The very popular Jacks or Better video poker game has been around for a long time. The reason is the high return and relatively low variance of the game. The original “full-pay” game returns 99.54 percent with proper play. That means the someone playing the proper playing strategy will lose, on average, only 46 cents for every $100 played through this game.

The beauty of video poker is the player can determine the return and variance of any game. It is determined by the pay table which is displayed on the game screen for every video poker variant. The pay table for a full-pay – sometimes called “9/6” because a full house pays 9-for-1 and a flush pays 6-for-1 – is shown below.  


Pay Table
Jacks or Better 9/6 - 99.54 % Return, 19.5 Variance
Hand 1 Credit 5 Credit
Royal Flush 250 4000
Straight Flush 50 250
4 of a Kind 25 125
Full House 9 45
Flush 6 30
Straight 4 20
3 of a Kind 3 15
2 Pair 2 10
Jacks or Better 1 5

Notice the 9 credits for a full house and 6 credits for a flush. Also notice that a royal flush pays 250-for-1 if fewer than five credits are played and 800-for-1 if five credits are played.

The Jacks or Better video poker game is also popular because the playing strategy is relatively straightforward and therefore relatively easy to learn. 


There are dozens of different video poker games currently available in today’s casinos (whether brick and mortar or online casino). Each of these games has several different pay tables. In order to have the best chance to win at Jacks or Better, you must pick the highest return game. First, make sure the game you are examining is, indeed, a Jacks or Better game. If the pay table has the same nine lines shown in the table above, it is a Jacks or Better game. 

Make sure you check the entire pay table. You need only check the five credit column as you should always play five credits per hand because of the pay for the royal flush. Normally the only pays that change for Jacks or Better are for the full house and flush – normally, but not always. Casinos can (and do) change other pays, so make sure:

  • A royal flush pays 4000-for-5
  • A straight flush pays 250-for-5
  • A four-of-a-kind pays 125-for-5
  • A full house pays 45-for-5
  • A flush pays 30-for-5
  • A straight pays 20-for-5
  • A three-of-a-kind pays 15-for-5
  • Two pairs pays 10-for-5 – and – 
  • A pair of jacks or better pays 5-for-5


video poker

This is really important. A reduction of just one credit per credit played in the pays for a full house or flush reduces the return of the game by more than one percent. Put another way, the player will lose more than an additional dollar per $100 played through the machine for each reduction. If you want to win at video poker Jacks or Better, you must find the best game.


Each different pay table of each different video poker game has a different playing strategy. You are going to play a full-pay Jacks or Better game so make sure you know the full-pay (9/6) Jacks or Better playing strategy. The proper playing strategy can be found at the end of this article.

Practice the strategy until you are comfortable with it. You can try it manually by dealing yourself five card hands from a shuffled single deck. Check the video poker strategy to determine the proper hold. Once you have made your choice, there is no need to play out the hand, just deal the next hand. Keep practicing until you are able to correctly play at least 95 percent of the hands correctly.

Alternatively, (and preferably) you can purchase a video poker playing program or app and use that to practice. This is a good way to go because the program or app will notify you when you make a mistake. Print out the strategy so you can refer to it when you are unsure how to play a hand in the casino or online.

Only by playing the correct strategy will you achieve the highest return over the long run.


Finding the proper game and knowing the proper playing strategy is of no use if you lose your edge while playing. Here are some suggestions for helping you stay sharp.

  • Try to maintain the same schedule as when you are home. Not sleeping enough or radically changing your schedule will impact your level of play. Maintaining your normal schedule dramatically helps to keep you sharp.
  • Do not play too long. After hours of playing, your level of play will diminish. Doing anything too long reduces your focus. Take a break periodically. Leave the casino and walk around a bit to recharge your batteries. If you find yourself making mistakes, stop and take a break. Why give the casino any additional advantage by continuing play?
  • Watch your intake of alcohol. If you want to maximize your profits playing video poker you need to maintain your edge. Drinking alcohol diminishes your edge. Why do you think casinos offer free drinks to players? Wait until you are done playing for the day to have a drink or two.


