Final hands on strategy table for Jacks or Better video poker

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We’re down to the final hands on the strategy table. For the past several weeks, I have been slowly walking through the strategy for full-pay Jacks or Better video poker.

Along the way, I’ve been doing my best to provide insights to help you both understand the table and the WHY behind it. So, without further ado, I bring you the final five entries on the strategy table:

2 High Card: Considered the most common hand, occurring about 15% of the time. It consists of unsuited cards. This also means if there is a third high card that matches suit with one of the other two, then the hand is played as a 2-card Royal. Unlike the 3 High Card hand described last week, which cannot include an Ace, the 2 High Card hand does not have this restriction. If you’ve got an offsuit Jack-Ace, that qualifies.

2-card Royal V1: This is the 2-card Royal that consists of a 10 and no Ace. So, we are talking about a 10-J, 10-Q or 10-K. Because the 10 does not qualify as a High Card, the expected value is far below that of the others. Also, this means if you have a suited 10-J with an offsuit Q, the hand is played as 2 High Cards and NOT as the 2-card Royal. There are also countless partial Straights and Straight Flushes that will be played over the 2 High Cards.

1 High Card: The second most common hand, falling only below the Low Pair in frequency. It occurs about 16% of the time. So, when you play, if you seem to run into an endless string of 1 and 2 High Card hands, you’re probably not imagining it. Together they account for nearly 1/3 of all hands. The expected value is 0.49 while the 1 High Card hand is at 0.47. This means on average you’ll get back less than half of what you wagered each time these hands show up. These are not the hands you win money on.

The 1 High Card can be any card between Jack and Ace. There isn’t much to watch out for in the area of High Cards here. If you have a second one, you’re going to play it in some fashion. This also means the other four cards are between 2 and 10. You don’t want to ignore these four other cards, which may contain 4-card Straights and/or 3- and 4-card Straight Flushes.

3 Card Double Inside Straight Flush: If you have this (i.e. 3-5-7 suited) along with a single High Card (not part of the 3-card Straight Flush) then you play the single High Card. If, however, that High Card is part of ANY type of 3-card Straight Flush, then the hand is played as this.

All 3-card Straight Flushes (open, Inside and Double Inside) are played regardless of how many High Cards there are. Sometimes, the hand is played as something higher, but if you have one and don’t have anything else to play you play the 3-card Straight Flush.

Razgu: My father gave this name to the hand that is absolute garbage. It means you throw all five cards and draw a new hand. The expected value is a paltry 0.36 and will occur about 3.5% of the time. As bad as the expected value is, it’s better than playing the hand in some way not described to this point.

If you play a 4-card Inside Straight with 2 or fewer High Cards the expected value is below Razgu. Play any 3-card Straights and you’ll find the same problem. It may be painful to throw away all five cards, but if you can’t find any other way to play the hand on the strategy table, you’ll still be better off in the long run.

Well, that is the end of our strategy table. There is no magic formula you can use to learn it. The only way you can is to memorize the order and/or to practice using a real deck of cards or using one of the many training programs that are out there.

There’s an old joke that asks if you know the way to Carnegie Hall. The answer is Practice, Practice, Practice. What a coincidence – that’s the same way to become an Expert Player.

Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Contact Elliot at [email protected].

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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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