Jacks or Better is the most common video poker game found in casinos, so it’s a natural place to start learning video poker strategy. This page doesn’t offer a complete strategy for every situation; such materials can be found elsewhere. In fact, Bob Dancer’s books on video poker strategy are probably the best resources to use to learn advanced strategy. Instead, in this post, I just offer an introduction to how to play common hands.
One of the first things you should realize about correct strategy for this game is that hanging onto a kicker is never the correct strategy. In traditional poker, holding onto a kicker makes sense, and a lot of people who are new to Jacks or Better video poker do so, but it’s always the wrong play to make.
You should also never draw to an inside straight. An inside straight is one in which you can only complete your straight using one card. For example, if you have 9TQK, then you need a Jack to complete your straight. The chances of getting that Jack are 4 out of 48, or 1 in 12, and the payout for a straight isn’t high enough to warrant making that play. On the other hand, drawing to an outside straight is often the correct play, because your chances of hitting the straight are 1 in 6.
A lot of new players try to make a flush or a straight when they only have 3 cards to that hand. That’s a mistake. You draw to a straight or a flush if you have 4 cards to either hand, but the chances of filling that hand when you need to get 2 more cards is MUCH lower.
Four of a kind has a great payout, but it doesn’t make sense to break up two pairs in an effort to hit the four of a kind. The odds of getting your four of a kind are just too low to warrant that kind of risk.
Sometimes you WILL try to draw to a royal flush or straight flush if you only have 3 cards that fit…but there’s only one specific situation in which you’ll do so, and that’s this–if you have no other hand available. If you have a pair, then forget about drawing to the three card royal flush or straight flush.
The main rule of thumb that you should bring away from this article is that it’s rare for you to try to draw to a hand with only 3 cards toward that hand in it. If you have three of a kind, then sure, you’ll draw to try to make four of a kind. There’s no downside there–you get paid off even if you miss your four of a kind.
And those are the basics of Jacks or Better video poker strategy.