A Newcomer's Strategy for Jacks or Better Video Poker

Jacks or Better is a video poker game in which the basic aim is to build the strongest poker hand possible and ensure that it contains at least a pair of jacks. It is a fun game that combines skill and luck. You will need to know how to handle your cards based on what you receive to reduce the house edge and improve your chances of winning big.

How Do You Play Jacks or Better?

Jacks or Better is a five-card draw poker game, but it doesn't entail playing against anyone else. Instead, you are making a bet against the house that you will build a hand that includes a pair of jacks or higher.

Here's a look at how a round of Jacks or Better works:

  1. You'll place a bet at the start of the game. Normally you can bet up to five coins per hand. The top payout is normally only available when betting the maximum five coins. However, you can adjust the size of the coins to keep the bet within budget.
  2. You'll be dealt five cards in your hand. These cards come from a virtual deck of 52 cards.
  3. You can then pick whatever cards you want to hold. You could select all five cards if you want, or you could get five new cards instead.
  4. The game will deal cards to replace that that you chose not to hold. This five-card hand is the final hand and will dictate if you win anything.

What Can You Win?

There are several types of winning hand and you need to be familiar with them all. Here is a look at these hands ranging from the least to most valuable based on a game in which you bet one coin:

  • Jacks or Better - Jacks or better means that your hand contains at least a pair of jacks. This offers a 1-coin payout, meaning your initial bet is returned.
  • Two Pair - As the name suggests, this is a hand that contains two pairs and it offers a 2-coin payout.
  • Three of a Kind - Receiving three cards of the same value in one hand will pay out 3 coins.
  • Straight - A straight is where you get five cards whose values are in consecutive order. For example, you could get a hand with an 8, 9, 10, jack, and queen. A straight pays 4 coins.
  • Flush - The five cards in a flush are all of the same suit and will give out 6 coins.
  • Full House - This is a combination of a pair and three of a kind and it awards 9 coins.
  • Four of a Kind - This is simply four cards of the same value and it offers a payout of 25 coins.
  • Straight Flush - A straight flush is when you have five cards whose values are in consecutive order and the cards are also of the same suit. This hand will pay 50 coins on a 1-coin bet.
  • Royal Flush - The royal flush is the hardest hand to form. It involves a 10, jack, queen, king, and ace of the same suit. You can get 250 coins or more on a 1-coin bet here, although the total will vary by machine.

How Many Cards Should You Draw?

The most important thing when playing Jacks or Better is knowing which cards to hold and which to discard. It is possible to find a perfect strategy for this; however, that can take a long time to learn. To start with, you can follow these basic rules.

  • Draw four cards if you only have one jack or better.
  • Hold both cards in a pair if you have one, drawing three other cards.
  • Hold all three cards in a three of a kind or three cards that might lead to a straight flush.
  • Draw one card when you have four of a kind, a two pair hand, or you are one card away from a straight or flush.
  • Hold all your cards if you have a straight or anything higher.

Should You Hold Your Cards If You Have An Automatic Win?

Sometimes you might already be a winner with your initial five cards. For example, you could have three of the same card at the start. Be sure you hold whatever cards will give you an automatic win and discard the others that aren't going to do anything. You might have a shot at a higher-value payout for something like a four of a kind or a full house.

What Hands Should You Avoid Playing?

There are a few hands that you should avoid playing. Discarding certain cards may be the best idea in these situations, as you might receive ones that are more favorable:

  • Suited 10 and Ace - Keep the ace and get rid of the 10. There is too much of a gap for a royal flush at this point.
  • An Ace and Two Unsuited High Cards - Get rid of the ace and keep the other two high cards. These cards are closer to each other and will give you a better chance at a straight. Instead of relying on a straight from a 10 to ace, you could go for something like an 8 to queen or 9 to king.
  • One From an Inside Straight - An inside straight is a hand where you are one card away from a straight, but the card in the middle of your hand is missing. For example, you might have a 6, 7, 9, and 10. The odds of you getting an 8 are not very high, so discard any cards that aren't a jack or higher.

Outside vs. Inside Straight

The last tip newcomer’s tip for Jacks or Better involves playing with an outside or inside straight. An outside straight is more favorable, as it is an open-ended straight that you can complete with a card on either end. For instance, you might have a 3, 4, 5, and 6 in an outside straight. Feel free to keep those cards, as you could form a straight from a 2 or 7. The odds of getting an outside straight are greater than if you tried getting an inside straight where you require one specific number.


Jacks or Better is a hugely enjoyable game and easy to master. This game offers many possibilities, but be sure you know how to play your cards well. You can improve your chances of winning by figuring out how to handle your cards while reviewing what hands are the most likely to succeed.

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