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


1 minute

Last Updated: February 6, 2024

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Video poker machines are the oldest form of electronic gambling machines in the world. The game offers hundreds of different variants, but Jacks or Better is by far the most popular and widespread of them all.

Jacks or Better video poker machines are among the simplest and most rewarding games you will find in a casino. With an RTP of 99.54%, a full pay JoB machine will give you back nearly all the money you put into it over your lifetime.

In this guide, I will look into the Jacks or Better video poker paytable, its structure, and the best way to play the game with a full paytable.

Once you have mastered this strategy, you will be able to get the best possible results on these machines, which will result in you nearly breaking even, with many winning sessions when luck is on your side.

Before we jump into the specific Jacks or Better poker strategy, let’s have a look at the game’s paytable and what kind of poker hands you will want to make on this machine.

Jacks or Better Paytable Explained

Before you start playing a game of Jacks or Better, there is one thing you should always do. That’s to make sure that the machine is a full pay JoB, meaning it offers maximum payouts for every hand on the list.

Jacks or Better poker strategy

This is not always going to be the case, as there are many machines with lower payouts and RTPs out there designed to increase the house edge over you.

If the machine in question is not a full pay one, you will not want to play on it. The machine will have an increased house edge, and the strategy I am going to teach you here might also not be optimal for it in some cases.

If you do decide to play a game that’s not full pay, expect to lose more than necessary, even if you do play every hand perfectly.

The full-pay Jacks or Better paytable should look like this:

Royal Flush800
Straight Flush50
Four of a Kind (Quads)25
Full House9
Three of a Kind3
Two Pairs2
One Pair (Jacks or Better)1

These are the payouts you will get when betting one chip on a Jacks or Better machine with full pay. If you add extra chips, these payouts will be multiplied by the number of coins you are betting on.

You should pay attention to the payouts for a flush and full house, as these tend to be lowered on some machines. Oftentimes, the machine will pay eight coins for a full house and five coins for a flush, making it a sub-par version of the game.

How to Play Jacks or Better Video Poker

Now that I have shown you what a 9 6 Jacks or Better machine is and how to identify it, it’s time to learn how to play Jacks or Better video poker in the first place.

If you have never played a hand of video poker in your life, you may be wondering how the game is played. The one game you could compare it to is 5 Card Draw Poker, in which players are dealt five cards and can discard the ones they don’t like one time.

How to play Jacks or Better video poker

The same kind of gameplay happens in Jacks or Better. You are dealt five randomly selected cards, and you can choose to keep them or discard them for new cards.

Once you have completed your discarding, you are dealt new cards and are paid for the best poker hand you have, according to the machine's paytable.

Since the entire premise of the game is to make as good a poker hand as possible, the entire strategy we will use is based on Jacks or Better odds of making such hands.

The Jacks or Better strategy I will introduce uses simple math to always make a play that will get you the biggest payout in the long run.

In some situations, you may discard a made poker hand to try and make a royal flush, which pays 800 coins. If this seems counter-intuitive, don’t worry about it and simply follow the strategy to the letter to get the biggest possible payouts.

Comprehensive Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy

Now that you know how to play Jacks or Better video poker, it is time to learn the actual strategy that will get you the best results.

Remember, in video poker, you can't make any bets or moves to win, so you have to make actual strong poker hands to get payouts.

This is why the entire Jacks or Better strategy I will present here revolves around which cards to keep and which cards to discard in various scenarios.

The list below shows all the possible combinations of cards you can be dealt from the virtual deck of cards. By keeping a combination highest on the list in every scenario, you will never make a mistake and will always maximize your expected value.

Jacks or Better video poker strategy

So, without further ado, here is the optimal Jacks or Better video poker strategy you should play on a full pay machine:

  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 Suited JT
  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
  34. Discard All Cards

That’s it! The entire Jacks or Better poker strategy comes down to following this list. There are a few minor things that you can look into once you become an expert with this strategy, such as the impact of discarding penalty cards, but this will only ever change your EV very slightly.

