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Draw Jacks or Better

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Draw Jacks-or-Better is played the same as Draw poker, except that there needs to be at least one player with a pair of Jacks in their hand (or stronger) to start the game by opening the bets. If nobody has a Jacks-or-better hand, the cards are collected, everyone must ante and the cards are redealt until somebody has a Jacks-or-better to open the betting. Whoever had the opening hand must make sure they keep it aside if they fold as they need to prove they really did have a Jacks-or-better.

A second difference with regular Draw and Jacks-or-Better poker is the inclusion of a Joker card, called a ‘bug,’ which can only be used as an Ace or to finish a straight or flush.

Because the games are so similar, much of the strategy for Draw poker applies to Draw Jacks-or-Better as well, so be sure to read that section. But because there are some differences in the way the game is played, there are some additional strategies you can use.

Starting hands & position

Since you know somebody has at least a Jacks-or-better hand, you shouldn’t risk playing weak hands. Like all poker games, a strong opening hand is critical to winning the pot. You need to develop a list of hands you’ll play and others that you’ll fold immediately.

Your position relative the dealer will affect how you play certain starting hands. For example, if you opened the bets with a pair of Jacks or Queens and somebody starts betting heavily, you know they probably have a pair of Kings or Aces (or better) since they’re not worried about your lowly pair of Jacks. You should fold pairs of Jacks or Queens as in this game, they’re not very strong hands.


Early Position


Middle Position


Late Position



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As you can see from the minimum starting hands table, you can play a Jacks-or-better if you’re in late position especially if nobody before you had an opening hand (Jacks-or-better). If you bet with that hand in late position, you might be able to force everyone else to fold (they should since everyone knows you already have the best hand), thus allowing you to ‘steal the antes.’

If one or two players called the opener and nobody has raised, you still have a decent chance with the pair of Jacks or Queens in late position. The more people in pot decreases the likelihood you’ll win, so you should fold if there are more than two other people vying for the pot.

Straights and flushes should be played if the pot odds are in your favor. But don’t raise before the draw you might not get the card you need. Instead, wait until after the draw to raise. Read our section on Draw poker strategy for a detailed explanation on how to figure out pot odds.

If your hand has a pair of Kings, Aces and low three of a kinds, you should call the opener and raise! These are excellent cards, but can immediately decrease in value if one of your opponents gets lucky and improves a weaker hand. That’s why you want to raise before the draw to try and force these people to fold and not give them the opportunity to get the card they’re looking for.

Conversely, if you have a strong trips, say three 10s, call, but don’t raise before the draw. The game of poker is to win the most money not win as many times as you can. If you have a very strong hand and are highly likely to win, don’t scare your opponents into folding by betting too aggressively you want them to stay in the game and contribute to the pot as much as possible.

You hear it all the time, and it’s definitely true: don’t draw to an inside straight. Or any 3-card straights or flushes. An inside straight is a 4-card straight that’s missing one card within the range of the straight, but not on either end. For example, a 5 card would finish an inside straight of 8-7-6-4. The odds of improving your hand on an inside straight and a 3-card straight or flush are so bad you shouldn’t play them.

The best strategy for any poker game is to practice as much as you can, and the best place to do that is online. Most sites today have free tables where you can play as long as you like without spending a dime. and Full Tilt Poker are excellent poker sites that have 24/7 support when you need it, which is great for first-time online poker players (and people who need a little help with computers). Once you’re ready to take the competition up a notch, they have various styles of tournaments starting every fifteen minutes. Some are only pennies to play you should give them a try!

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