Gardena Jackpot: Rules and Origins


Gardena Jackpot: Rules and Origins


Poker cards with three of a kind or set combination.

Gardena Jackpot: Rules and Origins


Poker cards with three of a kind or set combination.

Gardena Jackpot is a draw poker game from the 1930s that you probably haven’t played yet. Before Texas hold’em poker stole the show, this game was every player’s favorite.

It’s just like five-card draw, except for a few tweaks to the rules that create more action. For instance, instead of creating new pots each time, there could already be a mountain of chips in the middle at the beginning of a hand. If this sounds intriguing, just read on to understand the game’s origin and simple rules.

Basic Rules for Gardena Jackpot

Learning new poker games can sometimes feel complex, but Gardena Jackpot has simple rules. As such, most players will pick the game up quickly. Although it isn’t usually offered along with other online poker games, it’s definitely a game you should consider to spice up your weekly home game.

Generally speaking, it’s very similar to five-card draw, where players discard and pick up new cards to build winning hands. There are a few quirky differences, though, making this one of the most unique poker games to play at home

Hand rankings are the same as in Texas hold’em, but as a draw poker game, the structure differs. Everyone mucks cards they don’t want, picking up new ones and hopefully improving their five-card hand. There are no community cards, so there’s no dealing of flops, turns, and rivers.

The game is also known as ‘Jacks To Open’ or ‘Jackpot Poker’ for soon-to-be-obvious reasons. Only players with at least a pair of jacks can open the betting. If nobody holds jacks or better, everyone’s ante goes into the pot, and a new hand begins. Now, there’s a jackpot of chips to create extra action in the next hand.


Here are the key Gardena poker rules to remember:

  • Everyone is dealt five cards to start the hand.
  • You can check, call, raise, and fold.
  • All players pay an ante, but there’s no small or big blind. 
  • A player must have a pair of jacks to open the betting.
  • Three-of-a-kind is the minimum hand required to win at showdown.
  • Gardena Jackpot uses one joker, which can act as a wild card.

The First Betting Round: Opening Bets

A dealer shuffles cards during a game of poker.

While the dealer shuffles the cards, everyone places an ante into the pot. Next, the dealer will distribute five face-down cards to each player.

To start a hand of Gardena Jackpot, any player with at least a pair of jacks can bet. Without a pair of jacks, you can only check, but anyone may call or raise bets. 

If nobody has a pair of jacks or better, the hand is over. However, the antes remain in the pot. New cards are dealt, and everyone competes for those extra chips and a fresh set of antes in the next hand.

If a player opens the first betting round, they must be able to prove they had a sufficiently strong hand to do so. Therefore, they must keep their cards nearby, even if they discard them during one of the drawing rounds.

The Second Betting Round: First Draw

During this round, players can discard any number of cards and replace them with new ones. There’s also the option to hold on to your five-card hand if you’re happy with its strength. 

Betting continues after drawing, but sometimes the requirements change. For instance, in friendly home games, players might raise the required hand strength. Instead of a pair of jacks, you might wish to set a pair of queens as the new minimum hand for betting.

Once a bet is made, players can fold, call, or raise it before the action continues to the next round. Anytime no player can open a betting round, all chips remain in the pot and a new hand starts.

Breaking Openers

If the player who opened needs to discard a jack (perhaps to chase a flush draw), this is called “breaking openers.” That player must keep the jack nearby to prove they started the betting fairly.

The Third Betting Round: Showdown

So, you’ve reached the final betting round, and there’s no more drawing. Players can bet if they meet the minimum requirement. But if nobody holds jacks or better, the pot rolls over to the next hand. If a player bets and is called, it’s showdown time. 

The minimum hand to win in Gardena Jackpot is three of a kind. If nobody holds an eligible hand, you can probably guess by now that the pot will roll over. Every chip from that pot will be up for grabs in the next hand. It’s the frequency of rollover pots from which the game takes its name.

Five aces is the best hand you can make in Gardena Jackpot, but of course, you’ll need a joker to represent the fifth ace. 

In some home games, players might agree on different rules for Gardena Jackpot. This article has covered the basics, but you can always tweak the rules to your liking. 

Where Did Gardena Jackpot Come From?

A game of poker in a casino.

If you ask people which is the poker capital of the world, many will say Las Vegas. However, just a four-hour drive from the Strip lies the previous title holder, Gardena, California. 

This was very much the center of the poker universe back in the day, long before it became normal to play poker online. The legendary Doyle Brunson, for instance, spent countless hours in Gardena cardrooms, along with many other professionals.

It’s not clear who invented Gardena Jackpot or even who the best players were at the time, but Jacks To Open was certainly incredibly popular in the 1930s. It was eventually replaced by five-card draw before the world’s love affair with Texas hold’em began around the 1970s.

As such, Gardena Jackpot isn’t one of the many different types of poker you’ll find online these days. Still, it’s a beloved home-game format for everyone who knows it and all who learn it. With a deck of 52 cards, a single joker, and a set of poker chips, you’re ready to play.

There’s Plenty of Poker Action Online

There are plenty of poker variants online to try. Most people have experienced Texas hold’em and Omaha poker, but that’s just the start of the list. At Borgata Online, you can also enjoy seven-card stud, for instance — not to mention countless casino poker table games. So, whether you want to play with real money or simply enjoy online poker for fun, register today and dive into the action.