If you can learn and apply this Jacks or Better video poker strategy to perfection, you will get over 99.5% of your bets back over the long run.

Combine this with playing at the right times and making use of all the casino promotions and perks, and you can actually turn a fun hobby into something that will be slightly profitable over the long stretch.

Just remember that any deviation you make from this strategy will cost you money, so don’t go chasing hands and trying to get lucky. Always play the Jacks or Better strategy you learned here, and you will do great at this game.

Jacks or Better Video Poker Tips & Tricks

Now that you know the Jacks or Better strategy you should apply in the game, we can talk about a few things not on the list.

After all, it doesn't all come down to knowing which cards to keep and which to discard, and there are some tricks I can teach you that will help you optimize your results and have even more fun playing.

So, let's get into my seven pro tips for Jacks or Better video poker:

  1. Use the Cheat Sheet: The JoB cheat sheet I introduced here is your ultimate tool for winning in this game. If you want to get the best results but aren’t quite comfortable with the Jacks or Better strategy just yet, make sure to keep the cheat sheet on you while playing. The casino won’t mind!
  2. Only Play Full Pay: For best results with my Jacks or Better video poker strategy, you will need to find full pay machines. This means only a 9 6 Jacks or Better machine is worth playing. If you can’t find such a machine at your casino, try looking for other games, as a lower pay JoB simply isn’t worth it.
  3. Keep a Good Bankroll: Like any other gambling game, Jacks or Better requires good bankroll management. The game is somewhat volatile, and you are going to have long winning and losing stretches. For this reason, make sure you have enough betting units, so you don't go bust fast.
  4. Always go for the Royal: If you have a good chance of making a royal flush, always go for it, as the Jacks or Better poker strategy instructs. If you have four cards to a royal flush, discard the fifth card even if it does give you a high pair. Making a royal for 800 units is worth much more.
  5. Use All Available Promotions: The best way to increase your winnings in a casino, aside from using the right strategies, is to use any running promotions. Every casino has some kind of a promotion happening at all times, and if you sign up for them all, you will get extra cash and rewards for playing your favorite game.
  6. Play Online for Practice: The Jacks or Better strategy is not simple, and there are quite a few things you will need to remember. For that reason, I highly suggest practicing online while having the cheat sheet open on your computer. This way, you will be able to practice for free and get the strategy down to a science before you play for real money in a casino.
  7. Do Not Deviate: The JoB strategy I showed you is the best way to play the game in every situation. This means you will not need to change the strategy in any way, no matter what scenario you are in. Any deviation you do make from it will just lose you money in the long term.
Jacks or Better odds

Jacks or Better Strategy FAQs

What is the RTP of the Jacks or Better video poker?

The overall RTP of the full pay Jacks or Better video poker machine is 99.54%. This means that the casino has an edge of under 0.5% over the player. Remember that you will only be able to realize this equity if you play the best possible strategy for the game at all times.

What is the best Jacks or Better poker strategy?

The best Jacks or Better video poker strategy is the one I introduced in this guide. The strategy is fairly simple and tells you what cards to keep in every possible situation. Make sure to follow this strategy in all situations, and you will get the best possible results.

What is the 9 6 Jacks or Better?

The 9 6 Jacks or Better is another name for the full pay version of the game. The name comes from payouts for a full house (9 coins) and flush (6 coins). Make sure to always play this version of the game and avoid JoB machines whose paytables offer different payouts for these hands.

Can I win money at Jacks or Better?

Technically, the house still has the edge over you in Jacks or Better, even when you play the optimal strategy. However, the application of promotions and bonuses may help you get a slight edge over the casino. Some JoB machines also have progressive jackpots that can make the games slightly +EV.

What is the best way to bet in Jacks or Better?

There is no difference in how you bet! Bigger bets will result in bigger swings, but the payouts always remain the same in proportion to the bet you are making. The same goes for the probability of making different poker hands, which remains the same regardless of your bet. Betting bigger can increase your short-term monetary variance but won’t affect the actual odds.

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