Mistakes Jacks or Better Players Make All the Time

Jacks or Better and Video Poker Machines
Jacks or Better is one of the most popular and oldest forms of video poker. It’s easy to play and if you know what to do, the strategy is fairly simple as well. But it’s like most casino games; if you make mistakes they cost you money.

Here’s a list of seven mistakes that Jacks or Better video poker players make every day. Learn how to avoid these mistakes on this page and you improve your chances of winning at Jacks or Better video poker.

1 – Royal Flush or Bust

The royal flush on a Jacks or Better video poker machine pays 4,000 coins when you bet five coins. This is a nice payout and makes just about any playing session profitable. Even if you’re playing on a quarter machine, the royal flush pays $1,000.

You should try to get as many royal flush hands as you can when playing real money video poker, but you can’t afford to chase them at the expense of other paying hands. Some players make every playing decision based on what gives them the best chance to hit a royal flush. This is a costly way to play Jacks or Better.

Royal Flush of Diamonds

Here’s an example of chasing a royal flush when it’s the wrong play:

You have a starting five card hand with three cards to a royal flush and a pair of jacks or better. You might have the ace of clubs, queen of clubs, the jack of clubs, the jack of hearts, and the seven of spades.

If you’re playing for a royal flush or nothing you keep the three high clubs. But the proper play that returns the most money over time is to keep the pair of jacks. The only time you keep a draw to a royal flush over a pair of jacks or higher is when you have four to a royal flush.

I even see players keep two to a royal flush and discard a paying hand. This is terrible strategy and costs you a great deal over time. Instead of using the royal flush or bust strategy, use a basic strategy card or chart when you play Jacks or Better video poker.

2 – Folding Paying Hands

This kind of goes with what you learned in the last section, but you should almost never fold a paying hand in Jacks or Better. Any hand of a pair of jacks or better, including two pair hands, three of a kind, straights, full houses, and flushes, is a paying hand.

The only time you should ever draw to a better hand when you have a paying hand is when you have four cards to a royal flush or four cards to a straight flush. When you have four cards to a royal flush the only hand you keep is a straight flush.

Video Poker Hand

This has to be a king, queen, jack, 10, and nine. If you have this hand, don’t draw for a royal flush. Every other paying hand that you have that includes four to a straight flush; you fold the one card that isn’t in the royal flush and hope to hit a royal flush.

If you have four to a straight flush, you always discard the fourth card unless you have three of a kind, a full house, a flush, or a straight. Realize that the only two hands on this list that you can have with four to a straight flush are a straight or a flush. If you have three of a kind or a full house you can’t have four to a straight flush.

3 – Betting Less Than Five Coins

You should never play Jacks or Better unless you bet five coins. If you can’t afford to make a five coin wager or don’t want to bet that much, find a machine with a lower per coin cost so you can bet five coins.

Video Poker Paytable

When you bet five coins and hot a royal flush you get an extra bonus. Instead of winning 1,250 coins, you win 4,000 coins. This makes a big difference in the overall house edge of the game. A five coin bet only costs 25 cents on a nickel machine, and $1.25 on a quarter machine, so you have options for lower cost wagers.

If you don’t want to bet five coins you should find a different game to play that has a low house edge. And if you don’t bet five coins and still play Jacks or Better, you should only bet one coin. The edge is the same for any bet under five coins, so don’t waste the extra money betting two, three, or four coins.

4 – Not Playing 9/6

Jacks or Better is available with many different pay tables, but you should only play on machines that pay nine coins for a full house and six coins for a flush. These machines are usually called 9/6 machines and they have a low house edge.

The house edge is much lower on a 9/6 Jacks or Better game than the other pay tables. You can find 8/6, 9/5, 8/5, and worse, but you should never play on them.

5 – No Bonus and No Comps

Jacks or Better video poker offers a low house edge and high payback percentage, but the casino still always has an edge. But there are a couple things you can do to help offset the house edge.

The first tactic is to find a good Jacks or Better bonus at an online casino. A bonus gives you more money to play with, which gives you more chances to hit a royal flush. You can’t get bonuses when you play Jacks or Better in a regular casino, but there’s a trick you can use there also.

Most land based casinos in the US have some sort of player’s club that awards comps for your play. Some online casinos also have player’s clubs, but they’re more common in land based casinos. You should sign up for the comps club wherever you play Jacks or Better video poker.

If you can find an online casino that offers a comps program and a bonus for Jacks or Better play you can enjoy the benefits of both at the same time.

6 – Playing Too Fast

When you play Jacks or Better, even using perfect strategy and a 9/6 pay table, the house still has an edge. This means that over time you’re going to lose money. This doesn’t mean that you can’t win sometimes when you play, but the losses end up higher than the wins in the long run.

One way to limit your losses playing Jacks or Better is to slow down how fast you play. Most Jacks or Better players play as fast as possible. But you have complete control over how fast or slow you play, so you can play slower and lose less money.

7 – Guessing

You never need to guess what the best play is when you’re playing Jacks or Better. People have used computer programs to determine the best play in every situation, and you can get a strategy card or chart that shows what the best play is.

Here’s a simple strategy that you can use when you play Jacks or Better video poker. When you use this strategy on a 9/6 machine the house edge is close to .5%. In other words, the pay back percentage is almost 99.5% using this strategy.

Read the list from the top to the bottom and stop as soon as you find a hand that matches what you have. Keep the cards that make the hand and discard everything else.

  • Royal flush – Straight flush – Four of a kind
  • Any four cards to a royal flush
  • Full house – Flush – Straight – Three of a kind
  • Any four cards to a straight flush
  • Any two pairs
  • Any pair of jacks or higher
  • Any three cards to a royal flush
  • Any four cards to a flush
  • Any pair of tens or lower
  • Any four cards to an open ended straight
  • Any two suited cards jack or higher
  • An three cards to a straight flush
  • Any two cards jack or higher
  • Any king, queen, or jack with a suited 10
  • One card jack or higher
  • If you don’t have any of the hands listed above, discard all five cards


Eliminating the most common mistakes that Jacks or Better players make is easy. Start using the best strategy every time you play, only play on machines with the 9/6 pay table, and make five coin wagers.

You can improve your results even more by slowing down your play and getting bonuses and comps. When you avoid all of the Jacks or Better mistakes listed above you’re always playing with the lowest possible house edge. This makes your video poker bankroll last longer and improves your chance to win every time you play.