Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome | A couple of weeks ago, this column covered some of the changes in strategy that are necessary when playing Double Bonus video poker as compared to regular Jacks or Better.
The point was to show how small changes to the paytable can significantly impact our strategy, if we want to achieve the full theoretical payback of that new game. This week, I’m going to continue that concept and review some key changes when playing Double Double Bonus Poker.
From a pure math perspective, Double Double Bonus is not really a game that should be played. Even its full-pay version has a payback of only 98.8 percent. This compares to Jacks or Better at 99.5 percent and Double Bonus at 100.1.
What makes Double Double Bonus so compelling is the fact that it essentially has two jackpots. Either getting a Royal Flush or Four Aces w/2, 3, 4 kicker and you’re going home happy. So, even if I think the game is to be avoided, the reality is that this is a very popular version of video poker.
Thus, if it is only going to pay 98.8 percent, you had best make sure you learn the right strategy so that you don’t make it even worse for yourself by playing the game below the theoretical level.
One of the first things to know if you’re going to play Double Double is that you do not keep any kickers when dealt a Three of a Kind. If you’re dealt three Aces and a 2, you do not keep the 2 so that if you catch the Ace you win more.
While it is true you will win more, you cut your chances of Quad Aces by roughly half which offsets any benefit of holding the kicker. Plus, if you pull the Ace, you still have a roughly 25 percent chance of pulling the kicker from the remaining cards
Related to this is that you do throw a Full House away if you have three Aces. However, if your Trips are even 2, 3 or 4’s, you just hold onto that Full House and take your payout.
The power of the Aces in this game also shows itself when you’re dealt Two Pair, with one of them being Aces. In Double Double, you keep the Aces. In all other situations, you keep the Two Pair, despite the payout of only a push (1 unit) for this hand.
One of the plays that might, at first glance, seem a bit odd is that in Double Double, you keep a 4-Card Straight with at least one high card over all Low Pairs.
Since the payout on Straights is the same as in Jacks or Better, and the payout on Quads is higher, you’d think that this would not be the case. However, the reduction in payout of the Two Pair is enough to flip-flop these hands on our strategy table. So, if dealt 9-9-10-J-Q, you should hold the 4-Card Straight.
It is these types of changes that to me make video poker one of the most amazing games in the casino. There are essentially two paytable changes between Jacks or Better and Double Double video poker. In Double Double, the payout of Two Pair is reduced from 2 down to 1, and the payout on the Four of a Kinds are all increased. In certain cases, with an appropriate kicker, these payouts are increased yet further.
When we look at the strategy table for the two games, we find the amazing struggle between these two changes. The Two Pair reduction reduces the value of every Pair and High Card. The increased payouts increase the value of these very same two hands (along with the expected value of Trips).
As a result, not only do the changes I described here take place, but the entire bottom half of the strategy table has numerous changes. All of a sudden, a 3-Card Straight Flush with One High Card is worth more than a 3-Card Inside Straight Flush with 2-High Cards. While all of these changes may seem subtle or immaterial, the fact is that if played wrong, you can expect to shave even more off the payback of the game that leaves something to be desired in the first place.
When all is said and done, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of learning the strategy table for the specific game variation and paytable that you will actually be playing on. You can do this with a deck of cards or software, it does not matter which.
To ignore these "small" changes in the paytable is likely to cost you a lot more than just some small change.