Jacks or Better is most certainly the world’s most popular brand of video poker, with most casinos offering multiple versions of the game. While even the best Jacks or Better machines don’t offer a player advantage, optimal strategy usually results in the player having returns that are very close to 100%, making it one of the best bets in any casino. It’s also one of the video poker games with the simplest strategies to learn; a small list is all you need to play online jacks or better with near-perfect strategy.
Best Online Casinos for Jacks or Better Video Poker
Many online casinos offer good, full pay Jacks or Better video poker games, but our pick for the best online casino for Jacks or Better is Bovada Casino. At Bovada, you can play a full pay Jacks or Better game that will allow you to play as many as four hands at once! The ability to play multiple hands and still keep the best possible odds appeals to us, since it’s not an option available at many sites.
Another good option is Bodog Casino, which also has a full pay Jacks or Better video poker game. However, this pay table is only available in their single-hand game. In their multi-hand games, they offer less generous payouts (in the odds section below, look for the 8/5 table to see how much of a difference this makes). On the other hand, you can play up to 52 hands at once, which is kind of fun!
Online Jacks or Better Video Poker Rules
Jacks or Better video poker is a fairly easy game to play. The object is to make the best possible five card hand, with the player having one chance to draw new cards to replace any they do not wish to keep from their original hand.
The game starts with a player choosing what denomination to play at, and how many coins (typically one to five) they would like to wager on the hand. In multi-hand games, this is the number of coins that will be wagered on each hand.
The player is then dealt five cards from a standard 52-card deck. The player can then choose to hold as many of these five cards as they like, discarding the rest. Once the player has finalized their choices, they should hit the deal button (it may sometimes have another name).
At this point, the cards the player has discarded will be replaced by new cards from the deck. If the player is playing a multi-handed game, each hand will receive new cards; these cards are dealt independently of one another, meaning that more than one hand can receive the same replacement card.
Once all replacement cards are dealt, the player will win coins based on the strength of each of their hands. As the name of the game suggests, the player will require a pair of jacks or better in order to win anything in Jacks or Better video poker. Pay charts vary, but the following is the full pay version of the game that is most desirable:
Online Jacks or Better Pay Chart
- Royal Flush: 800
- Straight Flush: 50
- Four of a Kind: 25
- Full House: 9
- Flush: 6
- Straight: 4
- Three of a Kind: 3
- Two Pair: 2
- Pair, Jacks or Higher: 1
One important note is that these payouts are per coin and expressed as for one, not to one odds. In other words, if you bet one coin on a hand and make a pair of jacks, you will get one coin back, thus breaking even. Essentially, a pair of jacks or higher is a push, while two pair or higher wins.
Online Jacks or Better Video Poker for Real Money
The key things to look out for when playing online Jacks or Better video poker for real money are the payouts being offered and the number of hands you’ll be allowed to play. As we’ve said already, the pay table above is the best one you’ll find, and is known as the “9/6” table, after the payouts for a full house and a flush. Lower pay tables will increase the house edge, sometimes significantly.
Many players enjoy playing more than one hand at a time, since this allows them to place more bets at once while also reducing variance somewhat. Some online casinos will allow you to play many hands at once; for instance, Bodog Casino will allow you to play up to 52 hands at once!
Online Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy
Proper strategy is critical to playing Jacks or Better video poker. While proper strategy can make a difference in most games, that difference is especially large in video poker. Many of the correct plays are counterintuitive, and may seem especially strange if you’ve played poker before!
The following is a simple strategy that comes very close to the optimal, perfect strategy for Jacks or Better video poker. Following this strategy – based on one first published at the Wizard of Odds by Michael Shackleford – will help you avoid major mistakes and will allow you to get the most out of your Jacks or Better play.
In order to follow the strategy, simply start at the top of the list and work your way down, stopping at the first hand it is possible for you to keep. Keep those cards, discarding the rest.
Jacks or Better Strategy Card
- Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, Three of a Kind, Full House
- Four to a Royal Flush
- Straight, Flush
- Four to a Straight Flush
- Two Pair
- Pair (Jacks or Higher)
- Three to a Royal Flush
- Four to a Flush
- Pair (Tens or Lower)
- Four to an Open-Ended Straight
- Two Suited Cards (Jacks or Higher)
- Three to a Straight Flush
- Two Unsuited High Cards
- A Ten and a Face Card (Not an Ace) of the Same Suit
- One Card, Jack or Higher
- Discard All Cards
More complex strategies can allow you even better returns, but learning them is much more difficult, and even optimal strategy only adds another 0.08% to your expected return.
One last tip: always play the maximum number of coins available on a machine (typically five). If you play with fewer coins, it is likely that you won’t get full value for your royal flushes, which will hurt your returns significantly.
Online Jacks or Better Video Poker Odds
If you play with optimal strategy and are playing on a Jacks or Better video poker machine with the full pay 9/6 pay table, the optimal strategy will show a return of 99.54%. The strategy we outlined above comes very close to this total, returning the player about 99.46%.
If you are forced to play on a Jacks or Better machine that offers lower payouts, you can expect your returns to fall accordingly. In Jacks or Better, most pay tables are named after the payouts they offer on a full house and flush; the full pay table is thus known as 9/6. The following is a list of some common pay tables, and their associated expected returns with optimal play:
Jacks or Better Odds Pay Tables
- 9/5 Jacks or Better: 98.45%
- 8/6 Jacks or Better: 98.84%
- 8/5 Jacks or Better: 97.30%
- 7/5 Jacks or Better: 96.15%
- 6/5 Jacks or Better: 95.00%
Some Jacks or Better games attempt to make their pay tables appear better by keeping the 9/6 portion of the table intact, but shorting the player on straights or three of a kind (which should pay 4 and 3 coins, respectively). These machines tend to have even lower returns than the machines mentioned above, and should be avoided.