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Last Updated: June 15, 2013

Jacks or Better: Intermediate Strategy

Introduction

The following strategy is my "intermediate strategy" for jacks or better video poker. Using the strategy on a full pay machine will result in an expected return of 99.52%. Compared to the optimal strategy return of 99.54%, mistakes in the simple strategy will cost 0.03%, or one total bet every 3,805 hands.

The following strategy is not expressed in the usual order of value. Instead, this is a list of all the common conflict hands. I think the kind of list below is better suited to the way people actually think about video poker. The list is in the order of the hand strength of the better play.

  1. 9 T J Q K — Pat straight flush or 4 to a royal: Keep the straight flush.
  2. 2 T J Q A — Pat flush or 4 to a royal: Go for the royal.
  3. T J Q K A — Pat straight or 4 to a royal: Go for the royal.
  4. T J Q Q K — High pair or 4 to a royal: Go for the royal.
  5. J Q Q Q K — 3 of a kind or 3 to a royal: Keep the 3 of a kind.
  6. 2 6 J Q K — Pat flush or 3 to a royal: Keep the flush
  7. 3 4 6 7 Q Pat flush or 4 to a straight flush: Keep the flush
  8. T J Q K A — Pat straight or 3 to a royal: Keep the straight
  9. 4 5 6 7 8 — Pat straight or 4 to a straight flush: Keep the straight
  10. T T Q A A — 2 pair or 3 to a royal: Keep the 2 pair.
  11. 7 8 9 J J — 4 to a straight flush vs. any pair: Go for straight flush
  12. 2 5 7 J J — High pair vs. 4 to a flush: Keep high pair
  13. 8 9 T J J — High pair vs. 4 to a straight: Keep high pair
  14. 3 T J Q Q — High pair vs. 3 to a royal flush: Keep high pair
  15. 3 9 J Q Q — High pair vs. 3 to a straight flush: Keep high pair
  16. 4 T T Q A — 3 to a royal vs. Low pair: Go for the royal.
  17. 2 5 T Q A — 3 to a royal vs. 4 to a flush: Go for the royal
  18. 2 T J Q K — 3 to a royal vs. 4 to a straight: Go for the royal
  19. 3 3 5 7 9 — 4 to a flush vs low pair: Go for the flush
  20. 4 5 6 7 Q — 4 to a flush vs. 4 to a straight: Go for the flush
  21. 2 6 7 8 K — 4 to a flush vs. 3 to a straight flush: Go for the flush
  22. 2 7 8 Q K — 4 to a flush vs. 2 to a royal flush: Go for the flush
  23. 5 6 7 7 8 — Low pair vs. 4 to a straight: Keep the low pair
  24. 7 8 8 9 K — Low pair vs. 3 to a straight flush: Keep the low pair
  25. 3 6 6 J Q — Low pair vs. 2 to a royal: — Keep the low pair
  26. 2789T — 4 to an outside straight vs. 3 to a straight flush: Go for the straight
  27. 29TJQ — 4 to an outside straight vs. 2 to a royal flush: Go for the straight
  28. 4 5 6 J Q — 3 to a straight flush (type 1) vs. 2 to a royal flush: Go for the straight flush
  29. 2 9 J Q K — 3 to a straight flush (type 1) vs. 4 to an inside straight with 3-4 high cards: Go for the straight flush
  30. 2 T J Q A — 2 to a royal flush (both high) vs. 4 to an inside straight with 3-4 high cards: Go for the royal
  31. 2 4 J Q K — 2 to a royal flush (both high) vs. any 3 unsuited high cards: Go for the royal
  32. 5 6 8 K A — 2 to a royal flush (both high) vs. 3 to a straight flush (type 2): Go for the royal
  33. 7 T J K A — 4 to an inside straight with 3-4 high cards vs. 3 to a straight flush (type 2): Go for the straight
  34. 7T J K A — 4 to an inside straight with 3-4 high cards vs. 2 to a royal (ten low): Go for the straight
  35. 2 4 7 T J — 3 to a straight flush (type 2) vs. 2 to a royal flush (10 low): Go for the straight flush
  36. 7 8 T J A — 3 to a straight flush (type 2) vs. 1-3 high cards: Go for the straight flush
  37. 2 5 J Q K — KQJ vs. QJ: Play KQJ
  38. 4 6 T J Q — QJ vs 2 to a royal flush (ten low): Keep QJ
  39. 2 4 6 J Q — QJ vs 3 to a straight flush (type 3): Keep QJ
  40. 3 5 J Q A — QJ vs 3 high cards A high: Keep QJ
  41. 2 3 T J A — JT suited vs 2-3 unsuited high cards K or A high: Keep JT
  42. 2 4 6 T J — JT suited vs 3 to a straight flush (type 3): Keep JT
  43. 2 4 T J K — KJ vs JT suited: Keep JT suited
  44. 2 4 6 J K — KQ or KJ vs. 3 to a straight flush (type 3): Keep KQ or KJ
  45. 3 4 5 T K — KT suited vs. K: Play KT suited
  46. 246TK — KT suited vs. 3 to a straight flush (type 3): Keep KT suited
  47. 3 5 7 8 J — Single high card vs. 3 to a straight flush (type 3): Keep high card only

