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Jester Poker

Among the many video poker machines that you’ll see at casinos worldwide, Joker Poker ranks somewhere in the middle in terms of popularity. It’s certainly not rare, and it is one of the classic games that most fans have played at some time or another, but it also doesn’t rank up there with Jacks or Better or Deuces Wild. It also fits stylistically in the middle of those two games: the presence of a wild card makes things a bit more complex than Jacks or Better, but not quite as crazy as Deuces.

While not everyone carries a version of this game online, you can find it at many gambling sites, sometimes under alternate names. One example is Jester Poker, which is carried at Caesars Casino and some other websites. This is an unusual interpretation of the game, however: while the graphics and gameplay are just fine, the pay table is a very odd one, and not in a way that will generally benefit players.

The Basics

Like most machines, Jester Poker begins with the player making a bet that can be worth anywhere from one to five coins. The denomination of each coin can be set by the player, with options ranging from a single penny to several dollars available (though this can vary depending on where you play). Unlike on many games, there is no pay table benefit to playing more coins; whether you play one or five, the payouts will be the same (per coin).

Once you press deal, you will be dealt a five-card hand from a 53-card deck. This is a standard deck with the addition of one “jester,” or joker, which can be used as a wild card for completing any hand. Of those five cards, you may choose to hold as many or as few as you would like. This is done by clicking on individual cards (you can click again to unselect them if you should make a mistake).

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Jester Poker

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Once you’ve finalized your choices, it’s time to hit the draw button for a second time. The cards you have not held will be discarded, and replaced with new cards from the deck. You will now have your final five card hand.

In order to win a prize, you will need to have a hand with a minimum strength of two pair. As the strength of your holdings increase, so will the rewards: bigger hands earn larger prizes, up to a Five of a Kind, which is the highest paying hand in this variant. Note that all payouts are made on a “for one” basis – your initial bet is considered lost when you make it, as in slot machine, and is not returned as a part of your winnings.

The following pay table is used in Jester Poker. You were receive the following number of credits per coin played for making qualifying hands:

  • Five of a Kind: 500
  • Royal Flush: 100
  • Straight Flush: 100
  • Four of a Kind: 16
  • Full House: 8
  • Flush: 5
  • Straight: 4
  • Three of a Kind: 2
  • Two Pair: 1

An Odd Version of a Fairly Standard Machine

There isn’t an easy way around this: Jester is a very strange interpretation of the standard Joker Poker formula. The pay table is an odd one, and it’s obvious just by looking at the in-game chart. While the table still distinguishes between royal flushes made with or without a “jester,” they pay the exact same amount to players. Similarly, a straight flush also pays that amount, making all straight flushes equally valuable.

There’s more weirdness at the bottom of the table, too. A traditional game of this type pays out for any pair of kings or better. Typically, this would also pay out at even money (like a two pair hand), but the fact that these hands are more common than any of the stronger hands you’ll be trying to make turns this into a notable absence that really eats into your bottom line as you play.

For an example, take a look at the following fairly standard Joker Poker payout scheme. While some of the numbers are similar, overall there is a huge difference between this game and what most players are used to:

  • Natural Royal Flush: 800
  • Five of a Kind: 200
  • Wild Royal Flush: 100
  • Straight Flush: 50
  • Four of a Kind: 18
  • Full House: 7
  • Flush: 5
  • Straight: 3
  • Three of a Kind: 2
  • Two Pair: 1
  • Pair of Kings or Aces: 1

This version of the game offers players a return (with optimal strategy) of 98.94%. A few differences jump out immediately. First, there is a premium for making a “natural” royal. Secondly, Five of a Kind is not the highest-paying hand, and straight flushes pay out only half as much as in the “Jester” version. And, of course, the one pair payouts have been included.

What happens when you switch to the pay scale seen in Jester Poker? The loss of the one pair wins is a huge blow, as that alone was worth more than 14% of the player return in games of this style. The fact that some of the higher hands have had their returns increased does help, but those are all rare to make; they each add a percentage or two back for the player, for the most part (the five of a kind change is probably the biggest benefit for the player, perhaps worth more than 2%).

Overall, the changes are not a net positive. We haven’t independently verified what the expected return to player is on this machine, but we have seen it reported as 93.2%, a very low total for one of these machines. While it’s possible that this calculation is incorrect, it feels rather certain that this is not a good game for players overall, as the loss of one-pair wins is just too big for the other changes to make up for.

As for strategy, we’ve also had difficulty finding one that has specifically been made for Jester Poker. That’s a problem, as the non-standard pay table is definitely one that would require some changes if you wanted to play the game optimally. Sometimes, small changes – even those that change the name of a game, such as Jacks or Better morphing into a Bonus game – aren’t enough to significantly alter how you should play. But in this case, it’s hard to believe that’s true, as the wild payouts and the lack of high pair wins make typical Joker Poker strategies useless. That means you’ll largely be on your own if you try to play this game.

Not the Best Option

If you’re not an experienced video poker player, then we’ll recommend that you steer clear of Jester Poker. The problem is that it simply isn’t one of the better games out there for you, and with so many other great options available online, there’s no compelling reason to play this. There are even way better versions of Joker Poker at many sites, so there’s no reason to give away money by playing this game, which comes with an extremely high house edge when compared to similar machines.

And if you are an experienced gambler: well, in that case, you really don’t need us to say that this game isn’t for you! With a weird pay table that makes finding an optimal strategy extremely difficult, and a return to player that is far below that of more standard games, this isn’t an option that you need to pursue. Check it out once or twice if you just want to see what the game is all about, but don’t expect this to become a part of your regular play.

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