Jacks or Better Basic Strategy

Running various scenarios in our Video Poker Calculator, or actually playing hands on our Video Poker Trainer is the best way to fine tune your video poker strategies. That’s how you can find the mistakes you are making and be able to fill those holes. But for a quick starting point on the best way to play Jacks or Better, you can consult the chart below.

The chart assumes the typical Jacks or Better game with the 9/6 payout table, and the chart also assumes you’re playing the max 5 coins.

The first column is the Expected Value (expected return when playing 5 credits) when getting dealt that particular hand.

Please note that the expected value listed here is not the same as the payout table, because these values are calculated BEFORE you draw any cards. For example, when getting dealt two pair, our chart shows a value of 12 credits even though the payout for this hand is 10 credits. That’s because holding the two pair and drawing can potentially improve your hand to a full house, so the extra 2 credits reflect that mathematical potential.

EVHand Dealt Initially
4,000Royal Flush
250Straight Flush
125Four of a Kind
98 Four to a Royal Flush
30Full House
25Flush
21 Three of a Kind
20Straight
17Four to a Straight Flush with 2 Outs
12 Two Pair
8High Pair
7Three to a Royal Flush
5 Four to a Flush

So what this table shows you is that some hands, even though they are not yet winning hands, have a higher expected value than some made hands!

For example, Four to a Royal Flush has an expected value of 98 making it more valuable than a made flush that has a value of 40! So, this tells us that it is a better move to draw one card and go for the Royal Flush rather than keep a made flush hand.

Once we get below the Four to a Flush, the decisions get more difficult and there are many exceptions to any rules.

Typically two unsuited high cards beat suited hands with a ten – such as TJ, TQ and TK but not always – suited TJ beats JA and JK. Also, suited TQ beats QA.

    1. K, Q, J, T
    2. Low Pair
    3. Four to an Outside Straight (except K high which is above)
    4. Three to a Straight Flush – 3 Ways (ie – 3, 4, 5)
    5. Four Broadway (A, K, Q, J, T) Cards (except K high which is above) and Two Suited High Cards
    6. Three to a Straight Flush – 2 Ways (ie – 3, 4, 6)
    7. Two Unsuited High Cards (if dealt 3, then pick the lowest 2) – the exceptions include Kc, Qh, Jd, 9d beats Kc, Qh, Jd which beats Qh, Jd.
    8. Suited TJ, TQ, or TK
    9. One High Card
    10. Three to a Straight Flush – One Way (ie – 3, 4, 7) – Three to a straight flush comes in many forms so be careful. In some cases it can be better than two suited high cards. In other cases a single high card can be better than three to a straight flush.
    11. Discard Everything

The list above basically provides your best moves, in order! Remember that these basic strategy guidelines only pertain to the game Jacks or Better with the 9/6 payout table and playing the max 5 credits!

But understanding these basic rules will help you be able to play all video poker games at a competent level.

When you’re ready to play for real money, check out our article on where to play video poker online! Our Jacks or Better page will also provide you a list of the best online casinos to play Jacks or Better.

Last updated: November 17, 2012 at 1:26 am