Q During a recent casino visit I couldn't find any ordinary jacks-or-better machines
that paid 9 credits for a full house and 6 for a flush. Almost all of them paid 8/5 or 6/5 . After much searchingBasil Nestor is the author of the new Playboy Complete Guide to Casino Gambling. This wonderful book teaches players how to avoid sucker bets and win more when playing gambling games. He is also the author of The Smarter Bet Guide series for video poker, slots, craps, and many other books about gambling. Basil's website is www.smarterbet.com
I found a few Bonus Poker machines that paid 9/6. Of course, two pairs only paid 1 credit on these games. I wasn't sure what the best strategy should be, so I continued to use standard jacks-or-better strategy
. Was this correct?
A Strictly speaking, no, it was not correct. But the strategy you were using won't cost you too much in the short run. I'll tell you more about that below, but first let's take a closer look at "bonus" video poker and its "plain vanilla" counterparts.
Once upon a time (in the early days of video poker) there was mostly one kind of jacks-or-better game. It paid 9 coins for a full house and 6 coins for a flush. Thus the game was called (informally) 9/6. Here's an example of a classic 9/6 pay table:
|Four of a Kind
|Three of a Kind
|Jacks or Better
Alternate versions of this game paid 8/5 or 6/5 for a full house/flush. These were called "low pay" games because...well...the chart below says it all.
was a big hit; so naturally, game designers began developing new versions. That's how Bonus Poker was invented. Bonus games pay 40 or 80 coins for four-of-a-kind in selected ranks (typically the bonus is paid for aces through fours, or aces and faces). These games usually pay 8/5 for a full house/flush, so they're positioned as an attractive alternative to traditional no-bonus 8/5.
Keep in mind that 8/5 Bonus Poker has a greater net long-term payback than traditional no-bonus 8/5...but it still pays back less than good ol' plain-vanilla 9/6. Did you follow that? Read it again. The bonuses on quads don't quite make up for the lower payments on full houses and flushes.
|Double Bonus 10/7
|Bonus Poker 8/5, Nevada
|Double Double Bonus 9/6
|Bonus Poker 8/5, New Jersey
|Double Bonus 9/6
Bonus Poker was another big hit in the video poker world, so game designers invented Double Bonus Poker
, Double-Double Bonus Poker, and dozens of other bonus variations. Nice, but the designers usually paid for the burgeoning bonuses on quads by dropping the payout for two pairs from two credits to one credit.
The next and obvious step was to get sneaky and create a 9/6 bonus game that would lure players looking for "full pay" traditional 9/6. Players see the 9/6 and the bonuses, and they think it's video poker heaven.
But in fact, 9/6 bonus games usually pay back less than no-bonus 9/6 (depending on the pay table). Yes, it's weird that "bonus" games pay less sometimes, but that's the way it is in the wacky world of casino marketing. Go figure. The moral of this story is that 9/6 is only "really good" when the bottom of the pay table is 1-2-3-4. The payout for two pairs (two coins vs. one) is an important variable.
Also remember that quads occur about once in ever 400 hands, approximately one hit in every hour of single-hand play. So bonus games are more volatile; you'll tend to win a lot more if you get lucky and hit a lot of quads, or you'll lose more if quads fail to appear on schedule.
And now to your question about strategy...
Standard jacks-or-better 9/6 strategy will work on a bonus game, but it's not perfect. The sky won't fall if you use standard J-O-B strategy, but you will be increasing the casino's edge by about one percent above the built-in edge (depending on the bonus pay table).
Enjoy the game!