Jacks or Better is the basic version of video poker. Like most variants, it’s based on draw poker. In that card game, players are dealt five cards. A player is given the choice of dumping 0 to 5 of those cards, at which point a replacement card is drawn. After one draw, a gambler compares hands with their opponent.
In video poker, no opponent exists. You don’t play against another player. Nor do you play against the house (dealer). Instead, you match your cards against a payout schedule. This pay table is sets out what you win for building certain high ranking hands. If you don’t meet the minimum qualification, you simply lose your bet with no compensation. Several variants of video poker are named after that minimum qualifying hand, which is why this game is called “Jacks or Better”.
To win a payout, you’ll need to have at least a pair of jacks or higher. A pair of tens, a pair of nines, or lower is going to be as bad as 7-high offsuit. The higher ranked hands pay off more. So if you get two pairs, three of a kind, a straight, a flush, a full house, a four of a kind, a straight flush, or a royal flush, you win even more. Those hands I just listed are in ascending order of importance, so the jackpot hand is the royal flush.
One major difference in video poker machines and pokies is the fact strategy exists in video poker. Playing a pokie, any one person hitting the “spin” button is as good as the other. That’s not so with these gaming machines. As in live draw poker, building a hand takes knowledge and good decision making. The decision of which cards to keep and which to discard materially affects the odds of the game. It pays to learn the strengths of hands, as well as how often they appear. Reading books and articles to study tips and strategies has an effect on how well you play and how often you win.
Another key difference in the two games is the house edge. The house edge in video poker gambling is one of the best in a casino. If you find the right pay table on the right machine, it’s one of the few games you can gain an advantage over the casino. That’s not going to be the case most of the time, but Jacks or Better offers a 99% payout percentage or more, if you learn how to play the game.
Playing the pokies, you’re lucky to find a 95% payout percentage, unless you’re a high roller–and even then, the percentage might only be 97%. Once again, lowering the house edge down to the theoretical 1% or less is going to require study, much like blackjack players study basic strategy. Most players don’t do this, so the effective house edge is higher for most video poker gamblers.
Learning how to find full pay games is important. The term “full pay” indicates the best odds a game have. Once you learn what the payouts look like for the full pay machines, you can make searching for those machines in each casino a part of your strategy. We mentioned a second ago about finding the best payout tables. That’s one aspect of Jacks or Better new players have to learn: not all versions of the game are equal. Certain tables offer better odds than others.
Let’s take a look at a full pay payout structure. In this version of the game, the full house pays out at 9-to-1, sometimes noted as 9:1. The flush pays at 6:1. When you see a game with full house (9x) and flush (6x), this is called 9/6 Jacks or Better, sometimes noted on the video poker discussion forums as “full pay JoB”. When you find this version of the game, the house edge is only 0.46%, meaning the payout percentage is 99.54%. The 9/5 game has a payout percentage of 98.45%, the 8/6 version a 98.39% payout, along with 8/5’s 97.30%, the 96.15% for the 7/5 game, and the 95.00% for the 6/5 game.
The most common version you’ll hear about is 8/5. As you can see, these payouts have a huge effect on your odds. Don’t pay attention to the other odds on these games, if it means you play with lower odds on the full houses and flushes. Many versions offer higher payouts on the four of a kind, but this shouldn’t fool you into thinking these rules offer better odds.
The online casino industry offers a wide selection of video poker games, with 15 to 20 different games being a common number. The Microgaming games menu includes “Power Poker”, which lets you play up to four hands at once. This follows a gaming trend in the Internet casino industry: multiplay games.
Everywhere you look, you’ll see multi-hand blackjack, multi-spin roulette, and multi-spin pokies. It’s no surprise you can play a multiple hand version of video poker now. We’re not sold. Even if you get excellent odds, you still play at a disadvantage. That means you’re just quadrupling your expected loss per hand by playing Power Poker from Microgaming, at least if you keep your bet level the same for all the hands. The option is there for you and, if you divide your bets by four, the game is likely to play out with less variation, since your results depend on four hands–not one.
Games like Bonus Poker, Bonus Deluxe, Double Bonus, and Double-Double Bonus are all variations of Jacks or Better. Because they offer higher bonuses on certain hands, especially four of a kind hands in certain combinations, they fall into that category we described earlier. For instance, Double-Double Bonus offers 5 enhanced payouts for 4 of a kind hands. One includes a bigger payout for 4 aces combined with one 2, 3, or 4. As you can see, this encourages players to keep those low cards in their hand, which can play havoc with your strategy otherwise.
As we mentioned earlier, many of these games offer bigger payouts on the third tier winning hands, but often with a lower overall payout percentage. Double-Double Bonus isn’t a good example in that case, as several variants has a payout over 99% and the full pay version is over 100%. Remember, these are quite rare and we wouldn’t expect to find them in online casinos.
One other new variant you should be aware of is Supajax, which is a progressive jackpot version of this same game. Also visit our page with video poker questions and answers and our description of various real poker games, too. See video poker machines and video poker rules for more info.