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by: John G VP.
Not long ago, a reader dropped me a line to thank me for the Double Bonus Poker strategy tips in my Gaming: Cruising the Casinos, and to say that his results had been much better. The feedback was appreciated, and I'm always happy to hear about better results. Cold streaks and losing sessions are an unavoidable part of gambling, but solid play can do much to ease the rough spots.

But what really struck me about this reader's story is that his basic game is quarter 9-6 Double Bonus Poker, in which full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes pay 6-for-1. That in itself isn't surprising--for quarter players, the 9-6 pay table is one of the most common Double Bonus games. But the strategy in Gaming is for 10-7 Double Bonus, with full houses paying 10-for-1 and flushes 7-for-1.

Does that make a difference? You bet it does. The difference in full house payoffs doesn't affect strategy much, but we have to account for the lower return on flushes.

The strategy in Gaming, devised by Chicago strategy guru Howard Stern, was one of the first to appear in print when I ran it in the Chicago Sun-Times in 1994. By the time I wrote The Video Poker Answer Book in 2000, software was available to analyze strategy changes for different pay tables.

Let's look at some sample hands, detailing some of those strategy differences as pay tables change in Double Bonus Poker:

King of clubs, Queen of clubs, Jack of clubs, 5 of clubs, 8 of spades:
We have four parts of a flush, but also three parts of a royal. Which do we choose? In the 10-7 game, we keep all four clubs, but when the flush payoff is lowered to 6-for-1, we go for the royal instead. Our expected average return for a five-coin bet in 9-6 Double Bonus is 7.43 coins on King-Queen-Jack, and only 6.70 coins on all four clubs. In 10-7 Double
Bonus, the four-card flush average return of 7.66 coins noses out the 7.59 on the three-card royal.

King of clubs, Queen of clubs, 9 of clubs, Jack of diamonds, 6 of spades:

In versions of Double Bonus where the flush pays 7-for-1, we often hold three-card flushes, and we keep a special lookout for possible straight flushes. If we were playing the 10-7 game, we'd hold King-Queen-9 of clubs, which could become a straight flush with a Jack-10 draw. The expected return is 3.26 coins, compared with 3.09 on the next-best play, holding King-Queen-Jack-9. In 9-6 Double Bonus, the expected return drops to 3.05 coins on the possible straight flush, while the inside straight draw to King-Queen-Jack-9 remains at 3.09.

Jack of diamonds, Jack of hearts, King of diamonds, Ace of diamonds, 7 of diamonds:
As in many video poker games, payoffs start at a pair of Jacks or better, but the elevated flush payoff in 10-7 Double Bonus means that we break up high pairs for most three-card royals and for four-card flushes that include at least two high cards. Here, our expected return on the 10-7 game is 7.55 coins on the four-card flush and 7.28 on the pair of Jacks. When the flush payoff drops to 6-1, we stick with the safer play and keep the pair of Jacks, sure winner. The expected return on the high pair is 7.23 coins, while the four-card flush drops to 6.60, a shade worse than the 6.68 on the three-card royal, Ace-King-Jack of diamonds.

Ace of spades, 9 of clubs, 7 of clubs, 5 of clubs, 2 of spades:
In most Jacks or Better-based games, we'd hold just the Ace. Double Bonus Poker, which pays 800 coins for a five-coin bet on four Aces, gives us even more incentive to stick with the high card. That's just what we do in 9-6 Double Bonus. The expected return is 2.31 coins, better than the 2.15 for holding 9-7-5 of clubs. But in 10-7 Double Bonus Poker, three-card straight flushes, even with both gaps on the inside, are slightly better plays than the single Ace. In the 10-7 game, holding the three-card double-inside straight flush will bring an average return of 2.35 coins, just nudging out the 2.34 on the lone Ace.

9 of diamonds, 8 of diamonds, 2 of diamonds, 3 of clubs, 4 of spades:
In most video poker games, we'd scrap this entire hand. There is no high card that would get us our money back if we paired it on the draw. Straight and flush possibilities are remote. In 9-6 Double Bonus, we'll get back an average of 1.61 coins if we keep the three diamonds, but that's not as good as the 1.64 we'll get for tossing the entire hand. In 10-7 Double Bonus, the higher flush return means holding the diamonds brings an average of 1.82 coins per hand, compared with 1.65 for a redraw.


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