If you prefer to learn the usual way, here is a list of possible plays according to the strength of the hand. To use the strategy look up all viable ways to play an initial hand on the following list and elect that which is highest on the list. A "high card" means a jack or higher.

  1. Four of a kind, straight flush, royal flush
  2. 4 to a royal flush
  3. Three of a kind, straight, flush, full house
  4. 4 to a straight flush
  5. Two pair
  6. High pair
  7. 3 to a royal flush
  8. 4 to a flush
  9. Low pair
  10. 4 to an outside straight
  11. 3 to a straight flush (type 1)
  12. AKQJ unsuited
  13. 2 suited high cards
  14. 4 to an inside straight with 3 high cards
  15. 3 to a straight flush (type 2)
  16. KQJ unsuited
  17. QJ unsuited
  18. JT suited
  19. KQ, KJ unsuited
  20. QT suited
  21. AK, AQ, AJ unsuited
  22. KT suited
  23. One high card
  24. 3 to a straight flush (type 3)
  25. Discard everything

Terms:

High card: A jack, queen, king, or ace. These cards are retained more often because if paired up they return the original bet.

Outside straight: An open ended straight that can be completed at either end, such as the cards 7,8,9,10.

Inside straight: A straight with a missing inside card, such as the cards 6,7,9,10. In addition A,2,3,4 and J,Q,K,A also count as inside straights because they are at an extreme end.

High Card: J to A

Straight Flush draw (type 1): Straight flush draw in which the number of high cards equals or exceeds number of gaps.

Straight Flush draw (type 2): One of the following straight flush draws.

  • One gap and no high cards
  • Two gaps and one high card
  • Ace low
  • 2-3-4

Straight Flush draw (type 3): Straight flush draw with two gaps and no high cards.

Example: Suppose you have the following hand.

The top two plays are (1) keep the three to a straight flush and (2) keep two to a royal flush. The number of gaps to the straight flush is 2 and the number of high cards is also 2, so it is a type 1 straight flush draw. The table shows that 3 to a straight flush (type 1), beats two suited high cards, so keep the 3 cards to the straight flush.

Comparison to Optimal Strategy

The following table compares the probability and return of each hand under both the simple strategy and the optimal strategy.

Simple Strategy to Optimal Strategy Comparison

Hand Pays ------------Probability------------ --------------Return--------------
Interm. Optimal Interm. Optimal
Royal flush 800 0.000025 0.000025 0.020204 0.019807
Straight flush 50 0.000114 0.000109 0.005696 0.005465
Four of a kind 25 0.002362 0.002363 0.059039 0.059064
Full house 9 0.011507 0.011512 0.103565 0.10361
Flush 6 0.011171 0.011015 0.067029 0.066087
Straight 4 0.011122 0.011229 0.04449 0.044917
Three of a kind 3 0.074421 0.074449 0.223263 0.223346
Two pair 2 0.129261 0.129279 0.258523 0.258558
Pair 1 0.213368 0.214585 0.213368 0.214585
Nothing 0 0.546648 0.545435 0 0
Total 1 1 0.995176 0.995439

The next table is a frequency distribution of the error,or difference in expected return, between the simple strategy and the optimal strategy.

Error Frequency

Error Number Probability
0 2576244 99.125958%
.01% to .99% 5064 0.194847%
1% to 1.99% 1872 0.072029%
2% to 2.99% 2820 0.108505%
3% to 3.99% 5496 0.211469%
4% to 4.99% 4656 0.179149%
5% to 5.99% 2376 0.091421%
6% to 6.99% 432 0.016622%
7% to 7.99% 0 0%
8% to 8.99% 0 0%
9% to 9.99% 0 0%
10% to 10.99% 0 0%
11% to 11.99% 0 0%
12% to 12.99% 0 0%
13% to 13.99% 0 0%
14% to 14.99% 0 0%
15% to 15.99% 0 0%
Total 2598960 100%

 

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Written by: Michael Shackleford

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