Jokers: comic relief
in Jersey casinos?

Jul 10, 2006 5:42 AM

My beleaguered home state has been the butt of many jokes this past week where gambling is concerned. Most state agencies in New Jersey were shut down due to a stalemate on the state budget, which was due on July 1.

Because the state oversees the casinos, the casinos had to close as well. So, the only big winners this past week were probably the casinos in nearby Connecticut, which received many of the shutout gamblers.

In honor of the re-opening of the Atlantic City casinos, I’m going to focus on a popular version of video poker that has its origins in New Jersey. I guess it’s only appropriate based on the politicking of the past week that the game is known as Double Joker Wild.

For reasons unknown to anybody, Joker games have always been very popular in New Jersey. One possibility is that back in the days when Atlantic City had only 6-5 jacks or better, the Joker Wild games had far better paybacks and thus, this drew in the players.

Somewhere along the line, someone decided one Joker was not enough and threw a second one into the mix. So, Double Joker Wild is played with a 54-card deck, with two Jokers.

Note the accompanying paytable for the full-pay version.

Double Joker Wild Full-Pay
Hand Pays
Natural Royal Flush


Wild Royal Flush 100
Five of a Kind 50
Straight Flush 25
Four of a Kind 8
Full House 5
Flush 4
Straight 3
Three of a Kind 2
Two Pairs 1

This paytable has an overall payback of 97.7%, which is respectable, especially for Atlantic City. On occasion, you can find a version that pays 9 credits for the four of a kind, and the payback goes up to an even 100%.

The trick, as with all wild card games is to break down the strategy table by the number of wild Cards. Overall, the strategy table is very long, but broken down this way and you’re left with three very manageable and relatively easy to learn strategy tables.

The other key to winning at Double Joker Wild is to get your fair share of Jokers. You can expect 82% of your hands to contain no Jokers; 17% will contain one Joker; and a mere 0.69% (1 in 140) will have both Jokers.

Any initial hand with at least one Joker is an expected net winner, as even the expected value of a single Joker is 1.1.

A few quick pointers to assist you when you are playing. If dealt two Jokers, the lowest pat hand that is kept is a flush. However, if you have a 10 as part of that flush, you would discard the other two suited cards and go for the royal. At the same time, if you have any 4-card straight flush, you would play that OVER the 3-card royal or the flush.

With a single Joker, you should be willing to hold any 4-card flush or 4-card straight, as well as 3-card straight flushes. Three-card flushes and 3-card straights should NOT be held as you are better off holding the single Joker.

With no Wild cards, you still avoid 3-card straights and 3-card flushes, but even a 2-card straight flush becomes playable if it is at least a 5-high straight flush.

As always, you should learn the strategy table and practice, practice, practice before you head out to the casinos. Thanks to New Jersey politicians, you’ve had plenty of time to practice this week outside of the casino!