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More video poker strategies

13 February 2014

By John Grochowski

A couple of months ago I received several requests from readers to highlight best strategies for different video poker games. There’s not space in a column like this to detail every nuance of every game and pay table, but I promised to at least hit the hot spots of commonly available game.

That started about a month and half ago with a look at Jacks or Better, the game on which most non-wild card video poker options are based. This time, let’s check out Double Bonus Poker.

Double Bonus Poker has been with us since the beginning of the 1990s, and it was a really important game in popularizing video poker. That’s largely because of the big payoff on four Aces. With a five-coin wager, four Aces bring an 800-coin return. You’ll also get 400 coins with four 2s, 3s or 4s, and 250 with any other quads. Compare that to Jacks or Better, where every four-of-a-kind brings 125 coins for a five-coin wager.

There’s a tradeoff, of course. Two pairs pay only 1-for-1, meaning you just get your bet back, while Jacks or Better pays 2-for-1. Because two pairs occur so often, that’s a huge difference, one that the quad payoffs alone can’t make up. So there are adjustments elsewhere on the pay table.

The full-pay version of Double Bonus Poker, which has become rare as casinos have tightened their paybacks, returns 10-for-1 on full houses, 7-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 on straights, compared to the 9-6-4 returns on full-pay Jacks or Better. With expert play, 10-7-5 Double Bonus pays 100.17 percent with expert play.

Easier versions to find have 9-7-5 (99.1 percent with expert play) and 9-6-5 (97.9 percent) pay tables. In the last few years, I’ve started seeing an increase in Double Bonus games that pay only 4-for-1 on straights. My advice is to avoid those games.

The full strategy table for Double Bonus Poker is lengthy, with a lot of subtle distinctions between hands. If you’re going to play much DB, I highly recommend practice time with software such as WinPoker, Frugal Video Poker or Video Poker for Winners.

Here are a few things to remember when playing 9-7-5 Double Bonus, the best version you’re likely to find outside the top video poker casinos in Las Vegas:

  • We chase more inside straights in Double Bonus Poker than in Jacks or Better. Part of it is the 5-for-1 return on straights. The 1-for-1 payback on two pairs also reduces the value of throwing away all five cards in a weak hand. The combination means that in a hand such as 3-4-5-7-10 of mixed suits, we’ll hold 3-4-5-7 instead of chucking the whole thing.

  • The increased return on flushes means you make more flush draws, and chase more straight flush opportunities. Dealt a hand such as 9-6-3 of clubs, 2 of diamonds, 10 of spades, we hold all three clubs. In Jacks or Better, we’d throw away all five cards. And with a hand such as Queen of diamonds, 6-7-10 of hearts and 5 of spades, we hold the three hearts that could turn into a straight flush if the 8 and 9 come up on the draw. In Jacks or Better, we just hold the Queen.

  • The bonanza on four Aces makes us aggressive about chasing Aces, to the extent that dealt a full house with three Aces on top, we’ll discard the pair and go for the fourth Ace. This is a play that holds up in all games with four-Ace jackpots of 160-for-1 or better, including the popular Double Double Bonus Poker games and those with more specialized appeal, such as Super Aces and Triple Bonus Poker.

Should you find yourself in a casino where the best available Double Bonus Game is the 9-6- version, here are a few adjustments to consider:

  • When flushes pay only 6-for-1, we do not hold three parts of a flush with no straight flush opportunities. If the three parts include high cards, hold them. If not, discard the hand.

  • Three-card royals are better plays than four card flushes that include three high cards. In the versions that pay 7-for-1 on flushes, the four same-suit cards are the better plays.

  • A four-card inside straight with two high cards is a better play than a better play than a suited King-Queen or King-Jack. It’s a close call, brought on by the decrease in the flush payback. That drop decreases the average value of two cards to a royal just enough that an inside straight such as King and Queen of spades, 10 of hearts, 9 of clubs is a better play.

Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

[Frank Scoblete's new book "Everything Casino Poker" has strategies for dozens of video poker games, some of which can be beaten by the players.]

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field. Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago.

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