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# Testing Jacks or Better

27 September 2020

QUESTION: Last week, I had a tester of a hand in Jacks or Better.

I was dealt 9, 10, Jack and King of clubs and a Jack of hearts.

I could hold the pair of Jacks, hold three to a royal with 10 Jack and King of clubs, or also hold the 9 of clubs and have four to a straight flush.

I held the four to a straight flush, caught a King, which luckily replaced my high pair and got my money back.

My logic was this: If I held the pair I was guaranteed a winner, but my maximum payoff is four Jacks. I could also get two pair, three of a kind or a full house.

If I held the three to a royal I could get the royal, a flush (but one flush card possibility was discarded and no possible straight flush) a straight, 2 pair or 3 of a kind.

So, the 4 to a straight flush seemed to be the best choice, since I could catch straight flush with the Queen of clubs, a straight with any other queen, other flushes and high pairs with Kings or Jacks.

The odds of the straight flush were much better than the royal since I needed only one card for the SF and two for the royal. The odds of a regular flush is also were better with a one-card draw, and for the same reason a straight was more likely, too.

Am I right?

ANSWER: Assuming a five-coin bet, your average returns in 9-6 Jacks or Better are 12.23 coins if you hold all four clubs, 7.68 if you hold the pair of Jacks, and 6.42 if you hold three to a royal and discard the other two.

If you’re playing 8-5 Jacks or Better, where flush payoffs are downgraded to 8-for-1 and flushes to 5-for-1, the returns are a little lower but the order is the same: 11.38 on all four clubs, 7.63 on the high pair and 6.26 on three to a royal.

You are correct that you have a much better chance at a straight flush, flush or straight when you hold all four clubs than you have chances at a royal, flush or straight with the 10-Jack-King of clubs.

When holding all four clubs, you have a 1 in 47, or 2.13 percent, chance at a royal, 3 in 47 (6.38 percent) chance at a straight and 8 in 47 (17.02 perent) chance at a flush.

If you hold three to a royal, there are 1,081 possible three-card draws. As you note, there are no possible straight flush One draw, or 0.09 percent brings a royal, 27, or 2.49 percent, bring a straight and 35, or 3.24 percent, bring a flush.

So your instincts were correct to hold four cards to a straight flush. That’s the best choice by a wide margin.

QUESTION: Please tell me the one thing I really need to know. How do you beat the slots?

ANSWER: Everybody would like to know the answer to that question, including me,

There is nothing you can do to change the odds on a slot machine, and those odds lead to an advantage for the house against every player. No one can beat the slots consistently.

Everybody wins sometimes. A few who win very large jackpots even wind up on the plus-side for their playing lives. But to me the best slot strategy is to enjoy the wins when they come, have fun playing when they don’t and keep your betting levels sane so the losing times don’t hurt.
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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.