4 Jacks or Better Video Poker Rules and Strategies Most Players Don’t Know About

Casino Video Poker Machine Screen, Poker Cards
If you’ve made it through the wilds of the internet to find your way here, you probably know all about basic strategy for Jacks or Better video poker already.

With basic strategy guidelines out of the way, many Jacks or Better players mistakenly believe that their tutelage on video poker’s foundational game has come to an end. While it is true that learning basic strategy is an essential first step in a quality Jacks or Better education, it is just that – a first step.

Once you’ve mastered the ins and outs of playing your five-card draws with optimal precision, you’re definitely in business and there’s no doubt about that.

Nonetheless, the best Jacks or Better players out there – world-renowned professionals like Bob Dancer who consistently beat the house by playing at an expert level – never rest on their laurels.

I don’t believe Jacks or Better enthusiasts should ever limit themselves to the confines of basic strategy. Learn it, by all means, but always follow through by enhancing your basic strategy knowledge with supplementary skills and strategies designed to extract every possible edge from Jacks or Better’s basic rules and gameplay.

To that end, the list below highlights four rules and strategies for Jacks or Better video poker that most players simply don’t know enough about.

1 – Betting the Maximum of 5 Coins Is the Only Way to Score Premium Payouts on a Royal

If you’ve been spending time in video poker parlors or you’ve gambled on online video poker sites, you’ve probably heard regulars admonishing rookies who don’t bet all five coins:

“Hey, whaddya doin’ there guy? You’re only helpin’ the casino out by bettin’ less than the max.”

Unfortunately, while these self-styled mentors are quick to dole advice like that out, they seldom back it up with a real explanation as to exactly why maximum bets are the best play.

I’ve got you covered though, so scan at the standard 9/6 full pay Jacks or Better pay table show below:

Jacks or Better Full Pay Table (by Coins Bets)

HAND 1 COIN 2 COINS 3 COINS 4 COINS 5 COINS
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a Kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two Pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5
Payback 98.3% 98.3% 98.3% 98.3% 99.54%

This pay table can be fund flashing in yellow print from hundreds of thousands of Game King machines found in casinos all over the world.

I want you to focus on how the payouts for each hand, except the best hand, escalate according to a steady pattern. No matter the size of your bet, making two pair is always good for a 2 to 1 payout in terms of coins. In other words, bet 1 coin and get 2 back for two pair; bet 2 coins and get 4 back, etc.

This pattern holds up even for a straight flush, which pays out at 50 to 1 for each coin wagered. You can bet 4 coins and get 200 back for a straight flush, or 5 coins for 250 back, but it all boils down to the same 50 to 1 payout.

But get a load of that Royal Flush payout, which starts at 250 to 1 for a 1-coin bet. Royal payouts climb according to the same pattern for 1-4 coins bet, until you hit that 5-coin max bet level. There, landing a Royal Flush is good for a whopping 4,000 to 1 payout.

This “jackpot” element is crucial to Jacks or Better strategy, because as the table’s bottom column clearly shows, even a 9/6 full pay game won’t offer the 99.54 percent payback rate that makes this game so great for players.

Simply put, when you bet anything less than 5 coins per hand, you’re doing the casino a massive favor. Not only does the house’s liability drop severely on Royal Flushes, but every hand you play suddenly changes from 99.54 percent payback to 98.30 percent.

Fortunately, the Game King machine – and the top-rated online casinos offering Jacks or Better – lets players choose their coin denomination. So if betting 5 coins at $1 per is too rich for your blood (and bankroll), just dial it back to the $0.25 coin denomination and max-bet for $1.25 per hand.

2 – Hunting for the 9/6 Full Pay Machines and Never Settling for Less

Casino Video Poker Floor, Full House Poker Cards
That 99.54 percent payback rate is what brings so many sharp gamblers out of the woodwork to play Jacks or Better.

Expressed in terms of house edge, the game only lends the casino a 0.46 percent advantage, putting Jacks or Better on par with blackjack and other popular casino games.

