To those uninitiated to the world of video poker, the difference between Jacks or Better and Two Ways Royal might be like comparing a Granny Smith to a Golden Delicious: a matter of preference. The simile is not without its merits; on the surface, both apples look very similar. Golden Delicious apples tend to be slightly smaller and lack the vivid green hue of the evergreen Granny Smith, but these differences might be lost on a casual observer.

Similarly, the contrast between Two Ways Royal and Jacks or Better is not apparent at first. Both of them are founded on the principles of traditional five-card stud. For those who are in the know, five-card stud originated during the time of the American Civil War, and introduced poker to the American population. Though its popularity has been eclipsed in recent years by Texas Hold’em and others, five-card stud remains the model after which all subsequent variants are based.

Jacks or Better is the simplest variant of five-card stud video poker because it does not utilize wild cards. Many casual players prefer it because of its simpler rule set. Rather than trying to contend with wild cards and memorize complex rules, the player can focus on refining their approach to the game. A successful game will still depend on an effective use of strategy, but these strategies are decidedly easier to master than the layered variables of wild card video poker.

Two Ways Royal plays by and large like a game of Jacks or Better. The lowest winning hand of both games is the titular jacks or better. Successful hands expand from there to include three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, the penultimate straight flush and the highly coveted royal flush. The payout starts pretty typically, with 2x for a pair of jacks or higher, 3x for three of a kind, and 4x, 5x and 6x for a straight, flush and full house, respectively. Four of a kind receives a 40x payout, which is significantly higher than the standard 25x payout found in traditional Jacks or Better video poker. A straight flush earns the standard 50x and a royal flush sits at 800x.

Where Two Ways Royal differs from Jacks or Better is the introduction of a new way to win. As the title suggests, there are two card combinations – or two ways – for the player to achieve a royal flush. The first method is the standard AKQJT. This is called a Hi Royal Flush. Where Two Ways Royal expands this is in the introduction of what is called a Lo Royal Flush. This is achieved by holding a 23456 of any suit. Although it is less dramatic than the traditional royal flush, a Lo Royal Flush in Two Ways Royal garners the same impressive 800 to 1 payout. This means that the chances of earning the ultimate payout in Two Ways Royal is double than that of a traditional Jacks or Better game – a singular and dramatic improvement!

Once the player has a firm grasp of the basic rules of poker, it is time to begin strategizing. Most all of the strategies that apply to traditional Jacks or Better video poker are suitable for Two Ways Royal; with the notable exception being in relation to the Lo Royal Flush. Any player with a flush that four cards in the low straight, such as 34569 or 2356K, should attempt to discard the undesired card – even though it breaks a flush – to aim for the royal flush. It may seem strange to risk losing a flush, but bear in mind the difference in payout is 5x versus 800x – a sizeable increase.

While it is important to keep the new variable of Lo Royal Flusg in mind, this is not a strategy guide. Those inexperienced in video poker strategies will need to develop effective strategies or consult with more experienced players who are already familiar with the variables of the game.

Returning to the opening analogy, the differences between Jacks or Better and Two Ways Royal appear to the untrained eye to be merely aesthetic. A great apple is more than its appearance, however, and the differences between Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are immediately apparent from the first bite. Granny Smith apples are firm and crisp, flowing with juice, but rather tart: ideal for baking rather than snacking. Golden Delicious apples are sweeter and have a lighter, airier texture. They are not as immediately juicy as a Granny Smith, but their smooth flavor goes down much more easily. They make terrible pies but excellent additions to the lunchbox.

The analogy is not a perfect one, however, because Golden Delicious apples are no better to Granny Smith apples than Granny Smiths are to Golden Delicious. This cannot be said of Jacks or Better and Two Ways Royal. The simple truth is that Two Ways Royal offers a superior payout rate (99.8 as opposed to 99.5), an improved return on four of a kind and a greater chance of winning the top payout than Jacks or Better. Numbers don’t lie, and money doesn’t either. Two Ways Royal is a superior bet.