The first video poker games released in the late ‘70s required a minimum of two pairs to win. It wasn’t easy. People didn’t embrace the game until the minimum hand was decreased to a pair of Jacks or better – thus the name Jacks or Better.

Jacks or Better is the least volatile out of all video poker variants, meaning the wins are modest and steady. Conservative video poker players enjoy this variant over the flashier and more volatile machines, such as Double Double Bonus Poker, because the risk is low and the payouts are fairly consistent.

Fortunately for them, there are four different ways to play Jacks or Better: 1 Hand, 3 Hands, 10 Hands and 52 Hands. The more hands you play per round, the higher the standard deviation and variance.


Single Hand Jacks or Better

Variance: 19.51

Standard Deviation: 4.41

When you’re just starting out with video poker, sticking to 1 Hand Jacks or Better is the way to go. You’ll be dealt one hand a round, making learning easier than playing with multiple hands. For those who’ve never played before, you start a round of Single Hand Jacks or Better by clicking the “Bet One” button once to play 1-coin a round, twice to play 2-coins a round, and so on, up to 5-coin rounds. The coin denominations include $0.05, $0.25, $0.50, $1, and $5. After setting up your betting configurations, click the “Deal” button to receive your five-card hand. Click the cards you want to hold onto, hit “Draw”, and the unselected cards will be swapped for new ones, giving you your final five-card hand. In order to win, your hand must have one of the winning combinations listed on the paytable. These are the same hands used in poker, as you can see in the list below:


  • Royal Flush: Ten, Jack, Queen, King, Ace, same suit
  • Straight Flush: Five cards of sequential rank, same suit
  • 4 of a Kind: Four cards, same rank
  • Full House: 3 of a Kind and Pair
  • Flush: Five cards, same suit
  • Straight: Five cards in sequential rank
  • 3 of a Kind: Three cards, same rank
  • 2 Pair: Two cards, same rank
  • Jacks or Better: Pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings, Aces


Double or Nothing Rules

Wins in Jacks or Better trigger the game’s Double or Nothing round. You’ll get a prompt that displays your payout and asks whether you’d like to try to double it. In this round, five cards are placed on the screen—four face-down and one face-up. The face-up card is the Dealer’s card, and the face-down cards are yours to choose from. In order to win, you must blindly pick a card that’s ranked higher than the Dealer’s; suits don’t matter. After you pick your card, they’re all revealed. If you got the higher card, you have two options: 

1. Continue on for another round of Double or Nothing.

2. Collect your winnings and return to the game. 

However, if you got a lower card than the Dealer, you lose your payout and return to the game automatically.


Jackpot Eligibility

On the Jacks or Better paytable, you’ll notice that with each additional coin wagered, the payouts increase incrementally by the value of the 1-coin payout listed for the hand. For example, the Royal Flush pays 250 for a 1-coin wager, 500 for a 2-coin wager, 750 for a 3-coin wager, and 1000 for a 4-coin wager. This is the case with all the winning hands. However, there is one exception: the Royal Flush payout for a 5-coin wager is 4000 instead of 1250, creating an incentive to bet 5 coins.



Multi Hand Jacks or Better

Variance: 23.44

Standard Deviation: 4.84

After mastering 1 Hand Jacks or Better, the natural progression is to move on to 3 Hand Jacks or Better. 3 Hand Jacks or Better deals you a five-card hand; out of those five cards, you pick the ones you want to hold. The cards you select will be included in all three hands. When you click the “Draw” button, the unwanted cards are replaced with new ones. Each hand receives a unique set of new cards, so you’ll end up with three semi-unique hands.

After you get comfortable playing with three hands per round, you can upgrade to 10 Hand Jacks or Better, and further down the road, 52 Hand Jacks or Better. Just keep in mind, the cost per round increases as you bump up the number of hands you play. For example, playing the 52 Hand variant with the maximum five $0.25 coins per hand costs $65 a round compared to $1.25 with the 1 Hand version. So enjoy the slow progression because it’s not cheap to play with the pros.



Comparing Jacks or Better Pay Tables 


Jacks or Better Single Hand 

While the majority of payouts are the same whether you’re playing Jacks or Better 1 Hand or Multi-Hand, there are two exceptions: the Full House and Flush. Both of these hands pay more for the 1 Hand version as opposed to the multi-hand versions. Here are the two paytables, so you can see for yourself how they stack up:

Hand/Coins Bet 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a Kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 Pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5


Jacks or Better Multi-Hand ( Same for 3-Hand, 10-Hand and 52-Hand)


Hand/Coins Bet 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a Kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 8 16 24 32 40
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 Pairs 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5


Managing your Bankroll

As you move from the single-hand to the multi-hand versions of Jacks or Better, the cost per round increases because you’re betting per hand as opposed to per round. For the 1 Hand version, you can pay between $0.05 to $25 per round, depending on how many coins you want to wager and the denomination of coin selected. The coins range from $0.05 to $5. Compare that with the 52 Hand version, where you’re paying between $0.52 and $260 per round, and coin denominations range from $0.01 to $1.


You can see how the cost increases, so you’ll want to factor that into your bankroll management. Depending on the size of your roll, you may be restricted to certain versions of video poker—especially if you want to bet max to be eligible for the jackpot. Don’t worry too much about rising through the ranks of Jacks or Better poker quickly. As the winning hands and rules of the game are identical from 1 Hand to 52 Hand Jacks or Better, the win rate is the same regardless of which version you’re playing. For that reason, the strategy you use for 1 Hand Jacks or Better can be used for all four games. The only difference noted is in the paytable, which offers lower payouts for the Full House and Flush when playing Multi-Hand versions of the game.



Anyone looking for low house edge, a good level of strategy, and low-pressure gameplay would be hard-pressed to find a better game than Jacks or Better video poker. While the 1 Hand version offers the low volatility appreciated by conservative gamblers, you can easily increase it by playing the multi-hand versions. Just keep in mind, you’re sacrificing a small edge in certain payouts when you level up. It’s not easy going pro.