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The Last Bet

Video Poker Strategy: Beating Jacks or Better

A lot of casino gamers think that Video Poker is an easy game to beat. After all, all you have to do is get the minimum required hand and you get your money back, and the bar for hitting a winning hand is low. What could be easier to understand than that? Well, easy to understand doesn't necessarily mean that a game is easy to beat or to play well — just look at slot machines!

However, there are bets you can make that give you a chance to legitimately improve your odds of winning, especially on hands that are a longer shot and give you bigger payouts. First, let's look at the standard Jacks or Better Video Poker game and the payouts that are available for winning hands. We're going to assume that you're making the maximum five-coin bet each time, as that's definitely the best fiscal strategy.

Hand Amount Paid Out
Pair of 10s or Lower N/A
Jacks or better 5 Coins
Two pair 10 Coins
3 of a kind 15 Coins
Straight 20 Coins
Flush 30 Coins
Full house 45 Coins
4 of a kind 125 Coins
Straight flush 250 Coins
Royal flush 4000 Coins

This helps you understand why certain choices on the list below read the way they do. It can seem counter-intuitive to throw away cards that you know are capable of winning if you get a 3 of a kind but the risk versus reward for a larger payout makes it worthwhile, especially if you are playing multi-handed Video Poker online. If these suggestions seem a bit simple, then that's because they are. When it comes to Video Poker, going for the mathematically correct way to win a hand is always the best move you can make.

All low cards, no connectors: Discard all five
One Jack or better: keep it and discard the other four
Suited 10-J, 10-Q or 10-K: keep both and discard the other three
Two unsuited high Cards: keep the two lowest-value high cards (if more than two) and discard the other three. Remember, there's no bonus for having a higher high card and you want to make it easier to hit a straight.
Three cards to a straight flush: discard the two cards that aren't part of the straight flush
Two suited high cards: keep them, discard the rest.
Four to an inside straight card: Keep them, discard the other card.
Low pair: discard the rest.
Four to a flush: go for the flush, even if you have a high pair made.
Three cards to a royal flush: discard the rest
High pair: keep the high pair, discard the rest unless a better-paying hand can be made.
Two pairs: keep both, discard the extra card – you might get a full house.
Four to a straight flush: discard the extra card, keep the four that can make the straight, flush or straight flush.
Royal flush: This is always the jackpot in any Video Poker game. If you're dealt this, you should probably have a good stiff drink in celebration.

You might find it handy to just play single-handed Video Poker when you're first getting started so you can concentrate on making that one decision for one hand at a time. This means that your mistakes will cost you less money, even if your winnings are also reduced. Once you get comfortable making these decisions, you can move from single-handed play up into 3 and 10 and eventually 52-handed games. A player who takes the time and learns how to make the smart decision with a single hand can see their winnings increase massively when they take their game to multi-handed play.

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