Switching from one video poker game to the next often means big strategy changes on up.
Versions of Double Bonus Poker that pay 7-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 on straights are far different games than Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker or even Double Double Bonus Poker.
But in some games, we can lope along with Jacks or Better strategy with minimal tinkering.
Bonus Poker Deluxe is one of those. The full-pay 9-6 version, paying 9-for-1 on full houses and 6-for-1 on flushes, returns 99.64 percent with expert play. Using 9-6 Jacks or Better strategy on the game drops the return only three-hundredths of a percent, to 99.61 percent. The more common 8-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe returns 98.49 percent, and expert play is identical to strategy for 9-6 BPD.
I remember well the first time I encountered BPD. It was in Las Vegas in the early 1990s. I was used to Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild and Bonus Poker, “Deluxe” was new. After about 15 minutes, I was ready to move to something more familiar. My money seemed to be disappearing fast.
There’s a reason for that. Two-pair hands pay only 1-for-1 instead of the 2-for-1 you get on Jacks or Better, and as a common payer, that makes a huge difference in volatility.
On the plus side is a rise in four of a kind returns, and that’s the reason players love this game. On Jacks or Better, all quads pay 25-for-1, or 125 coins for a five-coin wager. On BPD, all quads pay 80-for-1, or 400 coins for a five-coin wager. That’s the “Bonus Deluxe” part.
The two-pair payoff is the change that drives the minor strategy differences in this game. Because the drop in two-pair payoffs limit the value of complete redraws, we chase more inside straights in BPD.
In Bonus Poker Deluxe, we draw one-card to four card inside straights if there are no high cards in the hand, such as 9-7-6-5 of mixed suits. That’s something we don’t do in Jacks or Better. If there are high cards in the hand, we have a different cutoff point than in Jacks or Better. In JB, we draw to inside straights only if they contain at least three high cards, Jack or higher. Given a hand such as King of hearts, Queen of spades, Jack of diamonds, 9 of clubs and 3 of spades, the best play is to hold King-Queen-Jack-9.
If the game is Bonus Poker Deluxe, the cutoff point is two high cards instead of three. We do hold King-Queen-10-9 of mixed suits, but not Queen-10-9-8.
We also draw one card to four-card inside straights if there are no high cards in the hand. something we don’t do in Jacks or Better.
Concentrating more of the payoff in the rarer four-of-a-kind hands makes BPD a more volatile game than Jacks or Better. There’s the opportunity for bigger wins when the quads are coming, but also faster losses because the payoffs on common two-pairs aren’t high enough to ease losing streaks.
For a 95 percent chance of remaining in action after 10 hours of play on a quarter machine at full-pay 9-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe, you need a $770 bankroll, higher than the $450 on 9-6 Jacks or Better, but lower than the $885 on 9-6 Double Double Bonus. Drop down a level to 8-6 BPD — a much easier game to find in many markets — and the bankroll requirement rises to $831.
Gambling author and columnist John Grochowski’s weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.