Jacks or Better Level Up

Video Poker is as much a part of an online casino’s DNA as slots, blackjack, roulette and the free spins that casinos occasionally give you when funds are low to give you a little bit of a boost.

And no video poker game is better-known or has been played more often over the years than Jacks or Better, the classic version that’s been loved so much in land casinos the world over, in addition to being such an online favourite.

It’s a game that’s been around for several decades and though Microgaming have decided against fixing something that isn’t broken, with most of the game’s format and rules staying the same, they have however added another layer to it all. Or taken it to another level, if you prefer. Hence the Level Up element of it!

Jacks or Better: The basics

Fans of ‘live’ stud poker, played against other players, will be familiar with the format in place here, but let’s go through it anyway.

Your first choice to make is what you want your stake to be.

One key difference between the Level-Up version and the classic one is that here whatever you choose to bet on the next round in this version will cost you four times the value of that. So, if you decide to play 25p a round, you’re actually playing for 1GBP per round.

Now, before you wonder why something is costing you four times what it would normally cost, a more than valid question, especially in times when good and bad value are words on everyone’s lips, we’ll tell you: it’s because on any round, you have the potential to play four hands, rather than just one.

The ‘potential’ means just that: it could be up to four but then again, it could just be one.

This brings us to the second key difference between the classic version and this one: this one has a greater element of risk-reward to it.

Once you’ve decided on your stake, it’s time to flip over those cards.

The hierarchy of the cards

You’ll be dealt five cards to begin with. The game follows the classic poker hierarchy of cards, but to have a winning hand you’ll need to have- the clue is in the name- a pair of Jacks, or better.

Here’s the order of hands that pay out prizes, from lowest to highest:

  • Jacks or better
  • Two pairs
  • Three-of-a-kind
  • 3-of-a-kind
  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Full House
  • 4 of a Kind
  • Straight Flush

The harder and more valuable the hand you get, the bigger the payout.

After that first hand, you can hold between one and five cards. If for example, you’re dealt a pair of Jacks straight off the bat, the smart move is to hold those two Jacks and turn over the other three in a bid to further improve your hand.

If you’re dealt three eights, hold those and look for a fourth one. If you’re not dealt anything special to begin with, the best move might be to hold a Jack, Queen, King or Ace and hope that you get another one.

The game doesn’t feature any Wilds or Jokers, meaning that there are no special cards that substitute for others which can happen in other forms of video poker; nor are there any changes to the pay table from one round to the next.

Once you’ve decided which cards to keep and have flipped the remaining ones over once, that’s your final hand. For the time being.

Levelling Up in Jacks or Better

So, here’s our third big difference between the original and revamped version of Jacks or Better: a winning hand elevates you to the second level. But in the absence of a winning hand, there’s another way to get there: by getting a random Free Ride card. As long as you see that card dealt, you know you’re onto something good.

You’ll then be dealt a new set of five cards and go through the same process again but with a twist: whatever you get on Level 2 will pay out double, exactly because it’s on Level 2.

If you get a winning hand on that level, you’ll then be dealt a new hand on Level 3 where a winning combination will pay out at 4x in this case.

Another winning hand? Congratulations. Not only have you already been paid out at 1x, 2x and 4x your bet but you’re now also heading to Level 4.

Any sort of win at this level and you can be forgiven for doing a little celebratory dance, whether it’s from the comfort of your own living room or sitting on the bus on your way home (you might get a few strange looks from fellow passengers, but never mind) because this time, you’ll be paid out at 8x the value of your winning hand.

Now imagine getting a Royal Straight Flush at Level 4 that pays out 4,000 times your stake in normal circumstances. Are you picturing it? Good. Now remember these aren’t normal circumstances and imagine taking that 4000x payout and multiplying it by 8 courtesy of it happening at Level 4: yes, that comes to a payout of 32,000 times your stake.

So now you can see the trade-off in terms of each round costing you four times the amount it costs in the classic Jacks or Better version. It seems expensive in the absence of a winning hand because

those next three hands never come into play. But the payouts are huge as you carry on Levelling up; just bear in mind that there’s a maximum of 4 levels you can reach.

Doubling Up

After any win you can choose to double your money. Or rather: try to.

To do so, just click on the ‘Double’ button and a card will be dealt, which is the House’s hand. There will then be four cards to choose from and your goal is to pick one that’s higher than what the House drew. If it is, you’ve doubled your money. If it’s lower, you’ve just lost your money. And if it’s of the same value, you can choose to quit and collect what you’ve won or to just go ahead and draw again.

There may be no such thing as a free lunch but there is such a thing as a free tip and here it is: don’t be too greedy. Doubling up two or three times is already pretty impressive and lucrative, so don’t push your luck.

There’s certainly lots to like about this game and getting to Level 4 will make you like it even more. But if you want to chance your hand at other types of video poker, there is of course the original Jacks or Better while All Aces Poker is another to consider.


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