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A Beginner’s Guide to Joker Poker

Learn the basics of Joker Poker together with a simple strategy guide that will help you get off to the best possible start with the game.  

An Introduction to Joker Poker 

Like most versions of video poker, Joker Poker is a variant of the hugely popular Jacks or Better game. However, there is one crucial difference, the game keeps the joker in the pack and it acts as a wild card. This means that the game is played with a deck of 53 cards.

The aim of the game is very simple, you need to put together the best possible poker hand and you win based upon the strength of the hand. The game is very easy to play, all you need to do is place you bet and click on deal. You are dealt five cards and need to choose which to hold and which to discard. The cards you have not held are replaced and you are then paid out as long as you have a winning hand.

As with all versions of video poker, it is important to bet the maximum amount of coins possible on each hand. The reason for this is very simple, but nothing to do with Joker Poker strategy. Nearly all video poker games offer a boosted payout for a royal flush when betting the maximum number of coins. This means that by doing so you are opening up the possibility of far larger winnings.

You win in Joker Poker as long as your hand contains at least a pair of kings. In total there are eleven different winning hands and it is vital that you fully understand them before you can start adopting a strategy. From weakest to strongest, these are the possible winning hands.

  • Kings or Better – This is a hand that contains a pair of kings or a pair of aces and the other three cards do not contribute in any way.  
  • Two Pair – This is hand that has two pairs, for example two 4s and two Jacks. 
  • Three of a Kind – This is a hand that contains three matching cards, for example three 8s, and the other two cards do not contribute in any other way.  
  • Straight – This is a hand in which the five cards are sequential, for example 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. The suit of the cards is irrelevant and it is possible to use an Ace at the start or end of a straight. 
  • Flush – This is a hand in which all of the cards come from the same suit, for example, 2, 6, 8, J and Q of hearts. 
  • Full House – This is a hand that combines a pair with three of a kind, for example two 5s and three 7s. The suit of the cards is irrelevant and they do not need to match.  
  • Four of a Kind – This is a hand that contains four matching cards, for example four Qs. 
  • Straight Flush – This is a hand combines a straight and a flush. In other words, it contains five sequential cards from the same suit, such as the 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 of spades.  
  • Royal Flush – This is a hand that contains a straight flush of the highest value cards, i.e. 10, J, Q, K, A of hearts.   
  • Five of a Kind – This is a hand that is only possible in games that contain wild cards. It is a hand of five matching cards, for example five Jacks.   

As Joker Poker does contain wild cards, you will see that there is also a Royal Flush (Natural) in the paytable. This is a Royal Flush that does not include the wild card and it pays out significantly more than a Royal Flush that contains a wild joker.

When it comes to following Joker Poker strategies, it is also important to understand the difference between an Outside Straight and an Inside Straight. An Outside Straight is a set of cards that can be made into a Straight by adding a card to either end of the sequence. For example, 8, 6, 9, 7, 2 is an outside straight as changing the 2 for either a 10 on the high end or a 5 on the low end would turn the hand into a Straight. An Inside Straight is a hand that can be made into a straight by changing one of the cards in the middle. For example, 8, A, 9, 7, 5 is an Inside Straight as changing the A for a 6 would turn the hand into a Straight.

Joker Poker Strategy 

All video poker strategies work on the same basis. You look at the cards you are holding and compare it to a list that describes the different hands and the appropriate action for each.

The most important thing to remember is never to discard a Joker. However, there are two different hand lists that you need to use depending on whether you have a Joker or not. When reading the lists you will see the expression ‘x to a’ a lot, this simply means you have x amount of cards for the type of hand that follow. 

