"Jacks or Better, because theJohn Grochowski is the author of six gaming books including the "Answer Book" series -- The Casino Answer Book, The Video Poker Answer Book, The Craps Answer Book and a revised edition of The Slot Machine Answer Book. His articles cover blackjack, slots and video poker strategy as well as casino etiquette and getting the most bang for your buck in Vegas. John's website is www.casinoanswerman.com strategy is easy and there always seems to be someone who'll give you the 9-6 pay table," he explained. "Deuces Wild, because you get four 2s often enough that you always feel like you have a chance to win. And Double Bonus, because the four of a kind bonuses can keep you going for a while. I drive out to Casino Rock Island every once in a while, so I can get the 10-7-5 pay table."
The numbers such as "9-6" and "10-7-5" refer to payoffs on full houses, flushes, and, in the case of Double Bonus Poker, straights. When Bob talks 10-7-5 Double Bonus , he means a game that pays 10-for-1 on full houses, 7-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 on straights.
"Lately, I've been playing a lot more Double Double Bonus Poker," he said. "Casinos have been cutting the pay tables, and it's not as easy to find the good games. So now if I find 9-6 Double Double Bonus, I'll grab it."
That makes sense. At 99.0 percent with expert play, the 9-6 version of Double Double Bonus Poker isn't as strong a play as 9-6 Jacks or Better (99.5), 10-7-5 Double Bonus (100.2) or the Not So Ugly Deuces Wild pay table (99.7). All seem to be vanishing breeds, to the extent that I now save most of my video poker play for Las Vegas, mostly at the locals joints where demand keeps the video poker strong.
"Just one question," Bob said. "I seem to remember you've said in past that when you have three Aces in Double Double Bonus, you don't also save a 2, 3 or 4. But what about when you have two pair, including two Aces? Do you still hold both pairs, like you do in Jacks or Better or 10-7-5 Double Bonus?"
Bob's question ties into the distinguishing characteristic of Double Double Bonus Poker. Just as in Double Bonus, four Aces pay 800 coins for a five-coin wager. However, if the fifth card is a 2, 3 or 4, that four-Ace bonanza jumps to 2,000 coins. That's something Double Bonus can't match, and it does force us to re-examine strategy.
Let's use the full-pay versions for comparison, 9-6 Double Double Bonus and 10-7-5 Double Bonus.
When you hold two pair and discard one card, there are only 47 possible draws. Four improve your hand to a full house, while 43 leave the hand at two pair. In both games, two pair just gets you your bet back. In 9-6 Double Double Bonus, a full house pays 9-for-1, or 45 coins for a five-coin wager, for an average return of 8.4 coins per five wagered. In 10-7-5 Double Bonus, where you're getting 10-for-1 on the full house, the average return is 8.8 coins per five wagered.
With a three-card draw, there are more possible combinations --- 16,125, to be precise. you'll just get your money back. Just 45 of them bring the other two Aces, which in Double Bonus and most Double Double Bonus hands pays 160-for-1, or 800 coins for a five-coin wager.
In 10-7-5 Double Bonus, we can stop right there. Your average return for holding two Aces is 8.8 coins per five wagered --- and to carry it a few more decimals, it's 8.8175, a shade below the 8.8298 for holding both pairs. The expert play is to hold both pairs and hope for a full house.
But in 9-6 Double Double Bonus, we have an added factor. If none of the cards you discard are 2s, 3s or 4s, then 12 of the 45 draws that bring four Aces also bring a low card for that 2,000-coin jackpot. If one discard is a 2, 3 or 4, then 11 of those draws are 2,000-coin combos, dropping to 10 of 45 with two low discards and 9 of 45 if all three discards are low cards.
That makes that average return jump past that for holding both pairs. Breaking up two pairs to hold just a pair of Aces in 9-6 Double Double Bonus brings an average return that ranges from 9.4 coins if you're tossing away three low ones to 9.7 if none of your discards are as low as a 4.
In Double Double Bonus Poker, expert play for a hand with two pairs that includes two Aces is to hold just the Aces, and keep your fingers crossed.
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While I'm on the subject of video poker, I've received notification from the Web site VPFree that I'm among the nominees for their Video Poker Hall of Fame. The nominees are a stellar group that includes the likes of Multi-Strike Poker inventor, video poker author Linda Boyd and Las Vegas Advisor publisher Anthony Curtis. Those who wish to register at the site, whether to vote or just look around its reports on video poker through out the nation can go to groups.yahoo.com/group/vpFREE.
Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.
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