Joker Poker Video Poker Strategy

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The Video Poker game known as “Joker Poker” is a version of Five-Card Draw Poker played with a wild card—i.e., the Joker. It follows the rules of basic Draw Poker and typically rewards the player for forming any hand with at least Kings or better, which worth even money (1:1). Note, however, that some versions of Joker Poker may require a pair of Aces or better or even two pair to meet the threshold for a payout.

Higher payouts are made for ten types of “premium” hands. On a Kings or better machine, the awards are: two pair (1:1), three of a kind (2:1), straight (3:1), flush (5:1), full house (7:1), four of a kind (20:1), straight flush (50:1), wild Royal flush (100:1), five of a kind (200:1) and natural Royal flush (800:1).

As in all games of Video Poker, the objective is to win by meeting or exceeding the minimum threshold requirement, i.e., Kings or better. In this game, a losing hand—one containing less than a pair of Kings—can be expected on about 55%~56% of all deals. Hands paying even money—neither winning nor losing—will come up about 25% of the time. That means just 19%~20% of all hands results in a premium hand that earns a profit.

Decisions with the Joker

Unlike Video Poker games played without wild cards, the strategy for Joker Poker will vary depending on whether the Joker is received on the initial deal. The priorities given below apply to the Kings or better version of the game.

When the Joker is dealt, the player will always keep the cards that form a full house or better. With a straight or a flush, the player will keep all five cards unless there is a possible wild Royal or straight flush draw. With three of a kind, the only time the winning combination is broken up is when there are four cards to a straight flush or wild Royal flush draw. Note that two pair is an impossibility when holding a Joker.

Initial combinations that form a high pair (Kings or Aces) should be kept unless it is possible to keep three or four cards to a potential straight flush or wild Royal flush. Any low pair should be kept unless it is possible to keep four cards to a straight or flush or three cards to a straight flush or wild Royal flush. When deciding what low pair to keep, the following priorities apply, from highest to lowest: sevens, eights, sixes, tens, nines and fives.

Decisions without the Joker

For initial hands that do not contain the Joker, “always keep the winners” applies. This is true when holding two pair, three of a kind, a full house, four of a kind, a straight flush or a natural Royal flush. Breaking up such winning combinations should never be considered. Also, hold any flush unless it is possible to keep four to a natural Royal. For straights, hold all five cards unless there is a potential to hold four cards and draw to a straight flush or a natural Royal flush. When dealt a pair of Kings or Aces, hold them unless the hand contains three or four cards to a natural Royal flush draw.

If the threshold for a payout is not obtained on the initial deal, the following list indicates what cards to keep in order of priority, from highest to lowest:

  1. 3 to a natural Royal flush
  2. 4 to a flush
  3. Pair of sixes through Queens
  4. 3 to an open-ended straight flush with no gap
  5. Pair of deuces through fives
  6. K-Q-J-10 unsuited
  7. 3 to a straight flush with no more than one gap
  8. A-K suited
  9. 4 to an open-ended straight
  10. 3 to a straight flush with two gaps
  11. K-Q, K-J or K-10 suited
  12. A-K unsuited
  13. A-Q, A-J or A-10 suited
  14. Single Ace
  15. Single King
  16. Q-J, Q-10 or J-10 suited

Any hand that does not fit the patterns above is “garbage” and should be entirely discarded. Players who follow this strategy exactly can expect a return rate approaching 100%.

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