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Playing 8/5 Jacks or Better

By Jerry "Stickman" Stich

An acquaintance recently asked me to comment on playing the 8/5 version of Jacks or Better. He understands that 9/6 Jacks or Better is a better game to play but says it is sometimes hard to find such a game.

For those readers who are not familiar with video poker terminology, Jacks or Better is one of the first video poker games ever manufactured. You will not lose money – although you may just get your bet back – if you get a pair of jacks or a better hand. The 9/6 or 8/5 refers to the payoff for a full house and flush respectively. The 9/6 game pays nine units for every unit bet for a full house and six units for every unit bet for a flush. The 8/5 version pays eight units per unit for a full house and five units per unit bet for a flush.

A 9/6 Jacks or Better game returns 99.54% of the money played if you play each hand perfectly. The pay schedule for this game with the maximum 5 coins played is:

Hand Payout

Royal Flush 4000

Straight Flush 250

Four of a Kind 125

Full House 45 (9 times the 5 coins played)

Flush 30 (6 times the 5 coins played)

Straight 20

Three of a Kind 15

Two Pair 10

Pair (Jacks or Better) 5

An 8/5 Jacks or Better game returns 97.30% of the money played if you play each hand perfectly. The pay schedule for this game with the maximum 5 coins played is:

Hand Payout

Royal Flush 4000

Straight Flush 250

Four of a Kind 125

Full House 40 (8 times the 5 coins played)

Flush 25 (5 times the 5 coins played)

Straight 20

Three of a Kind 15

Two Pair 10

Pair (Jacks or Better) 5

By simply reducing the payout for two of the hands (full house and flush) by one unit per unit bet, the total payback for the game is reduced by more than two percent. In the long run, for every $100 you play through the 8/5 version you will lose $2 more than if you played the 9/6 version. For this reason alone, a savvy player will avoid an 8/5 game.

Many times a casino that has Standard 9/6 Jacks or Better games will have Progressive 8/5 Jacks or Better games. Part of the added profit the casino takes in lower paybacks are added to a jackpot that pays off when you get a royal flush. Generally the progressive jackpot starts at 4000 units. It very slowly moves upward as people play the progressive group of machines.

Believe me when I say that the amount that gets added to the progressive jackpot is nowhere near the two percent difference in payback compared to the 9/6 game.

As the progressive amount moves higher, the long-term payback also moves higher. It is possible for the progressive to get high enough to offset the reduced payback of the game. Heck, it is even possible for the progressive jackpot to get high enough to make the game have a long term positive payback – that’s right, more than 100 percent.

To have an 8/5 Jacks or Better game return 99.54 percent like a 9/6 game, the jackpot has to get very high and that doesn’t happen very often at all. The progressive needs to be almost 8,000 units before the payback reaches that of a 9/6 game. That is almost twice the normal payoff for a royal flush.

I will dig further into the issues that are faced when playing a high jackpot game in my next column, but for now, think very carefully before you decide to play an 8/5 Jacks or Better game – especially when a 9/6 Jacks or Better game is available.

Using a Casino Player’s Card for Video Poker

By Jerry Stich

Some of my friends and acquaintances refuse to use a casino player’s card while playing video poker. They believe that their payoff will be reduced because of the comps they receive from having the card inserted. If you happen to be someone who always uses a player’s card when playing your favorite machine, congratulations. There is no need to continue reading – you are getting your hard-earned rewards. If, however, you are someone who doesn’t use a player’s card please read on.

Video poker hands are determined by a random number generator that is constantly running in every machine. The cards dealt are determined each time you hit the deal button. The cards selected will be exactly the same whether or not there is a player’s card inserted. The casinos have virtually every game tilted in their favor. Don’t give up anything to the casino by not inserting your player’s card. Get everything you are entitled to.

Double Bonus Poker 10/7 vs. 9/7

By Jerry Stich

Full pay (10/7) Double Bonus Poker returns 100.17% with perfect play, however, these machines can be difficult to find. More common are 9/7 Double Bonus games returning 99.1% with perfect play. While the strategy for playing Double Bonus is more complex than for Jacks or Better, it is simple to switch between the full-pay and 9/7 strategies.

There are only four changes between the two and three of them combined amount to just over one one-hundreth of a unit. The one to remember on a 9/7 game is to save a pair of Aces before saving two pair. This difference amounts to seven hundredths of a unit. Just remembering this one change will allow you to play within about one one-hundreth of a unit of perfect strategy.

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