Jacks or Better Video Poker

Jacks or Better is known as the simplest and most popular video poker variant. To win, you need a hand of at least a pair of jacks or better.

In our complete guide to Jacks or Better, find out how to play the game and what are the best strategies to use.

Discover this game’s great return rates and find top-rated casinos to play for real money.

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How to Play Jacks or Better

The game is based on 5-card draw poker and is played using a standard 52-card deck.

Your goal is to create the best possible poker hand. The minimum required hand to get a payout is a pair of jacks.

  1. Choose Your Bet – The first thing you should do is decide your stake level. If possible, bet the maximum allowed coins: 5.
  2. Deal – Click on the deal to be dealt a hand of five cards.
  3. Keep or Discard – Choose whether to keep or discard any or all your five cards. When you’ve made up your mind, click on the draw button to replace your discarded cards. This new five-card combination will be your final hand and determines whether you have a winner.

Jacks or Better Hand Rankings

Here’s a ranking of all possible winning hands in Jacks or Better, starting from lowest to highest in value:

  • Jacks or Better – A pair of two matching picture cards. For example, jack of spades and jack of clubs.
  • Two Pair – Two pairs of matching picture cards. For example, a pair of jacks and a pair of queens.
  • Three of a kind – Three cards of the same value. For example, three sevens.
  • Straight – Five cards that have values that run consecutively. They don’t all have to be of the same suit. For example, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 of any suit.
  • Flush – Five cards of the same suit. For example, 3, 5, 9, J and K all of which are diamonds.
  • Full House – This hand contains a 3 of a kind combination and a pair. For example, 3 kings plus 2 jacks is a Full House.
  • Four of a Kind – Four cards of the same value. For example, four queens.
  • Straight Flush – This is a straight where all the cards are also the same suit. For example, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 of hearts.
  • Royal Flush – The premium hand is a suited 10, J, Q, K, A combination.

Jacks or Better RTP & Payouts

Taking the Jacks or Better video poker available at Golden Nugget online casino, the RTP is 98.45%. This assumes you are playing at the 5-coin level.

This RTP compares favorably to all slots and most table games. Keep in mind, the RTP can vary by game variant.

Here are the payouts you can expect for each hand:

HandPrize in coins
Jacks or Better1
Two pair2
3 of a kind 3
Straight4
Flush5
Full House9
4 of a kind25
Straight Flush50
Royal Flush250

800 coin payout for a Royal Flush if you’re playing at the 5-coin level

Jacks or Better Strategy 

Jacks or Better is a simple game, but you can boost your chances by using correct strategy.

That means knowing what to hold or discard, depending on what combination of cards has been dealt.

Here are some basic Jacks or Better strategy tips to keep you on the right track:

  • No matching cards – Hold J or better, discard the rest.
  • Pair 2s to 10s – Usually hold the pair and discard the rest (there are exceptions which we’ll look at below)
  • Three to a straight (eg 7, 8, 9. Hold these three cards and discard the other two)
  • Three to a royal flush (eg J, Q, K, all clubs. Hold these three cards and discard the other two)
  • Four to a straight or flush (eg 7, 8, 9, 10 of different suits or 2, 4, 6, 8 of the same suit. Hold these four cards and discard the one left)

Jacks or Better Video Poker – Small Pairs

Low pairs (2s to 10s) don’t pay anything in Jacks or Better video poker.

They can sometimes be worth holding though. It might not be immediately obvious, but the math says it’s the right thing to do.

When to Keep Low Pairs

  • Low Pairs and a High Card – You’ve been dealt 3-3-8-9-A. You hold the pair of 3s but what about the A. It might look pretty but the optimal move is to discard the A and the other two cards.
  • Low Pairs and a Straight Draw – If you have been dealt 6-6-7-8-9, it’s tempting to discard a 6 and go for the straight. That’s a mistake. It’s optimal to keep the pair and discard the other 3 cards.
  • Low Pairs and 3 to a Straight Flush – It’s a similar story with a pair in combination with 3 to a straight flush. Say you have been dealt 5d-6d-7d-7c-9s. You might think dumping the 7c and 9s is the right move. It’s not. Keep the pair of 7s and discard the rest.

When to Break Up Low Pairs

Keeping low pairs instead of chasing draws is usually the correct play. There are a couple of exceptions though.

  • Low Pair and Three to a Royal Flush – The math says it’s worth breaking up a pair for the potential jackpot on offer from a Royal Flush. For example, with 5d-5s-Jc-Qc-Kc, discard the pair of 5s.
  • Low Pair and Four to a Flush – With a hand like 5d-5c-7c-9c-Qc, discard the 5d and try and land the fifth club for the flush.

Jacks or Better High Pair Strategy

As a pair of Jacks or better is a winning hand with the potential to improve, it’s usually worth keeping them. There are exceptions though.

When to Keep High Pairs

  • High Pair with 4 to a Flush – With a hand like Jc-Js-2s-5s-7s the optimal play is to keep the pair and not chase the flush.
  • High Pair with 4 to a Straight – Just like the flush draw, don’t go chasing straights when you have a high pair.

When to Break up High Pairs

There’s only one good reason to break up a high pair. That’s when you’re just one card away from landing a Royal Flush.

  • High Pair with Royal Flush – If you have a hand like 10c-10s-Js-Qs-Ks, discard the 10c and go for the massive draw.

To sum it up, always keep high pairs unless you’re one card away from a Royal Flush.

Pros & Cons of Jacks or Better

Jacks or Better is an action-packed Video Poker variant with a super high RTP compared to slots and some table games.

It’s easier to make winning hands compared to most video poker formats, because of the one-pair requirement of jacks or better.

Pros
  • Easy to play
  • Higher then average RTP
  • Low volatility
  • Fast paced
Cons
  • No wild cards
  • Requires 5 coins for max Royal Flush payouts

This game has low volatility, meaning you should expect frequent wins. Though, the big wins might come less frequently compared to some high volatility variants.

Jacks or Better Alternatives

Jacks or Better might be the most popular format but some variants fill the gaps Jacks or Better is missing.

Different popular formats, such as Double Bonus or Aces and Faces, have a higher maximum payout. Whereas Joker Poker makes forming winning combinations easier through its Wild card.

Conclusion

Jacks of Better is simple to play but offers an element of strategy so you can improve your winning chances. The RTP stacks up favorably too, especially compared to games like roulette and slots.

If you’ve not played video poker before but fancy giving it a go, Jacks or Better is an ideal format to begin with.

FAQs

Most online casinos offer a Jacks or Better free play game. This allows you to brush up on your strategy without having to risk any of your cash. You can play Jacks or Better in demo mode, without any limits.

A royal flush is the best hand in Jacks or Better out of all possible hands. At most casinos, this will get you a prize of 250 coins at lower coin bets. Play at the maximum 5-coin level and that prize increases to 800 coins.

It’s easy to play. It has a high RTP. It offers players the chance to use strategy. That combination has proven to be incredibly popular. Jacks or Better is the classic form of video poker, and it’s considered the best by many players because of the above-listed reasons.

The Jacks or Better return to player rate varies slightly depending on the version of the game you’re playing and where you’re playing it at. The Jacks or Better full pay version for example, has an RTP of 99.54%.