Jacks to Open is one of the poker variants in the famous group of draw poker games. The most popular one is certainly Five Card Draw, but Jacks to Open also has its fans. It is a unique game with specific rules and restrictions. Although it differs from 5-card draw, it also resembles it in many aspects, due to the fact they both exist within the same group of poker games. In the following lines I will make sure to focus on the characteristics of the game, whether they are the same as the ones for Five Card Draw or not.
Draw Poker Game and Its Name(s)
This variation has three names. One of them hints at the requirement to open the betting round. The second one regards the origins of the game, and the third one intrigues the players the most. Jacks to Open implies obtaining a pair of Jacks in order to have a qualifying hand for opening the round. The game originated almost a century ago in Gardena, California, which is why it is also known as Gardena Jackpots. The third name, however, is the most appealing one. Thanks to the restrictions of the game, the pot can grow to a huge amount. This is where the name “Jackpot” came from.
The Dealing Process and the RequirementsAs opposed to Five Card Draw, Jacks to Open can only be played as an ante game. Nevertheless, the player to the dealer’s left is not the one to wager first. The player who opens the round is the one who manages to acquire a hand containing two Jacks. In case the remaining three cards are of the same suit as one of the Jacks, the player can break openers and aim for a flush.
However, if nobody has the key to opening the round, everyone antes again and the dealing starts over. This is the main reason for the third name, mentioned in the previous paragraph.
As for the winning hands, the lowest one that can win the pot is a three of a kind, which is why it is famous by the name ‘trips to win’. The highest possible combination of cards comprises of five Aces, that is, all four of them plus a joker acting as an Ace.
When you play the game among friends, outside of a casino, the rules tend to become less strict. After the cards are dealt, if no one has a pair of Jacks, the criteria is lower and a pair of queens becomes sufficient. However, if no player gets that combination either, you strive for a pair of kings, and, finally, for a pair of Aces.
The Course of the Game
After you have fulfilled all the requirements, the rest of the game is no different than Five Card Draw.
The poker hand ranking is universal, and so are the moves you can make. However, unless you happen to get a qualifying hand, you can only check. You will not be able to call or raise a bet until someone opens the round.
Once the second betting round is over and the remaining players have placed their wagers, it is time for the showdown. All the hands are revealed and the combinations of cards are compared. The player whose hand turns out to be the strongest wins the pot.
When it comes to the part that is characteristic for all the draw games, you need to know how many cards you can draw and on what conditions. You will usually be allowed to dispose of up to three cards and get the same number of new ones. However, in some cases you will be able to discard four of your cards, provided the card you keep is an Ace or a wild card. Nevertheless, keep in mind that if such a situation occurs, your opponents will be aware of the fact you have one of those cards.
In conclusion, the course of the game closely resembles the one of the most frequent draw poker games — Five Card Draw. The differences between them only make each game more interesting. Jacks to Open would not be half as entertaining if it were not for the rules and limitations it dictates. Once you memorize the characteristics, you will find it easy to follow the steps towards trips to win.