Joker Poker Video Poker Strategy Guide
Kings or Better Joker Poker is the most popular style of this type of video poker. The strategies involved are atypical because they aren’t pure non-wild card approaches since there is a joker, but the typical wild card strategies don’t really apply either because there is only one wild card in the entire deck.
Introduction to Joker Poker Video Poker
There are a few different styles of Joker Poker video poker, but the most common by far is known as the Kings or Better variation. In this style, you have to get at least a pair of Kings (or a better hand than that) to pick up a payout of any kind.
Aces or Better is a similar variation, but others also exist such as needing at least two pair to win a prize. We will only focus on Kings or Better strategy because it’s the most popular variation of the game out there, and the others are fairly unpopular and are somewhat uncommon to find anyway since they’re largely seen as obscure.
We highly recommend that you spend a fair amount of time learning the basics of Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild before attempting to learn Kings or Better Joker Poker on a high level. The reason for this is that the strategies you need to know are related to both of those games, but there are distinct differences that make this game different than both, which is a fairly unique situation since almost all video poker games are closely related to one or the other.
House Advantage and Payout Rates
The best pay table that you’ll usually find online is a 7-5 table that pays 1x for both a pair of kings or better and two pair. It’ll also give you a 940x win (listed as 4700x when playing with five coins) for what is called a natural royal flush and a win of 18x for four of a kind, and that’s how you know you have the best pay table that you can find online.
With this pay table, you can get a payout rate as high as 99.29 percent.
With that said, there is an inferior pay table by Microgaming that is a little misleading because it gives a larger 1,000x win for a natural royal flush. However, it only pays 17x for four of a kind, which is enough to drop the pay table down to 98.6 percent. This is a bit of a trap, in a sense, that a lot of players have fallen into over the years, and it’s something to avoid.
Important Rules for Joker Poker
The only real difference between Kings or Better Joker Poker and something more standard like Jacks or Better is that there is a wild joker added to the deck. This gives the deck 53 cards total, which changes the odds for a lot of the draws.
This joker will count as the individual card that will give you the best possible payout. This means that you don’t have to worry about “semi-wild” situations where it will only count as an ace or complete a straight or flush like you can find with some other games.
Also, as we noted above, this is a discussion of the Kings or Better variation of Joker Poker. Other variations, while much less popular, are available and should not be confused with what we’re looking at here.
Finally, there are two non-standard hands available in this game: a wild royal flush and five of a kind. A wild royal flush is a royal that includes a joker, and it gives a lower payout that’s usually 100. Five of a kind typically pays out twice that at 200x, which is four of a kind with a joker kicker.
Strategies for Joker Poker
Strategies for this game are broken up into two cases: when you have a joker in your starting five cards and when you do not. Roughly 10 percent of your starting hands will include a joker, so you should start your work by learning how to play the non-joker starting hands first if you want to be as efficient with learning this game as possible.
With that said, we’re going to start with the hands where you do have a joker in your first five cards.
Note also that we will refer to “high cards” and “high pairs” as kings or aces only. Also, we will use the denotation “X” to refer to a joker when discussing specific hands while something like As or 8h refer to the ace of spades and the eight of hearts.
Hands With a Joker
Playing hands with a joker in them can be tricky. The main difficulties come in situations where you can play a draw or use a made hand, and those aren’t too difficult to learn in a short period of time, but it can also be tough to read multiple three-card draws depending on the situation.
With that said, the lower 3x win for straights means that you don’t have to worry much about tricky situations with them since drawing to virtually any straight is a bad idea if you have a high pair with a joker.
But the flush draws can be tough, and a good example of this is a hand like KcJc6c8dX. Most players will immediately see the options to play for a pair of kings or a four-card flush draw, but neither of those happen to be the best play. Consider the following average payouts for various ways of playing the hand:
- Consecutive three-card wild royal draw – KcJcX (2.05x)
- Four-card wild flush draw with high card – KcJc6cX (2.02x)
- Pair of kings – KcX (1.59x)
What you can learn from this example hand is that flush draws with a high card and a joker are typically going to be better than the pair of high cards on their own. Additionally, the consecutive three-card wild royal draw is particularly strong as well, though it comes in about the same value as the flush draw with the joker and a high card.
A slightly different hand really illustrates how small changes in the cards you hold with these flush draws can drastically affect how you should play. Suppose we hold KhJc6c2cX instead:
- Pair of kings – KhX (1.70x)
- Pair of kings with jack kicker – KhJcX (1.57x)
- Four-card wild flush draw with no high cards – Jc6c2cX (1.52x)
These are really your only three viable ways to play this hand. Note that the KJX hand performs as well as it does because you retain the high pair while holding some chances for a runner-runner straight.
Most situations with a joker in your hand can be played as if you would play them normally. However, spots with flush draws are where you really have to learn the exceptions to this general rule.
In short, you can remember the following hand rankings. With this, you’ll want to hold the set of cards that is the highest on the list as possible:
- Four-card flush draw with AKX and one other suited card
- Three consecutive cards to a royal, including the joker (not AKX or AXQ)
- Four-card flush draw with AX or KX
- Pair of kings (KX) with queen or jack kicker
- Lone pair of aces or kings (AX or KX)
- Three consecutive cards to a straight flush, including the joker (not 23X or 2X3)
- Four-card flush draw with no high cards
This isn’t the easiest thing to remember because it’s such an atypical set of hands to keep up with in a video poker game, but if you can remember these seven points in order, then you’ll play joker-based hands perfectly an overwhelming vast majority of the time.
Hands Without a Joker
If you’re familiar with Jacks or Better strategy, then you won’t need to make much in the way of heavy adjustments to that overall general strategy.
One thing you really do have to watch out for is accidentally going on “auto-pilot” and playing a hand as if a jack or queen would be a high card.
Outside of the auto-pilot adjustment above, which is really just a matter of staying present in the moment and not losing focus, many of the same rules apply to Kings or Better Joker Poker online than apply to Jacks or Better.
Along these lines, the basic order of operations is the following:
- Four to a royal
- Four to a straight flush
- High pair
- Three to a royal
- Four to a flush
- Low pair
- Four to a straight
There are no real changes that you need to make to the order of these hand priorities, and they’re very similar to what you’ll see in standard games like Jacks or Better. The fact of the matter is that adding just a single wild to the deck doesn’t change much outside of having to adjust for the different set of high cards.
Playing Kings or Better Joker Poker is an exercise in three things, first and foremost. First, it’s going to really test how well you know basic non-wild card video poker strategy. Second, it will make sure that you can focus on the game at hand and not go into auto-pilot, which will lead to costly errors by way of mistakenly playing queens and jacks as high cards.
Finally, about 10 percent of the time, it will test you on learning how to play the single wild card hands when no other wild cards are available in the deck, which is a type of scenario that you can only find in this one style of the game.