Joker Cards

Poker Jokers - Bug - Nosepicker - Wild Card

by Shirley Rosario


Joker – One of two extra cards included with a standard fifty-two card deck, only used in certain games.

A standard poker deck includes fifty-two cards plus two jokers. In most casino poker games, the jokers are not used and do not play, but in certain games, they may be inserted and used as wild cards, or semi-wild cards. If you play casino poker, the joker is typically only used in certain types of lowball games, and a few other types of draw games. In these games, the joker is commonly referred to as the “bug.”

In a Lowball game, when a joker is used it is wild. It is an extremely valuable card to hold, because there is typically only one in play, and it can substitute for any card. Since it can substitute for any card, it will automatically be considered as the card which most helps the player’s hand, hence its status as a wild card. In a Lowball game, the object is to make the lowest possible hand, and therefore the card that the joker will substitute for is the lowest card that adds value to the player’s hand.

In other types of draw games, the joker is semi-wild. In these games, it may only be considered as an ace, or be used as the missing card to complete either a straight or a flush. In these games, if a player is unable to use the bug to complete either a straight or a flush, and does not have another ace to pair it with, it will simply be read as ace high at the conclusion of the hand.

In casino games where the joker is used, there is a substantial amount of strategic play surrounding it. This is because when one holds the joker, especially from the point of the initial deal, they often have a sizeable advantage. The joker is very versatile, which adds to its value. Whether it is wild or semi-wild, it can be used in several different ways to help a player’s hand. As the hand develops, it can even change from one value to another. Because it is so powerful, players will tend to aggressively bet starting hands which contain a joker.

Just as the player who hold the joker realizes its value, players who do not hold it realize that they may be at a disadvantage to the player who does hold it, and they tend to proceed with caution. They are keenly aware that when they do not hold the joker, it is highly likely that someone else does.

In addition to being used in casino draw games, jokers are also widely used in home games as wild cards. Many players prefer to introduce the jokers as wild cards as opposed to using cards from the existing standard deck. For one thing, this allows for the introduction of wild cards without fundamentally altering the standard composition of the deck. Rather than converting an existing card or group of cards into wild cards, the jokers may be inserted and considered as wild. Since there are two jokers included in the deck, this is a good way to put up to two wild cards in play. Each wild card inserted will have a notable impact on play, as each will lead to stronger hands being made on average. If more than two wild cards are desired, additional cards from the deck may also be named and considered as wild cards.

If you are playing at home, the joker may also be used to replace missing or damaged cards from the deck, in order to make the deck whole again. For example, if one of the standard fifty-two cards is missing or damaged, a joker can be inserted in its place and be considered as that card. Since there are two jokers included in a standard deck, this will work to replace up to two missing or damaged cards. The two jokers are typically two different colors, or have some sort of features which distinguish them from each other. If you are going to use multiple jokers to replace multiple missing or damaged cards, it is important that you remember which joker represents which card. If the jokers are not differentiated, you can differentiate them by making a distinguishing mark on the face of one or both of the jokers prior to putting them into play.

Usage: Drew The Joker, Dealt The Joker, Joker’s Wild

Previous Poker Term: Jackpot
Next Poker Term: Kicker


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(c) Shirley Rosario

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