This is a complicated machine to play correctly, which is probably why the casinos make money on them. I find myself constantly having to refer to the expert strategy sheet for different hands. But here are some points to keep in mind:
Straight flushes are much more important in this game: they pay the same, but the joker makes them more attainable (five times more attainable, actually). Thus you usually break up a flush or three-of-a-kind if you have four cards to the straight flush. A three-card straight flush with no gaps is better than a losing pair. With one or two gaps, such a hand is still almost always better than two cards to the royal.
On the other hand, straights are less important because they only pay 15. The old saying “never draw to an inside straight” is completely true in this game only. A one-gap three-card straight flush is better than a four-card no-gap plain straight.
When you have a joker and no other obvious cards to save, always check to see if you have two other cards that could be part of a straight flush. If so, hold them. If not, most other authors recommend that you save the joker alone. My calculations show that you are almost always better off saving one card with the joker. Apparently your increased chances of four-of-a-kind or five-of-a-kind make this the better play. But which card? I have not found any small set of precise rules that can tell you. Roughly, the idea is to save the card that, considering all the other cards left in the deck, is most likely to participate in a flush, or a straight without a king or an ace. Thus cards towards the middle, like sevens, are favored, but saving a seven would not be a good idea if you discarded another card of the same suit (i.e., the flush is less likely) or if you discarded a card close to it like a six (i.e., the straight is less likely).
Two-card royals that do not have a king or an ace are at the bottom of the heap. You only hold them if you have nothing else.
Variations of Jokers Wild
A common variation is to reduce the four-of-a-kind payoff from 20 to 17 or 18. On the surface it does not seem like a big change, but note that the return due to four-of-a-kind is 17.1%. If you reduce the payoff by 10% (20 to 18), that gives 1.71% back to the house, making the game about a 99% return. Not a ripoff, exactly, but below my personal threshold; I do not play those machines.
Highlights of the Asian2Bet Strategy
If you are dealt three deuces, that is an outstanding hand and you almost always draw two trying for the four deuce mini-jackpot. The exceptions are if you hold a wild royal (obviously), and if you hold five-of-a-kind that is tens or higher (much less obvious). All five of a kinds pay the same, so why does it matter what rank they are? Well, if you discard two high cards, you are slightly less likely to draw a wild royal (it is that close).
With two deuces, be sure to break up a pat flush and pat straight and hold the deuces alone. This happens a lot (and most of the time you will end up with only three-of-a-kind). However, I am convinced that the normal person’s tendency to go for the “sure thing” and save the straight or flush pays for these machines as far as the casino is concerned; it adds over 1% to the casino’s return. You want the four deuce payoff much more than you want a lousy straight.
Four of a kind makes or breaks you in this game. Thus you draw to a pair rather than drawing one card to a flush. For the same reason, you hold only one pair if you are dealt two pair. Which pair? It does not matter. (Well, if you knew what cards were waiting for you on the draw it would matter, but since you don’t, pick one and hope.)
In this game, you always draw to an inside (one gap) straight rather than discarding everything. However, a three-card straight flush, of any number of gaps, should be saved instead of the four-card inside straight.
Two-card royal flushes are relatively worthless. The only ones you save are the QJ, QT, and JT, and the first two of those are inferior to an inside straight. On the other hand, surprisingly, three-card royal flushes are more valuable than they are in other games. They are better than any pair and any four-card flush. Since they are better than a pair and a single pair is better than two pair, you will sometimes be faced with a very unusual play–breaking up both pairs of a two pair hand to draw two cards to a royal flush.