Strategy for Texas Holdem Jackpot Tables

Revised March 2, 2012

What is a Bad Beat Jackpot?

A bad beat jackpot is a promotion that pays the loser of an qualifying bad beat hand the largest portion of a jackpot pool (usually 40-50%). Qualifying hands vary from cardroom to cardroom. At America's Cardroom the requirement is that four 8's or better must be beaten by another player, and both players must use both of their hole cards. The cardroom maintains a jackpot pool which is increased with a "jackpot drop" (usually 50 cents for every hand that is raked). When two players at a table qualify for a jackpot the prize pool is distributed based on the rules of the cardroom, but the loser of the hand always gets the largest share and the person who beat them always gets the second largest share of the prize pool. Every person that was dealt into the qualifying hand also gets some share of the prize pool.

For Example, Opponent's Hole Cards:

Jack of Spades Ten of Spades
Hole Cards

Your Hole Cards:

Eight of Diamonds Eight of Spades
Hole Cards

And the board looks like this:

Eight of Hearts Nine of Spades Queen of Spades   Eight of Clubs   King of Spades
Flop   Turn   River

You have managed to get four of a kind with your pocket eights, but your opponent has actually beaten your monster hand with a king-high straight flush. At a bad beat table this hand can be worth tens of thousands of dollars to both players, however, the situation where four of a kind or better is beaten by another hand is very very (VERY) rare.

Is it worth playing at Jackpot tables?

Usually if you have a choice you do not want to play at Jackpot tables because your chances of being at a specific poker table when a jackpot happens are very small. When playing live you are often not given a choice. The jackpot is there to incite action at the tables and appeal to the gambler in the poker players. Online you almost always have a choice and so it is usually wise to AVOID jackpot tables.

The Exception--When Jackpot Poker Tables Pay

There are two exceptions to this rule of avoiding Jackpot tables:

  1. When the Jackpot is very high

    At some point the value of the Jackpot becomes so high that it is worth paying the Jackpot drop for a chance to participate in a massive payday. This amount varies based on the amount taken for the jackpot from each raked hand and odds against winning the jackpot.
  2. When the Jackpot pays more than one table.

    At some cardrooms they pay a share of the jackpot to all tables at the same Limit and Type as the one that won. So for example if there are 10 tables playing $0.50-$1.00 Limit Holdem (Jackpot) tables then every player at all 10 tables wins a share. What's more, if you are sitting at more than one table at the limit that wins then you get more than one share.

    What this means is that your chance of actually participating in some part of the jackpot increases significantly when playing at one of these cardrooms.

Card Strategy and Jackpot Tables

Starting Hands

Ideally you want to be at a passive jackpot table with very little raising preflop. You want to be sure to start with the hands that are most favored to participate in the jackpot. For example at America's Cardroom where you must have four 8's or better beaten you want to start with pocket pairs 8's or better and 0 gap suited connectors, for example:

Nine of Diamonds Nine of Clubs
Hole Cards
Jack of Clubs Jack of Spades
Hole Cards
Eight of Clubs Eight of Diamonds
Hole Cards
Five of Hearts Six of Hearts
Hole Cards
Jack of Spades Queen of Spades
Hole Cards
Six of Diamonds Seven of Diamonds
Hole Cards

You can play one gap suited connectors in later position if you have a decent number of people in the hand, but you should especially avoid unsuited connectors and non-jackpot pocket pairs unless you have at least 5 people seeing the flop with you. In addition you can of course play large aces like AK, AQ. If KKK or QQQ appear on the board you can still participate in the jackpot because your kicker (the ace) will count for the "you must play both hole cards" rule. "Suited paint" cards are strong on jackpot tables (where both of your cards can participate in a Royal Flush) for example:

King of Spades Jack of Spades
Hole Cards
Queen of Hearts Jack of Hearts
Hole Cards
Ace of Diamonds Jack of Diamonds
Hole Cards

Post Flop Play

After you see a flop you should be looking for regular hand value as well as jackpot value. Basically ask "are there any two cards that can come that would let me participate in the jackpot?" If the answer is yes then you should usually proceed to the turn, likewise if you have flopped a strong hand or draw you should play your hand normally from here out.

You do not need to slowplay your hand past the turn. For example if you flopped four aces with AA in your hand you may want to let your opponents see the turn for free but there's no reason to go beyond that. Either they have caught a super strong hand or draw (hitting their set on the turn or picking up a straight flush draw) or they haven't. Delaying your betting will only cause you to miss out on bets in the long run.

What Limit?

At America's Cardroom the limit most jackpot players play is $0.50-$1.00 limit Holdem and $0.25-$0.50 No-Limit Holdem. In virtually all of the cases one of these tables eventually wins the jackpot, so these are the places you should sit if you are playing for a table share.

Persistance Wins a Table Share

If you are persistant and play at the jackpot tables at or Absolute Poker you will win table share(s) of the jackpot. We've done it here more than once and will continue to play them when the jackpots exceed $200,000. You can visit the home page here at to check the current Cereus network jackpot amount, or visit our Low Limit Poker Forum and a live update of the Jackpot is shown there as well.

Good luck and let us know of your successes!