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Jul 20, 2004 1:52 AM

I’ve often said that, when you first start to play video poker, you’re best starting with jacks or better. When you’re starting out, you want to pick a game that has a strategy table that is not too complex and you want to avoid wild cards because they tend to make identifying hands more complex. But, when you’ve mastered jacks or better and you’re ready to move on, where’s the next best place to go?

Well, first of all, there is no absolute "right" answer. From a financial perspective, your best choice will be to start working on deuces wild, which tends to have a large number of high payback machines, ranging from 99 percent, all the way up to 101 percent and higher.

Version

Payback

Jacks or Better

99.5%

Bonus Poker

99.2%

Double Bonus Poker

100.1%

Double Double Bonus Poker

98.8%

Aces & Eights

99.7%

Triple Bonus Poker

99.6%

Switching to deuces wild, however, will take learning a very different strategy table, and will require you to learn to expect a radically different experience at each session.

If you’re limited in the amount of time and energy you can put into learning a new strategy, then you’re more likely to be interested in the variety of bonus poker games. It seems as if there are an endless number of versions of these games. Generally speaking, a bonus poker game pays premiums for certain types of quads (four of a kinds). The most common ones pay more for quad 2-4’s and even more for quad aces, but there are some that pay more for quad picture cards. Some of the most common ones and their paybacks are in the accompanying table.

As you can see from the table, with the exception of Double Double Bonus Poker, all of these varieties offer competitive paybacks of 99 percent or more. The irony is that Double Double Bonus Poker may very well be the most popular game due to its wide availability and the attraction of the not so mini-jackpot for hitting quad aces with a kicker.

Triple Bonus, while not as widely available, is clearly the sleeper in this category. Offering a higher payback than most of the others and offering a relatively short strategy table, it has clear advantages as a good next game to learn.

Learning bonus games in general can be a challenge. The strategy tables are similar, yet different from jacks or better. Remembering the slight differences between the tables can be a challenge. The good news is that using basic jacks or better strategy on these games will cost only a little bit.

The more the proper strategy table differs from jacks or better, the higher the cost for using the wrong strategy. It all comes down to taking the time to learn the proper strategy for each game, and I recommend that you learn one new game at a time and make sure you have it mastered before you start putting your money on the line.

Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome, was considered one of the premier authors of video poker books. Check out Compu-Flyers website at http://www.vpheaven.com for their full product catalog, or drop Elliot an e-mail at [email protected]