Last week, I discussed the impact of playing Bonus Poker using Jacks or Better strategy. As we discovered, the impact is minimal, costing the player a mere 0.01% of payback.
This was not meant to condone the notion of taking one game’s strategy and using it on another game. Instead, the point was to show no one expects a human to play perfect all the time and while you should strive to play perfectly, not every mistake is catastrophic.
Originally, I was going to have today’s column be about the differences between the two strategies (Bonus Poker vs. Jacks or Better). But, I decided that the 0.01% difference was simply not worth the limited space I have to convince you of the importance of learning the right strategy.
If you’re planning on playing a lot of Bonus Poker, I do believe it is still worth learning the right strategy, but I would rather spend the time reviewing a more important strategy difference – the ones between Jacks or Better and Double Bonus Poker.
I’m targeting Double Bonus because of all the Bonus games, it is the one you should be striving to master and play. Bonus Poker has a payback that is just a bit less than Jacks or Better. Double Double has a payback about 0.75% below Jacks or Better, but is very popular due to the addition of a second major prize (for 4 Aces + kicker).
Double Bonus, however, is the only one that offers a payback of over 100% – albeit barely. This means that over the long haul, your bankroll should go on indefinitely. However, as I showed last week, this will not be true if you sit down and use your standard Jacks or Better strategy on it.
When you look at the Double Bonus pay table, it all looks rosy at first glance. You get paid an extra unit on the Straight, Flush and Full House compared to Jacks or Better. The Quads pay 50, 80 and 160 which is significantly more than Jacks or Better and double what Bonus pays (hence its name).
You could almost miss the fact that the game pays only 1 for a Two Pair. With Two Pairs showing up 10-12% of the time, this is a serious hit to our payback. Yet, thanks to the other increases in payouts, the game still comes in with a 100.1% payback.
Learning how to play Double Bonus is as much about learning its differences from Jacks or Better as it is learning how not to deviate the strategy at the right times. For example, if you are dealt a Full House with 3 Aces, you throw away the Pair and go for that fourth Ace.
But, if you are dealt two pair – even with Aces, you keep the Two Pair. It might seem counterintuitive, but in Double Bonus, all 4-Card Straights outrank Low Pairs – even 2’s, 3’s and 4’s.
One might think that the extra payback given to these quads would make the expected values even higher. But, the drop in payback of Two Pairs hurts these hands. In the meantime, the extra unit given to the Straight payout makes the expected value of the 4-Card Straight go up. In the end, 4-Card Straight wins out.
Also of significant note is that a 3-Card Flush (even with no high cards) is now a playable hand. A 3-Card Flush with one high card outranks a 1 high card hand. This means that if you’re dealt a Jack with two additional suited cards, you hold the three cards instead of just the Jack.
There are several other subtle changes that go on as well in order to master Double Bonus Poker. But it’s too much to name them all.
As always, I suggest you learn the strategy (which can be found on pages 52 and 53 in Winning Strategies for Video Poker) and then practice, practice, practice using either a deck of cards or using a software version of video poker (like Masque’s Video Poker Strategy Pro).
You can find both on my website at www.gambatria.com.