JEAN SCOTT ON VIDEO POKER:
THE SKINNY ON JACKS OR BETTER
By JEAN SCOTT
Jean Scott is the author of the best-selling book "The Frugal Gambler," a casino guide for thrifty low rollers, plus the sequel, "More Frugal Gambling." She has also written "Tax Help for the Frugal Gambler," a practical guide to help gamblers cope with the complex regulations of the IRS. Her most recent book, "Frugal Video Poker," is a complete how-to guide for video poker players at all levels, from beginners to the experienced, and it is the perfect companion to the "Frugal Video Poker software program." A helpful companion to that book is "The Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide." Jeans books and software are available at a 10 percent discount in our BJI Store. Click here.
I call Jacks or Better (JoB) the "vanilla" video poker game. Itís the most basic "flavor," because it was the first video poker game to appear in casinos, and all other VP games were developed from this original with at least some of its basic elements. I recommend this game with the "classic" 9/6 schedule (the one-coin payoff for the full house/flush), because it is the best game for a beginner to learn, and also for a more experienced player to have in his repertoire of VP skills.
For the beginning VP player, 9/6 JoB has the most intuitive strategy and, in my opinion, is the easiest to learn. Even if he plans to choose another game as his "core" or first-choice main game, studying and practicing this simpler strategy will introduce him to the basic elements of VP and the terminology he needs to know. Consequently, learning other and usually more complicated strategies will come easier.
Almost all skilled experienced players know how to play 9/6 JoB strategy and they will play the game at times. Back a number of years ago, however, we rarely played it because there were so many more games available with a higher Expected Value (EV), particularly Full Pay Classic Deuces Wild at the quarter level, and 10/7 Double Bonus at the $1 and $2 levels. Nowadays, there are fewer high-EV games in casinos, and 9/6 Jacks or Better with its 99.5% EV is often the best game in a casino on any betting level (but especially at the $5 denomination games for high-rollers). The savvy VP player knows that the best chance for profit these days is to tirelessly chase casino promotions. The savvy player will find the best VP game in a casino, along with that juicy casino promotion, to get an overall edge over the casino. Many times the VP game that he selects is 9/6 JoB.
For the recreational video poker gambler, who does not play very often and/or doesnít have time to intensely study many different VP games, JoB can be his core game of choice. A recreational player can easily remember the strategy for JoB and it is available in most casinos (usually where he wants to stay and earn comps). (However, itís sad to say that this is slowly changing. Many recreational players complain that JoB is becoming harder to find. This means you may have to look around in more casinos to find them but there still plenty of them available.)
For the same reasons I mentioned above, skilled blackjack and poker players often make JoB the game of choice when they play VP. I know many of these players that have taken up video poker as a secondary game in order to earn more comps, and/or to take advantage of extremely good promotions that will give them the edge. They find that JoB is usually the most readily available game that will allow them do this without learning new, more complicated strategies.
Another advantage of JoB is that it is a less volatile game than most other VP games. This means the ups-and-downs in winning and losing arenít so steep; therefore, your money will, on average, last longer than if you played most other VP games. Whether you are talking about playing for one two-hour session, or playing VP for the rest of your life, the ups-and-downs will be less choppy, thus requiring a smaller bankroll than for almost any other video poker game you can find.
On the other hand, this low volatility is what some players complain about, namely, that "JoB is SOOOOOO boring!" So they drift to Bonus or Double Double Bonus for the thrill of the mini-jackpots which are missing from JoB. Iím not in the business to tell people what they should play. I will merely point out the facts: If you stick to 9/6 JoB, you will lose much less in the long term than if you play 8/5 Bonus or 9/6 Double Double Bonus. And if you scramble, you will be able to find good promotions that will make up for your small loss at 9/6 JoB (99.54%), or even possibly give you the slight edge. On the other hand, It will be impossible to regularly find promotions that can make up the losses you will suffer at 8/5 Bonus Poker (99.17%) or at 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker (98.98%). Heed my advice: if you are a recreational VP player, learn JoB.
Editors Note: One of the easiest and best ways to learn JoB (or any VP game) is by reading Jeanís book (Frugal Video Poker) and practice playing on your computer using her Frugal Video Poker software (We have this combo in our store at a special price.) Her Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide book will help you locate the best paying VP machines in any casino, and More Frugal Gambling will teach you all about taking advantage of casino promotions.
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