If you are holding a Joker, the list is as follows: 

  1. Keep a pat Royal Flush (being dealt a Royal Flush immediately)
  1. Keep 5 of a Kind (including joker) 
  1. Keep 4 of a kind and discard the fifth card 
  1. Keep four to a Wild Royal Flush with a king as the high card 
  1. Keep a Full House 
  1. Keep four to a Wild Royal Flush with an ace as the high card 
  1. Keep four to an Outside Straight Flush unless it is A-2-3 or 2-3-4 
  1. Keep a Flush 
  1. Keep four to a Straight Flush with up to two gaps including both A-2-3 and 2-3-4 
  1. Keep 3 of a kind 
  1. Keep a Straight 
  1. Keep four to a Flush with one or two kings or better 
  1. Keep four to a Straight Flush with no gaps or one or two kings or better 
  1. Keep three to a Wild Flush with no gaps or one or two kings or better 
  1. Keep three to a Straight Flush with one gap 
  1. Keep joker and any unsuited 10-J-K or 10-Q-K or J-Q-K 
  1. Keep jokers and A or K 
  1. Keep three to a Straight Flush with two gaps 
  1. Keep four to an Outside Straight 
  1. Keep four to a flush with no high card 
  1. Keep Joker 

If you are not holding a Joker then you should follow this list: 

  1. Keep a pat Royal Flush (being dealt a Royal Flush immediately) 
  1. Keep four to a Natural Royal Flush 
  1. Keep Four of a Kind 
  1. Keep a Full House 
  1. Keep a Flush 
  1. Keep Four to a Straight Flush 
  1. Keep Three of a Kind 
  1. Keep a Straight 
  1. Keep three to a Natural Royal Flush with a king or queen 
  1. Keep Two Pair 
  1. Keep three to a Natural Royal Flush with ace as the high card 
  1. Keep A-A or K-K 
  1. Keep four to a Flush 
  1. Keep three to a Straight Flush with no gap 
  1. Keep any Pair 
  1. Keep unsuited 10, J, Q, K 
  1. Keep three to a Straight Flush with a high card and up to two gaps 
  1. Keep suited K-A 
  1. Keep four to an Outside Straight 
  1. Keep three to a Straight Flush with two gaps 
  1. Keep suited 10-K or J-K or Q-K 
  1. Keep suited 10-A or J-A or Q-A 
  1. Keep ace or king 
  1. Keep suited 10-J or J-Q or 10-Q 
  1. Discard all 

Here are a few worked examples to help you understand: 

Example 1 

You are dealt: Joker, King Spades, 5 Spades, Ace Spades, 7 Spades 

First of all, you have a Joker so you know that you will be using the Joker list. This hand can fit into many categories, you have 3 to a Straight, you have 3 to a Royal Flush, and you have a flush. Looking at the list, you will see that the highest hand on the list is a Flush (number 8), so you keep all five cards and the guaranteed Flush payout.

Example 2 

You are dealt: Joker, 4 Spades, 5 Spades, 6 Spades, King Hearts 

Once again, you have a Joker, so you will be using the first list. You know that you already have a winning hand thanks to the Joker (Pair of Kings). However, you also have Four to a Straight, number 13 on the list, so this is the hand that you play to and you discard the King of Hearts. 

Example 3 

You are dealt: 8 Clubs, Ace Spades, 6 Hearts, Ace Diamonds, 5 Hearts. 

You do not have a Joker so you are dealing with the second list. As you progress down the list, the first you come to is number 12, Keep A-A or K-K, so this is exactly what you do. You are guaranteed a payout for the pair of Aces, and with a bit of luck you could form a stronger hand when you replace the other three cards. 

Example 4 

You are dealt: 8 Spades, Queen Hearts, 3 Hearts, 6 Spades, 10 Spades 

There is no Joker here to you are looking at the second list. Here the top hand is 17, three to a Straight Flush with a high card and up to two gaps, as you have the 6, 8 and 10 of Spades with exactly two gaps (the 7 and 9). This means that you keep those cards and hope to improve the hand upon the draw.

It can take a little while to get your head around these charts, but once you get the hang of it is becomes very simple and with a bit of luck, you will soon be enjoying far more success with your Joker Poker play.

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