ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Cheat Sheet: Jacks or Better Poker

Updated on May 21, 2015

I have always enjoyed playing video poker. I enjoy the game because there is much more to the game than just dumb luck. Luck is obviously still a factor, but there is also an aspect of the game that involves some skill when choosing which cards to keep or discard. Its simply math. There is a way to maximize your odds of winning.

This is accomplished by employing a mathematical strategy while playing. Statistics will actually tell you the cards that you should keep in order to maximize your chances of winning.This is done by using something called an expected value.

The concept behind this value is fairly simple. It is simply the odds of you being dealt a certain hand multiplied by the pay out of that hand. So the equation to find the expected value would look like: EV = (odds of getting cards) x (pay out for that hand)

Lets use a simple example to make this more tangible. Say you have a 3 in 5 chance of winning 10 points if you choose option A, and a 2 in 5 chance of winning 20 points if you choose option B. Expected Value will tell us the correct option to choose.

Expected Value of option A = (.6) x (10) = 6.00 points

Expected Value of option B = (.4) x (20) = 8.00 points

This means that even though the odds of you winning with option B are lower than option A, it is still better to chose option B!

Using Expected Value with Video Poker

Now lets use an example with 9/6 Jacks or Better Video Poker. Say you have an Ace of hearts, 3 of diamonds, 5 of hearts, 6 of clubs, and 9 of hearts. Which cards should we keep? 3 of the cards are the same suit so a flush is an option. There are a couple chances for a straight as well. We also have an Ace and in Jacks or Better you just need a pair of a high card to get your bet back. Lets look at the expected value for each option.

Expected Value of choosing the 3 same suited cards = 44.68%

Expected Value of the possible Straights = 15.36%, 25.62%

Expected Value of choosing the Ace = 46.56%

Expected Value of choosing None of the cards = 34.24%

This means that the best option would be to just select the Ace of hearts. Attempting to get a flush is a close second. Also notice that choosing to receive a whole new hand would be a better option than to go for any of the straights!

Utilizing the Strategy

But it would be impractical to try to calculate this value each and every time a hand is dealt, and I know I wouldn’t want to even if I could. So I decided to create a basic cheat sheet for Jacks or Better Video Poker.

Jacks or Better Cheat Sheet
3 of a Royal Flush
4 of a Flush
4 of a Straight
2 face cards (J thru A)
1 face card (J thru A)
None (All new cards)

By following this list of combinations I was able to chose the correct cards to hold almost every time. There are nuances that aren't full covered by the list, but it achieved maximal return for minimal effort.

The way the list works is quite simple. The card combinations are listed in order of their ranking. If you have 3 cards of a Royal Flush then you will always go for a Royal Flush. If you were dealt a Jack of hearts, King of clubs, an 8 of hearts, and a pair of 2’s, then you will keep the pair of 2’s and trade in the others. This may sound counter intuitive, especially since the game is called Jacks or Better, but I ensure you it is accurate.

Lets try another example. Say you are dealt the hand shown below. Which cards should you keep? Hint: Use the Cheat Sheet above

Next Steps

I will admit that this cheat sheet may get confusing at times. For example, notice that 3 face cards are not on the list. This means that most of the time keeping all 3 face cards is a worst option than just keeping 2 of them. The two cards that you should choose will depend on what those face cards are and also what the other cards in your hand are.

My cheat sheet’s advantage is its simplicity. It is short so its easy to memorize and following it will help you choose the right cards most of the time.

Practice is important when learning about expected value. An incredibly useful tool when learning is an app called VideoPoker

This app will allow you to play video poker while also giving you the expected value of the possible cards that you were dealt. This app is how I developed the cheat sheet above and also how I turned my video poker game around! Its amazing how poor the moves I was making truly were when I learned all about expected value! So by using the cheat sheet above along with the VideoPoker app, you will be well on your way to mastering Jacks or Better Video Poker!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)