Learning how to play Jacks or Better video poker is the first step most video poker players take. When the game first debuted in the mid-1970s, Jacks or Better was known as “Draw Poker”, and that term is still used by some today.
Because Jacks or Better is the easiest to learn, it remains the standard and most popular video poker machine.
Full Pay Games
Full pay Jack or Better is also known as 9/6 Jacks or Better because you get paid nine times your bet for a full house and six times your bet for a flush. The full pay version is what all video poker players try to find when they decide to play a game.
Each game has its own full pay version, while those that don’t offer the best payoffs are called Short Pay, Ugly, or even Not-So-Ugly for those games which aren’t full pay, but still have a high expectation. The full pay version of Jacks or Better has a house edge of 0.46%, meaning someone who bet $1000 an hour on the game would expect to lose $4.60 in that hour.
8/5 Pay Tables
8/5 Jacks or Better video poker is a common variant of the game where payoffs for the full house are 8-to-1 and payoffs for the flush are 5-to-1. You get paid less on two high-paying, but relatively common, hands, so you lose money by playing 8/5 video poker instead of 9/6 video poker.
The house edge on this game is 2.7%, while the average loss per hour when betting $1000 would be just around $27.
Another game you’ll find in casinos is the 7/5 Draw Poker variation. As you might have guessed, you’ll get paid 7-to-1 on the full house, instead of 9x or 8x the original wager. The house edge on this game is 3.85%, which means you’ll lose an average of about $38.55 per hour if you bet $1000 per hour.
Note these are averages of what you should expect to lose. Any given video poker session could leave you with a lot less money or a substantial winner.
6/5 (Also Known as the Worst Payout Game)
The final video poker game you might see in a casino is 6/5 Jacks or Better video poker. The payout on the full house is all the way down to 6x the wager, meaning you’re getting paid on a full house what someone gets paid for a flush in the full pay version of the game.
The house edge balloons to $5 on this machine, while the expected loss for an average hour of play when wagering a thousand dollars is a straight up $50.00.
This is why you want to learn the pay charts and find the best version of the game. We aren’t talking about the price in a Happy Meal here. The difference for an afternoon of 9/6 video poker compared to an afternoon (let’s say 4 hours) of 6/5 video poker would be around $183 on average, if you were wagering $1000 per hour. Since one hand goes quickly, the money adds up quickly.
6/5 Tens or Better
You might notice that some games of 6/5 video poker have the 10s or Better stipulation. If you get a pair of tens, you’ll win 1-to-1 payoffs like you would with a pair of Jacks. This affects the odds in your favour. You’ll find other variations in Jacks or Better that can affect the game you’re playing, including the famous example below.
Bonus Video Poker
Bonus Video Poker plays much like Jacks or Better, except the payouts are different on specific Four of a Kind hands. If you get four 2s, four 3s, or four 4s, you get paid more than getting a four 5s through Kings. Collecting four Aces gives you an even bigger payout.
You’ll also find Bonus Bonus Video Poker and Double Double Bonus Video Poker. But I get away from teaching you how to play Jacks or Better, so let’s talk about the original game.
Playing the Game
Now that you know about all the crazy variations of Jacks or Better let’s talking about your first time playing the basic game. When you walk down Jacks or Better video poker row, make sure the walk the perimeter of the entire carousel or carousels of video poker machines.
See whether they have 9/6 Jacks or Better. If not, lower your expectations and see whether you can find 8/5. After you’ve chosen your machine, insert your slots card into the machine, so you get credit (comps and rebates) for every hand you play.
Comps are perks like free rooms, and complimentary meals casinos offer people for playing a certain amount of slots or video poker at their establishment. Rebates or cash back is precisely what it sounds like: money you get back for showing loyalty.
Set your bet level by choosing which denomination you want to play at and how many coins you want to bet. You’ll also want to bet five coins on Jacks or Better because this increases the size of your jackpot.
If you can’t afford or don’t enjoy playing at a higher coin denomination, lower the size of the coin, but always bet 5 of them. You can bet five by hitting the Bet Max button.
When you hit “Deal”, you’ll receive five cards. The game is similar to 5-card draw, though you aren’t trying to beat the hand of another opponent–you’re trying to get as high up the pay table as possible. A pair of Jacks is the lowest hand that wins.
Anything less than two pairs is more in the way of a push because all pairs higher than ten payout at 1-to-1. This means anyone who wants to stay ahead of the game is going to be trying to hit larger hands whenever you can. Much of perfect strategy involves when you should pass up a small win to take a shot at a higher win.
When you have certain card combinations that offer a chance at the biggest hands and payoffs, it becomes a value play to discard a certain win to speculate on a much bigger winning hand. Reading about video poker strategy becomes a significant factor in your continued success.
That’s the point you should take away from this: video poker is not the slot machines. Slots have no strategy to follow. Video poker gaming offers plenty of strategy, where the moves you make affect the chances of you winning or not. So learning how to play Jacks or Better isn’t about learning how to work the machine. It’s learning how to work the game.