Begin with basics

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I love playing video poker, but I must admit that I can’t remember the last time I played regular Jacks or better video poker. I find it a bit too slow for my taste. Usually, I play one of the bonus variants or Deuces Wild Video Poker.

Obviously, I am not a beginner, so I like games with a little more volatility in them. But, if you are just starting out, then I recommend you start with the basic game.

Full pay Jacks or better machines — those that pay 9 on the Full House and 6 on the Flush — can still be found in a lot of casinos. If you are just learning to play video poker then you want to make sure that the version you learned how to play is likely to be in your favorite casino and that you won’t have to look far and wide to find a machine.

It will be a significant error for you to take the strategy that you learned for Jacks or better and try to use it for some other video poker variant. But, if the one you learned is for Jacks or better, then you should have no problem finding a machine and using what you learned on the right version of the game.

Thanks to machines that allow the player to choose from six or 10 different games, many of the other games have become more common. But that does not mean that you may find that the one you really like isn’t one of the ones offered. Or, for some reason the paytable offered is far from full-pay and then you’re stuck playing a game you don’t know the strategy for or that has a significantly sub-standard payback.

While I have presented reasons for why a novice should start with Jacks or better, this does not fully explain why I choose not to play it anymore. As I mentioned earlier, it has lower volatility than some of its counterparts. The only way to win big is to hit a Royal Flush. In between, there will be a lot of back and forth.

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Compared to higher volatility games, your bankroll will (should?) last longer while playing Jacks or better, but the odds of winning big will be lower than playing something like Deuces Wild. This is not an inherent problem, but rather just a personal choice. 

I do not play all that often and even less since the coronavirus outbreak. So, when I do go to the casino, I guess I want the adrenaline rush of a bigger win, which unfortunately can often mean a bigger loss. But because I’m familiar with the strategy of so many games, I can be very confident that when I go to the casino, I can find a game with a strong paytable that meets my need for that rush. If I knew only one strategy table, I’d have to stick with the more commonly found games.

For the beginners who still want that rush, master Jacks or better. Then you can move on to other games.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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