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Guidelines for Improving at Jacks or Better Video Poker

By: Ryan Alders, Wednesday July 31st 2013
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As the most common and most popular form of video poker, Jacks or Better has an important place for players who are looking to improve at all forms of the game. Because the principles of this game carry over to almost every other form of video poker, studying it has the effect of improving your game overall no matter what particular variation you're playing. Many people who start out playing video poker begin with Jacks or Better, and intuitively, they want to always try to make a good hand. While that seems like the thing to do, it's not enough to guide you in a large number of situations. However, we're going to show you some tricks that you can use to get better.

There are basically three classifications of hands that you need to think about when you're playing besides obvious made hands like being dealt a straight flush right off the bat. The first classification is pair-based hands. This includes hands like one pair, two pair and three of a kind. With these hands, you're usually just going to keep your made hand and try to make a better hand on the draw. However, sometimes it will be better to ditch the pair and go with a very strong draw like three to a royal or four to a straight flush.

Next are your basic draws like straight draws and flush draws. Typically, a single pair of jacks or higher will be what you want to keep over these draws. With a low pair, keep the flush draws but abandon the straight draws. Straight draws have less of a chance of hitting and pay out worse when they do hit. Straight flush draws, however, are more important than any pair.

Finally, there are the hands where you aren't even dealt a pair or a clean draw. It's really important to learn how to play these hands correctly because it impacts your bottom line in a huge way. For example, if you're dealt AQJ74 with no possible flush draw, which cards would you keep? The correct answer is to keep the queen and the jack and discard the other three. Things like this are anti-intuitive for players who would keep the AQJ or AQ combinations not realizing that keeping QJ maximizes the chances for pairs while also maximizing the chances for long-shot straight draws.

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