Jacks or Better Rules

Not be confused with the video poker game of the same name, Jacks or Better Draw Poker is played with real players just like any other poker variant. This game closely resembles Five Card Draw with a few notable differences.

Jacks or Better vs. Five Card Draw

The biggest difference between the two games is that in Jacks or better, a player must have a pair of Jacks or better to open the initial betting round. If nobody has a pair of Jacks or better, the cards are shuffled and a new hand is dealt.

Once somebody declares Jacks or better and opens the pot (by placing a bet), the other players may join the hand by calling, folding or raising. The player who opened the pot may also be required to show that he had at least a pair of jacks to qualify.

Any time a new hand is dealt because of a lack of qualifying hands, the antes from the previous hand are pushed forward to the new pot and new antes are taken again. In this manner, the pot grows a little larger every time the hand is re-dealt. Some poker games impose a maximum number of antes so that a particularly dry run of cards doesn’t result in a humongous pot.

Game Play

Each hand begins with the players paying a small, forced bet called the “ante.” The ante ranges in size between 10% and 25% of the minimum bet. For example, the ante in a $5/$10 game is usually $0.50.

After the antes have been paid, each player is dealt five cards face down, one at a time. The deal begins with the first player to the left of the dealer and goes clockwise around the table.

After each player has five cards, a round of betting begins with the player who declares Jacks or Better. If nobody can begin the betting, the cards are all shuffled and a new hand begins.

Assuming the betting round is initiated and completed, the remaining players may now discard up to five cards and receive new ones from the deck. If a player does not wish to receive any cards, that player is said to be “standing pat.”

Some games play with the rule that any single player may only discard up to three cards at a time unless that player has an Ace. If that player wishes to discard four cards, he can show the Ace, keep it and draw four new cards.

The second betting round begins as soon as all the players have received their new cards. The first remaining player to the left of the dealer begins the betting this round by checking, betting, or folding. The action then continues clockwise around the table.


After the last betting round, any players remaining in the hand have a showdown to determine the winner of the pot. The player with the best five card poker hand wins the pot.