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Kings or Better Video Poker

For those who do not regularly play video poker, it’s likely that the game that comes to mind when they think about the machines is Jacks or Better. Social and play money video poker typically features that format most heavily, and it’s also the main way the game is represented in other mediums, like when it appears on video games or handheld devices.

But there are many more options out there, even if it isn’t always easy to figure out where a new fan of the game should start. One option is in the family of “Joker Poker” games, which don’t entirely rewrite the rules in the way the Deuces Wild machines do, but do add at least the one joker in order to spice things up a bit. A great example of this style comes from Kings or Better, a version created by Play’n Go that adds a wild card to the deck in exchange for asking players to make a slightly better hand if they’d like to take home a prize.

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Kings or Better

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King Me

Kings or Better starts out like most other video poker machines. At the start of the game, you’ll be able to choose the denomination of coins you’d like to play with, as well as how many coins you want to play for (up to five is possible). This version also allows you to choose how many plans you want to play simultaneously: options ranging from one to 100 are available based on your preferences, though you should remember that you will have to pay for each hand individually, so the total price to play all those hands can be rather high.

Once you have chosen your betting options, it’s time to hit the deal button. You will be dealt a hand of five cards from a deck of 53 – a standard deck of playing cards, along with one single joker. As the name of the game suggests, the object is to make a hand of at least a pair of kings in order to win.

But you won’t have to do that with just your initial five cards. After viewing your initial hand, you’ll have the option of holding or discarding each card. The game itself will default to holding any cards that contribute to an already winning hand; for strategic reasons, you may well want to hold or discard any number of different combinations.

Once you’re confident about how many of your cards you want to hold, it’s time to hit the deal button one last time. Your discarded cards will be replaced with new ones from the remaining deck, and you will then see your final hand (or hands). You will receive a payout based on the strength of your holdings, with bigger hands earning larger rewards. Assuming you play for the maximum number of coins, the per-coin payouts are as follows:

Card
Payout Coins
Natural Royal Flush:
800
Five of a Kind:
200
Wild Royal Flush:
100
Straight Flush:
40
Four of a Kind:
20
Full House:
5
Flush:
4
Straight:
3
Three of a Kind:
2
Two Pair:
1
Pair of Kings or Higher:
1

Keep in mind that, like on a slot machine, your initial bet is considered lost as soon as you play it – it’s essentially what you’re paying to play, and you don’t get it back even if you win. That means that a high pair or two pair hand will earn you your money back, but no more; to show a profit, you’ll need at least three of a kind.

At the end of a winning spin, you’ll be given the option to gamble your winnings. These bets are perfectly fair, with no house edge, and allow you to guess the color of a randomly drawn card to double your haul, or the suit in order to win four times your initial prize. Guess wrong, and you lose all of your winnings instead.

Once your hand has been played, moving on to the next one is simple. Just hit the deal button again (after making any adjustments to your bets if necessary), and the action will continue immediately.

Finding the Right Strategy

As with all video poker games, Kings or Better is a game of strategy, and if you want to get the most out of this machine, it pays to understand what you should be doing in every spot you might find yourself in. While truly perfect strategy is hard to memorize, approximations that will have you making the right play in virtually every situation are easier to follow, and can even be read from a chart rather than memorized.

First, a couple of basics. It is important to play at a stakes level that allows you to comfortably play for a full five coins on every hand. This is due to the payouts on natural royal flushes, which only pay out at 800 credits per coin when you play for five. At lower numbers of coins, the royals will only pay out at 250 credits – significantly increasing the overall house edge despite the rarity of these hands.

Next, there’s the general tenet that states you should always be looking at the pay table and figuring out if this is the best machine for you to play. In this specific case, there’s only the one table, so game selection is not an issue. However, it’s worth noting that this payout structure isn’t exactly the best for players, offering about a 95.46% return with optimal play. That’s still better than most slots and some table games, but not as good as many video poker machines.

With all that out of the way, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty of playing the game. We’ve been able to find a relatively simple to use strategy that covers Kings or Better games, including this one. There are a lot of options, but the charts below are actually rather easy to use. Simply use the appropriate list depending on whether or not you have a joker in your hand. Then, start at the top of that list, and work your way from the top down until you find a hand that you can keep with the cards you have. Keep only those cards, and discard the rest. The complete strategy is as follows:

With the Joker

  1. Four of a Kind or better
  2. Four Cards to a Royal Flush, King High
  3. Full House
  4. Four to a Royal, Ace High
  5. Four to a Straight Flush with no gaps (But not A23 or 234 w/ a joker)
  6. Flush
  7. Any Four to a Straight Flush
  8. Three of a Kind or better
  9. Four to a Flush with at least one king or higher
  10. Three to any Straight Flush with one king or higher, or with no gaps
  11. Three to a Straight Flush with one gap
  12. Joker, King, and two other unpaired cards between ten and queen (TJ, TQ, or JQ)
  13. Joker and one king or higher
  14. Four cards to an open-ended straight
  15. Any four cards to a Flush
  16. Joker and a 6, 7, or 8
  17. Joker and a Ten, 5, or 9
  18. Joker and a Jack
  19. Joker Only

Without the Joker

  1. Straight Flush or better
  2. Four to a Royal
  3. Flush or better
  4. Four to a Straight Flush
  5. Three of a Kind or Better
  6. Three to a Royal, without an Ace
  7. Two Pair
  8. Three to a Royal, with an Ace
  9. Pair of Kings or better
  10. Four to a Flush
  11. Three to a Straight Flush with no gaps
  12. Any Pair
  13. Ten, Jack, Queen and King
  14. Three to a Straight Flush with one gap, or two gaps and a King or higher
  15. Suited Ace and King
  16. Four to an Open-Ended Straight
  17. Three to a Straight Flush
  18. King with a Suited Ten, Jack, or Queen
  19. Ace with a Suited Ten, Jack, or Queen
  20. Ace or King
  21. Any Two to a Royal
  22. Discard All

A Faithful Adaptation

All in all, Kings or Better is a faithful recreation of the most common Joker Poker format. Ideally, we’d have wanted a slightly better pay table for players, but otherwise, the features are about all you can ask for from a machine. We especially like the ability to customize how many hands you can play at a time, a feature missing from too many online games. While this probably isn’t an option many serious players will choose thanks to the big house edge, it’s a great introduction to a slightly more complex form of video poker.

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