In Joker's Wild video poker, play that 100.6

Mar 31, 2009 5:09 PM
Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome |

I don’t tend to write a lot about Joker’s Wild, because it’s never been a game that has appealed to me much. When I play it, the Joker doesn’t show up as often as it should.

I’m sure it’s just my imagination, but then again, if it doesn’t show up, your chances of winning are very small.

There are two versions of Joker’s Wild. The first pays on a pair of Kings or Better and has a payback of 100.6 percent. The second pays only Two Pair or Better at 99.3. Naturally, I’m going to discuss the first version. We might as well review the one with the higher payback.

You need the Joker to show up if you’re going to win. If dealt the Joker on the deal, the payback is 286 percent (Yes, 286!). If not, a measly 81.3. Like any video poker machine, the payback doesn’t come just because you get cards. You have to know which ones to discard.

Getting the Joker may account for only about 9 percent of the hands, but it will also account for more than 25 percent of the total units returned. You need to know how to play them.

• First, you keep all Full Houses or Better with a Joker.

• Next, you will break up any Flushes if you have a 4-Card Straight Flush or 4-Card Royal. If it is only a 4-Card Inside Straight Flush, then you keep the Flush. A critical point is learning to recognize the gaps in hands (i.e. Outside, Inside, Double Inside) with a Joker. Sometimes it can get very confusing as to which it is when you start using a Wild Card.

Three of a Kind with a Joker is a very nice hand in this game. The only way you’re discarding it is if you have a 4-Card Inside Straight Flush or better. Recognizing these hands can get tricky with that Wild Card and some unique combinations can form.

You can have Three of a Kind while having a 4-Card Straight Flush, something that is hard (re: impossible) in Jacks or Better. While pulling the Five of a Kind is going to be rare, that extra possible hand, makes the Three of a Kind a very strong hand even though it only pays 2.

A High Pair with a Joker (i.e. Joker with a King or Ace) is a good playable hand. It falls below most 3-Card Straight Flushes, but ahead of 4-Card Straights and Flushes.

These last two hands form the last two playable hands with a Joker. Do not hold 3-Card Flushes, 3-Card Straights or 2-Card Royals (unless they are also a High Pair) with a Joker. If we don’t have a 3-Card Straight Flush, High Pair, 4-Card Flush or Straight or 4-Card Straight Flush, we resort to holding only the Joker (about 11 percent of the time).

It is the third most common hand behind Three of a Kind and the High Pair. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself holding just the Joker fairly often. The expected value of holding just the Joker is still 1.43 meaning the hand is a long term winner. If you have to choose between a Joker and a Natural High Pair, you’d be better off with the Joker.

With a payback of over 100 percent, Joker’s Wild (A-K), can be a very rewarding game. It does, however, require memorizing essentially two strategy tables – one with a Joker and one without. Playing this game using Jacks or Better strategy could prove disastrous to your wallet.