Double Trouble?

Aug 10, 2004 2:52 AM

From a strict expert strategy perspective, Double Double Bonus Poker should be avoided. Of all the common bonus games, this one has by far the worst full-pay paytable. Yet, in the end, this version may be the most popular of them all.

The increase of the quad (four of a kind) aces with a 2, 3 or 4 kicker up to 400 credits per coin makes for a quick mini-jackpot relative to the elusive royal flush. With expert strategy, quad aces will show up roughly once every 4,200 hands. One in three of these will include the 2,3 or 4 kicker to earn the bonus payout. This compares to one in 41,000 hands for a royal.

The full-pay paytable looks a lot like the one for Double Bonus Poker. It still pays one credit for two pairs. The differences are that the payout for straights, flushes and full houses are all reduced by one to nine, six and four credits, respectively. Together, these reduce the payback by about 3.4 percent.

In return for this reduction, there is a bonus payout if quad aces has the 2, 3, or 4 kicker, or if the winner is quad 2, 3, or 4’s with an ace, 2, 3 or 4 kicker. The payouts are increased from 160 to 400, and from 80 to 160, respectively. Unfortunately, this is not enough to offset the reduction in the other hands and leaves the overall payback at 98.8 percent, which leaves a little bit to be desired from a full-pay machine.

As I discussed a long time ago, part of playing video poker must be the enjoyment of the game you are playing, and there is no doubt that many people are enjoying this game. As such, I would be remiss if I ignored it because of its low payback. Instead, I’ll review the key points of the strategy so that you can maximize your chances, while warning you that this game can be one of the most volatile out there. If you don’t get your share of four-of-a-kinds, you may find your session to be short and/or costly.

The first thing to realize is that despite the similarity between this paytable and the one for jacks or better (both have the 9/6 payback for full houses and flushes), the strategy table is radically different. (The 9/6 payback means the game pays 9-1 for full houses and 6-1 for flushes.) In fact, Double Double Bonus has one of the longest strategy tables of any game out there. Let’s take a look at some key strategy points for this game.

The first key point is that any full house with three aces is scuttled because the three aces are held with a draw toward hitting four of them. This isn’t even close. Three aces has an expected value of just under 13 without a 2, 3 or 4 kicker and an expected value of just under 12 if you hold with a 2, 3 or 4 kicker. In contrast, the full house has an expected value of 9. It should also be noted that this is the ONLY situation in which we hold a kicker. In the case of trip (three of a kind) 2, 3 or 4s, you would NOT hold an ace if you had one.

In a similar fashion, any two pair containing a pair of aces will be played as just a pair of aces. While this is a bit closer, with the expected value of the pair about 1.9 with the two pair at 1.7, it’s still a clear benefit to throw the other pair away. This is ONLY true for a pair of aces. This is also the ONLY pair that is played over a 3-card royal.

Like in jacks or better, four-card flushes are played over all low pairs (10s or less). Four-card straights with at least one high card, however, are preferred over all non-bonus pairs (5-10s). A pair of 2, 3 or 4s is held instead of four-card straights.

After that, we find that the strategy table looks almost scrambled relative to jacks or better. Most of the same hands (a variety of three- and four-card straights and flushes), but the order will be modified as a result of the lower paying two pairs. As a result, four-card hands tend to have similar expected values as their jacks or better counterparts, but three-card hands have actually had their values reduced. One of the end results is that all four-card inside straights, regardless of the number of high cards is now playable.

As always, the key is to learn the strategy table before you play with your hard-earned money. Don’t assume that you can make the handful of changes described in this article and run out and play expert strategy without learning the rest of the strategy table. The payback on Double Double Bonus Poker is too low to give anything away that you don’t have to.