While the exhilaration of video poker play and the hope of winning might make you speed up your play, make sure you are playing correctly. The effort to get more hands played (and therefore more chances at a royal flush) can cost you if you start making mistakes. Remember, the 99.54 percent return comes from making the best play on each and every hand.


If you are not already a member of the casino’s player’s club, sign up for it. As a member, always use your card. Almost every club offers bonus points that can be used for additional play, food credits, or even cash. This bonus directly adds to the return of your video poker play. Each 0.1 percent bonus collected is really an increase of 0.1 percent to the overall return.

Bonus points are not the only benefit of using a player’s card. As you accumulate play on the player’s card, you may qualify for elite-level status which can add bonus point multipliers, free meals, rooms, and other freebies. You may also receive special offers of free play, special point multipliers and other valuable extras.

While many players erroneously believe that inserting a players card will reduce your return, the opposite is actually true. It adds to the overall return of your play without costing you a cent.


One rule of thumb is to have at least the amount of a royal flush as your bankroll for a two to three day casino trip. If you are playing a 25-cent machine, you need $1,000 (4,000 credits at 25-cents each). If you play dollar machines, you need $4,000. By having an adequate bankroll, you will not sweat the losses (and therefore lose focus). But, the video poker bankroll must be money you can afford to lose – not the mortgage payment or grocery money. If you cannot afford to lose your trip bankroll, don’t play. It is important points to make sure you won’t sweat the money and that you will be able to quit playing if you run out.


You can be a winner playing Full-pay Jacks or Better – if you properly play it. And remember: 

  1. Be observant – make sure you are playing full-pay Jacks or Better.
  2. Play smart – know the correct playing strategy.
  3. Stay sharp – don’t lose your edge.
  4. Play it cool – watch your playing speed.
  5. Play it frugal – take advantage of every opportunity.
  6. Play it prudent – don’t overplay your bankroll.

By following these rules, you should get more skilled at Jacks or Better video poker. You may not win every session, but in the long run, you might win.

4 of a Kind or Better
4 Cards of a Royal Flush
3 of a Kind or Better
4 Cards of an Open Straight Flush (Suited 2345-9TJQ)
2 Pairs
Any 4 Cards of a Straight Flush
High Pair (JJ-AA)
3 Cards of a Royal Flush except A-high-T w/2 Pens
4 Cards of a Flush, 2 High Cards
Any 3 Cards of a Royal Flush
Any 4 Cards of a Flush
KQJT (Straight)
Low Pair (22-TT)
QJT9, JT98 (Straights)
Suited QJ9, JT9
4 Cards of an Open Straight, 0 High Cards (2345-789T)
Suited QJ8
Any 3 Cards of an Open Straight Flush (Suited 345–89T)
Suited KQ9, KJ9
Suited QJ, 0 Pen
Suited QT9, JT8, J98
Suited QJ, 1 Pen; Suited KQ, KJ, 0 Pen; Suited QJ, 2 Pen
AKQJ (Straight)
Suited QJ, KQ, KJ, AK, AQ, AJ
3 Cards of a Straight Flush, 1 High Card, 2 Gaps & 0 Pen
Any 4 Cards of an Inside Straight, 3 High Cards
Any 3 Cards of a Straight Flush exc. 0 Hi Cards & 2 gaps
Suited JT, 0 Pen
KQJ, QJ (Straights)
Suited JT, 1 Flush Pen
KQ, KJ, 1 or More Straight Pen
Suited QT, 0 Flush Pen
Any Suited JT
AK, AQ, AJ (Straights)
J, 0 Flush Pen 
Suited KT, QT
1 High Card (J-A)
Any 3 Cards of a Straight Flush
Draw 5 New Cards
Save For: Royal, Straight Flush, Flush, Straight, Pairs/3/4/5

Jerry “Stickman” has been involved in casino gambling for nearly 30 years. He is an expert in blackjack, craps, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He started playing blackjack in the late ‘80s, learned several card counting systems and used these skills to become an advantage blackjack player and overall winner of this game. He also acquired the skills necessary to become an overall winner in the game of craps, accomplishing this by a combination of throwing skill and proper betting techniques. Stich is also an overall winner playing video poker.