know what to do.

Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

In video poker, knowing which cards to keep and which cards to discard is essential but that alone is not enough to be a winning player.

how to play jacks or better

There are several other tactics that when implemented properly will create a bulletproof Jacks or Better video poker strategy.

Video Poker Bankroll

Like with all gambling, managing your video poker bankroll the correct way is very important. This means that you need a bankroll big enough to play the game comfortably without becoming emotionally attached, which is never a good thing.

Jacks or Better is one of the less volatile video poker games but you will still go through long losing stretches that can wipe out your bankroll and it is never good to go busto even if you have additional money that you can spend to rebuild.

Play the 9/6 Jacks or Better And Bet Maximum Coin

As we already mentioned you should always play the 9/6 Jacks or Better variant, but this alone is not enough to make the most from this game.

You also need to bet the correct amount of coins to maximize your gains.

As you might have noticed in the paytable we mentioned above, if you bet the maximum which is 5 coins, and hit a Royal Flush, you will receive 4,000 coins which is four times more than what you receive if you hit the same hand with a stake of 4 coins.

The extra gains that you receive from betting the maximum make betting 5 coins the optimal strategy.

Go For the Royal Flush

Jacks or Better strategy says that you should always go for the Royal Flush if you have decent chances (4 to a Royal Flush).

This strategy is in direct correlation with the strategy of betting the allowed maximum of 5 coins because the Royal Flush gives a much bigger payout for a bet of 5 coins than it does for other stakes.

Ivan Potocki

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