Advanced Jacks or Better Play With High Card Hands

July 25, 2014


In video poker, there is an inverse correlation between the strength of your starting hand and the expertise needed to play the hand well. It's easy to play big draws and pair-based hands, but it's much more difficult to correctly play high-card hands because there are so many more possibilities that seem to make sense. What we want to do here is break down some of the more advanced plays in Jacks or Better with these hands to give you an idea of what you're supposed to be looking for when you have a high card hand with no major draw.

Three cards to a royal is stronger than four to a flush draw or low pairs, so that's our starting point. If you have three cards to a straight flush with no gap or one gap, then you're going to be in good shape as long as it's 3-4-5 or higher. Next up, you're looking for two-card combinations for a royal that do not include a ten. All other three-card straight flush draws are the next-highest tier of hands, and that covers the top end of high card hands with the major draws.

If you don't have three to a straight flush, and you don't have at least two to a royal with no ten, then you have to break things up into specific categories of hands. The KQJ combination of cards that aren't in a flush draw are the top part of this lowest-level set of hands, and it's the only three-card combination that matters at this point. Under that, you have KQ and QJ offsuit combinations which are the strongest combinations of two high cards that aren't suited because of the long-shot straight possibilities. Suited combinations of QT and JT are next in line followed by all of the other two-card offsuit combinations like AK, AQ, AJ and KJ. These are followed by KT suited. Note that you'll never play just AT suited.

If you don't have at least KT suited, then you're only going to go for single-card situations with a jack or better. So what happens when you don't have at least a single high card of jack or higher, you're actually going to just go ahead and discard all five of your cards. The reason for this is that your chances of getting some kind of payout with a fresh draw is higher than playing something like a two-card straight flush combination with no high cards.