The name might sound a little frivolous, but don't be put off. Joker Poker is an exciting variant of video poker with a greater chance of landing a top hand than some other games out there. Also known as “Joker’s Wild,” Joker Poker livens up the standard five-card draw poker format by adding a Joker card to the deck.
This added Joker acts as a wild card - an exciting addition to most poker games - and can substitute any other card to create the best possible winning hand.
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Many software providers have tweaked the format to offer players additional versions. These include Double Joker Poker, which doubles the number of Jokers in the decks; Deuces & Joker Poker, in which twos and Jokers are wild, and Joker Poker Power Poker, which lets you gamble any winnings in an extra double-or-quits mini-game. Each one has a different pay table, so remember to factor in those variations when you play.
Like most video poker variants, players join a game, select a wager and hit “deal.” Five cards will appear on the screen. The player is then given the option to hold any number of them before hitting “Deal” again to discard and replace any cards not held. If one or more Jokers feature in a player’s final hand, the game will automatically determine and pay out the best possible hand.
The Joker is what sets this variant apart from other popular variants. Joker Poker's use of the wild Joker provides a host of new hand combinations for players to capitalize on.
Adding the wild Jokers into the mix means that players have an increased chance of landing a Royal Flush, and also introduces a new winning hand: five of a kind.
Usually, the top payout is for a “natural” Royal Flush (that’s a Royal Flush achieved without a Joker), followed by five of a kind and a Joker Royal Flush, then the usual hands.
Most gaming software providers compensate for the potential big payouts by taking wins from the bottom of the pay table. Unlike the similar variant Deuces Wild, many versions – including some from top software provider Playtech – will still pay out for a pair, but only Kings or Better.
An unexpected quirk among Joker Poker providers, though, is that pay tables can vary quite significantly. A natural Royal Flush pays between 800-1,000 coins, five of a kind will range between 150 and 200 and four of a kind between 17 and 20. This means it’s wise to compare pay tables before committing.
Greater chances of a big win combined with the trimming of the bottom of the pay table make this a relatively high-volatility video poker game – less so than Deuces Wild, but still enough to call for a change in strategy from simpler variants like Jacks of Better or Double Bonus video poker.
Because of the high payouts awarded for four or five of a kind, pairs are much more valuable than in Deuces Wild, and low payouts on a straight or flush mean that even a low pair can be worth gambling on.
However, the core strategy should really be bankroll management, ensuring that you bet small sums in order to survive dry periods in search of those bigger wins. The chance of landing a winning hand on any given deal is around 44%.
"A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade."