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Strategy and Tactics for Video Poker Game Jacks or Better

Jack or Better is the original video poker game, and despite the appearance of countless varieties, it still enjoys great popularity, and for a good reason: the rules are fairly simply with often straightforward tactical play.

Jack or Better Video Poker: the Strategy

Video pokerWhen playing Jacks or Better many people put the emphases on the strategy, not tactics. This is just plain wrong and probably the result of multitudes of articles discussing different video poker strategies.

Strategy is all about the ‘big picture’. It tells you what need to be done. Tactics is more ‘in the moment’, and tells you how to do it.

Let me put through the super-simple strategy for playing video poker: learn your tactics well, you can apply it to all poker machines, and stay longer in the game. The real windfall in video poker is hitting the Royal Flush.

The chance of this happening if you don’t play the game is zero. Quite simply, the chance of winning the Royal Flush goes up with the number of games that you play.

The exact percentages? Let’s make the assumption that you’re holding 2 cards and need to get 3 more (out of the 47 cards that remain in the deck). The odds of this happening, if you play just one single game, are 1 in 16,215.

Jack or Better Video Poker: the Tactics

In Jacks or Better, tactics is more important than any strategy that you may have. It’s knowing what to do in the moment, in any given situation, that has the direct influence on your winning percentages.

In short, know you combinations. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • You have to choose between the open-ended straight draw and a low pair. Contrary to what most people think, keeping the low pair is the better play in almost all the cases. I say ‘almost’ because there is an exception: when you hold K Q J T T, going for the straight draw is better than keeping the TT pair, because of the fact that you’re also holding 3 cards that can make the high pairs.
  • You have to choose between a flush draw and a high pair. Probability-wise, the high pair is always better. Keep the high pair, and discard the rest.
  • You have to choose between a flush draw and a low pair. In this case, the flush draw beats the low pair. Probability-wise, the flush draw sits between the high pair and the low pair.