Video poker is the second most popular game in casinos behind slot machines. It hit the casino floor in the late 1970’s and by 1980, video poker was available in all Nevada and Atlantic City casinos. The first video poker game was called Draw Poker. That game is known as Jacks or Better today. The title changed as video poker grew in popularity and more games evolved in the 80’s and 90’s.
While Jacks or Better was the first video poker game, its popularity has diminished over the years. It does not offer the high variance most other video poker games offer. For that same reason, Jacks or Better is more popular among Las Vegas locals and savvy tourists, as long as the pay table is reasonable. You can practice for free below, or read on to learn more about how to play Jacks or Better.
The best Jacks or Better game has the following pay table:
This game may not be available at all casinos. This is especially true at casinos that have geographical monopolies or are on the Las Vegas Strip. If 9/6 Jacks or Better is not available, the next best pay table is one that pays eight on a full house while still awarding six on a flush. The next best is nine on a full house but only five on a flush. Anything lower than those pay tables is unplayable.
There are some casinos that make it appear that the game is full pay but when you look closer, the game is not. The difference is that some gaming establishments will spread the full-pay table but require 10 or more coins for the 800-coin royal flush. This is common on nickel machines but also at convenience casinos like Dotty’s in Nevada where 100 coins are required for an 800-1 royal flush on Game King machines.
One way to increase your return at Jacks or Better video poker is to only play the 9/6 version described above. That is easy on the Internet as most casino websites offer this version. In a casino, it is not as common.
In Las Vegas, the best places to find this game are downtown at Plaza, Main Street Station, Fremont and El Cortez. Locals casinos like Red Rock Resort, Green Valley Ranch, Sunset Station, Palace Station, Santa Fe Station, South Point, Westgate and many other off-strip properties. Some Strip resorts offer this game at $5 and higher denominations. Treasure Island has it at $.50 and higher.
Using a players card will also add to the return of Jacks or Better video poker. This is automatic at online casinos. At live casinos, a player must go to the rewards center and give a photo ID if they do not already have a card. A players card is issued and must be inserted into the card reader on the machine. This will keep track of the amount wagered by the player.
The instant return when using a players card is between 0.05% and 0.3%, depending on the casino’s reward program. This is often issued in comps but some locals casinos in Las Vegas and regional markets will allow players to convert it to free play or straight cash.
The best benefits when using a players card usually come after you leave. Casinos will mail offers in an attempt to lure you back. This comes in the form of free play, hotel rooms or food comps. It is based on previous play but is often more generous after the first visit when using a players card. The free play may be taken directly from a slot or video poker machine at casinos that have a modern loyalty program.
Finding the best pay table and using a players card only get you so far if you do not play the game properly. Every mistake lowers the Jacks or Better video poker return.
This list shows what a player should look for before discarding. Keep the cards or dealt hands listed and discard the others. The exception is when four of a kind is dealt. The kicker does not matter in Jacks or Better. It is better to hold the odd card than risk making an error on the draw. The list goes from top to bottom in terms of the hand that should be held.
The most common mistakes made when playing Jacks or Better often comes from players who are not aware of the basic strategy. The single biggest one is going for inside straights that are not ace or king-high. The entire hand should be discarded in this scenario.
Some players will hold four to a flush over three to a royal flush. This is the correct play if the number of coins wagered is not enough to trigger the 800-1 royal flush payout. Otherwise, toss the flush card nine or lower and go for the three to the royal flush.
Some players make the mistake of going for a low pair over a four-card flush. The flush draw is the better play. On the other hand, a low pair should be kept over any straight draw.