But that’s only when you play against the 9/6 full pay table shown below:

Jacks or Better Full Pay Table

HAND PAYOUT
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
Jacks or Better 1
All Other 0

As you might have noticed by now, many video poker games out there today don’t actually offer the 9/6 full pay table.

Instead, the casinos try to get one over on players by offering machines that use one of the inferior pay tables shown below:

Inferior Jacks or Better Pay Tables (by Payback Percentage)

HAND 9/5 8/6 8/5 7/5 6/5
Royal Flush 800 800 800 800 800
Straight Flush 50 50 50 50 50
Four of a Kind 25 25 25 25 25
Full House 9 8 8 7 6
Flush 5 6 5 5 5
Straight 4 4 4 4 4
Three of a Kind 3 3 3 3 3
Two Pair 2 2 2 2 2
Jacks or Better 1 1 1 1 1
Payback Percentage 98.44% 98.39% 97.29% 96.14% 94.99%

These pay tables are, pardon my French, pure B.S. By tweaking just a single payout downward, casinos can turn Jacks or Better into a sucker game on par with slots.

Here’s how Bob Dancer, known in the gambling world as the “King of Video Poker,” described the creeping shift away from 9/6 full pay machines:

“The machines at Station have been getting a lot tighter. Most players think there will be no 100 percent games by the end of the year at Station Casinos.

They have 100 percent machines, but they have more at the middle of the spectrum and a whole lot near the bottom. Station appears to be catering to the less-knowledgeable player.

But no one should play at a machine that pays less than 99 percent. There are too many 99 percent machines around town.”

3 – Knowing the Odds Against Making Every Possible Paying Hand

Two Video Poker Machines in Casino, Money Stack
Everyone knows a full house beats a flush or a straight in poker, so naturally, it pays out more than those hands in Jacks or Better.

But did you know it’s actually slightly more difficult to make a flush or a straight in Jacks or Better than it is a full house?

Well, that’s a fact, as the table below shows off quite clearly:

Probabilities and Odds Against for Paying Hands in Jacks or Better

HAND PROBABILITY ODDS
Royal Flush 0.003% 1 in 40,391
Straight Flush 0.012% 1 in 9,148
Four of a Kind 0.236% 1 in 423
Full House 1.151% 1 in 87
Flush 1.119% 1 in 91
Straight 1.104% 1 in 89
Three of a Kind 7.439% 1 in 13
Two Pair 12.921% 1 in 7.7
Jacks or Better 21.370% 1 in 4.7
Nothing 54.647% 1 in 1.8
Total 100.000%  

As you can see, the odds against making a full house, flush, and straight are almost identical. Knowing this, when you have starting hands that allow for multiple draws to these hands, always opt for the full house and it’s juiced up payout.

4 – Playing Faster to Make Long Odds More Attainable

In that table above, you can see that landing a Royal in Jacks or Better is a huge longshot at 1 in 40,391 odds against.

Playing through more than 40,000 hands to realize those odds may seem like an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Just ask “Dr. Antonius,” a video poker speed-runner who holds the world record for fastest Jacks or Better session ever recorded. You can watch the good doctor do his thing down below:

But here’s the scoop. Using perfect basic strategy, Dr. Antonius completed 2,262 hands in a single hour. Thus, it would only take him 17 hours or so of grinding to reach the 40,391-hand threshold.

Obviously, you don’t have to play at world-record pace to improve your odds of a Royal. But playing faster is the best way to churn out enough hands to realize those longshot odds.

Conclusion

Jacks or Better basic strategy is like a key that opens a treasure chest stuffed with gold and jewels. In theory, when wielded in the right hands, using the hard and fast rules for discard / draw decisions can turn Jacks or Better into one of the best games in the house. But that advantage remains entirely theoretical when players don’t know about the other rules and strategies found above.

The folks who don’t bet all 5 coins per hand, sit down at inferior non-full pay tables, or play too quickly or slowly for their personal bankroll requirements instantly sacrifice all of the extra equity basic strategy provides. Knowing this, you should never put a penny in a Jacks or Better machine until you’ve checked all four rules and strategies found here off your to-do list.