Video Poker Strategy: How to Win at Video Poker

What cards to hold and discard in jacks-or-better video poker

Close-up of man showing poker hand, close-up
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Learn how to maximize your odds of winning -- and how much you win -- at Jacks-or-better video poker.

The most important thing in video poker is learning which of your original five cards to keep or hold and which to discard. You should have a basic knowledge of what beats what and how to play five-card draw before getting into the nitty-gritty of strategy.

By far, the most common question and situation I encounter is: What should you do when you are dealt a low pair (10s or lower)? While sometimes it may look tempting to draw to a straight or just try your luck with 5 entirely new cards, the answer is almost always to keep the low pair. The general exception to this rule is when you have 4 cards to a flush, straight flush, or a royal straight flush. In these cases you always want to draw to the flush or straight flush because your odds of getting at least the flush are very good and the payout is so much higher. If you can remember this one single strategy, you will be in better shape than many players.

For more precise and even better odds, below is a table telling you exactly which cards to keep and which to throw away depending on your starting 5 cards. To read the table, start at the top and match your hand to the highest one on the list and follow the number listed there. In other words, while you may have both a pair and four cards to a flush, such as having the Ace of hearts and the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack of spades (AAKQJ) you will discard the Ace or hearts and try to hit the royal straight flush, since "four-card royal straight flush" is higher on the chart than "High pair."

Jacks or Better Strategy

What cards to hold and fold in Video Poker
Hand Notes No. to discard
Royal or Straight Flush - 0
Four of a kind - 1
Four-card royal straight flush - 1
Full House - 0
Flush - 0
Straight - 0
Three of a kind - 2
Four-card straight flush (open-ended or gutshot) 1
Two Pairs - 1
High pair (Jacks or better) 3
Three-card royal - 2
Four-card flush - 1
Low pair (10s or lower) 3
Four-card straight (open-ended) 2
Two suited high cards - 2
Three-card straight flush - 2
Two unsuited high cards (Jack or better) 3
One high card (Jack or better) 4
None of the above - 5