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Playing 8/5 Jacks or Better

15 Dec 2018

By Jerry Stickman
The full-pay 9/6 (9-for-1 for a full house and 6-for-1 for a flush) Jacks or Better video poker game used to be readily available. Not so any more. In many casinos the best game that can be found on the main casino floor is 8/5 Jacks or Better. Let’s look at what playing this reduced pay game does to the player.

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 five coins played is:

Hand Payout
Royal Flush 4,000
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 five 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 2%. 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 4,000 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 2% 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%.

To have an 8/5 Jacks or Better game return 99.54% 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 credits before the payback reaches that of a 9/6 game. That is almost twice the normal payoff for a royal flush.

There are other considerations to playing an 8/5 progressive with a high jackpot as well. The proper strategy to play this game will be different. More often high cards will be saved over lower paying hands. As the player chooses to chase the royal flush more often, the variance of the game increases. This means a larger bankroll is required. The I will dig further into the issues that are faced when playing a high jackpot game in a future 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.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and small.

Jerry “Stickman”

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. He authored the video poker section of Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker! You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerry@aol.com.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

 
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