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Tournament Playing Strategy for Double-Double Bonus Poker

26 March 2022

One of the few free promotions still offered by casinos is tournaments. Based on history of play, the casino will offer its customers a chance to win some decent prize money for finishing among the top contestants.

Slot tournaments are the most common, but casinos also have blackjack, craps and video poker tournaments – and most of the time entry into these tournaments is at no cost to the player. While the prizes can vary greatly, first place for a free video poker tournament can be several thousand dollars. This certainly is enough to make a player want to do whatever possible to try to grab a share of the prize money.

I got an email from a friend of mine wanting some advice as to how to approach playing one such video poker tournament.

Video poker tournaments are limited to either a certain number of hands per session or a specific amount of time per session. Sometimes the play has both a time limit and limit on the number of hands.

For example, each session of a video poker tournament could be 10 minutes in length. You attempt to play as many hands as possible in those 10 minutes. Other tournaments may limit the contestants to 200 hands per session with no limit on the amount of time. Still others might limit players to 200 hands or 10 minutes – whichever comes first.

If there is no time limit, a player can take the time to play a strategy that is more complicated than when there is a time limit.

However, if there is a time limit, the play should be as fast as possible. This will give the player the highest number of chances to get a royal (or other high paying hand) which will almost certainly be necessary to finish in the money. Most of today’s video poker tournaments have time limits making the “fast play” strategy more desirable.

There are different schools of thought on what the best video poker tournament strategy might be. Some prefer to play the same strategy as in non-tournament play, that is, play the optimum strategy designed to get the most return from each hand played. The reasoning is that the player will have to be lucky to win the tournament and this strategy will give you most from each hand. Hopefully that will be enough to put the player in the winner’s circle.

Others advocate forgetting about all the lower paying hands and “go for broke.” This means to simply save for a royal flush on every hand. Those who favor this strategy also realize that in order to win a video poker tournament the player will need luck. If you are not lucky you will not win the tournament. It does not matter whether you are out of the money by 10 points or by 10,000 points. Either way, if you are not lucky, you will not win any money.

So why not give yourself the best chance to get some royals? If you are lucky with this strategy, you will win – and win big. If you are not lucky, nothing will change – you will be out of the money either way.

If the game selected for the video poker tournament is Jacks or Better, saving for just a royal flush (and possibly a straight flush) may be the strategy of choice.

But, depending on which particular video poker game and pay table are used for the tournament there might be other hands worth saving in an attempt to achieve a winning total. For example, consider the pay table for Triple Double Bonus with the pays shown for five credits played.

Hand Pays
Royal Flush 4,000
Straight Flush 250
4 Aces w/2,3,4 4,000
4 2s,3s,4s w/A,2,3,4 2,000
4 Aces 800
4 2s,3s,4s 400
4 5s-Ks 250
Full House 45
Flush 30
Straight 20
3 of a Kind 10
2 Pairs 5
Jacks or Better 5

This game pays the same for four aces with a kicker of a 2, 3, or 4 as for a royal flush (and it occurs over three times as often). It makes sense to also hold for this hand. Holding for the hands paying 2000, 800, 400 and 250 is a decision that is up to the player.

The point is that for this game there are up to seven different hands that could be included in a “go for broke” strategy.

The particular game being used for the video poker tournament to which my friend was invited is a 9/6 Double-Double Bonus game. Here is its pay table:

Hand Pays
Royal Flush 4,000
Straight Flush 250
4 Aces w/2,3,4 2,000
4 Aces 2,000
4 2s,3s,4s w/A,2,3,4 800
4 2s,3s,4s 400
4 5s-Ks 250
Full House 45
Flush 30
Straight 20
3 of a Kind 15
2 Pairs 5
Jacks or Better 5

With this pay table, the “go for broke” strategy would definitely include saving for a royal flush as well as four aces. This would make for a very simple strategy that would be easy to remember and still play very fast allowing my friend to play the maximum hands possible during his 10 minutes of play per session.

However, any hand paying 250 or more would also be a real plus when attempting to garner enough points to end up in the money, so including the straight flush, and any four of a kind might also make sense.

Let’s look at the strategy for this expanded type of hand-saving plan. The pay table used to generate the strategy would look like this:

Hand Pays
Royal Flush 4,000
Straight Flush 250
4 Aces w/2,3,4 2,000
4 Aces 2,000
4 2s,3s,4s A,2,3,4 800
4 2s,3s,4s 400
4 5s-Ks 250
Full House 0
Flush 0
Straight 0
3 of a Kind 0
2 Pairs 0
Jacks or Better 0

If you wanted to make a more aggressive strategy by only including hands paying more you would simply set the returns for the hands you did not want to zero.

Since we are looking to play as fast as possible, we don’t mind simplifying our play a little so I chose the basic strategy option of my video poker strategy software. The strategy generated using the above pay table looks like this:

1) Dealt Royal
2) Dealt Four Aces w Kicker
3) Four Aces
4) Dealt Four 2,3,4 w Kicker
5) Four 2,3,4
6) Dealt Four 5's to K's
7) Dealt Straight Flush
8) 4 cards of a Royal Flush
9) 3 Aces
10) 3 Twos, Threes or Fours
11) 3 Fives to Kings
12) 4 cards of an OPEN Straight Flush (Suited 2345-9TJQ)
13) Pair of Aces
14) 4 cards of an INSIDE Straight Flush
15) 3 Cards of a Royal Flush
16) Pair of 2s, 3s, or 4s
17) Pair of Js, Qs, Ks
18) Suited JT9
19) Pair of 5s thru Ts
20) 3 Cards of an OPEN Straight Flush (Suited 345-89T)
21) Ace
22) Suited QJ9
23) 3 Cards of an INSIDE Straight Flush with 1 Gap, 0 Hi, Suited 234
24) Suited QT9, JT8, or J98
25) Suited AK, AQ, or AJ
26) Suited JT
27) Suited QT
28) Suited QJ
29) Suited KT
30) Suited KQ or KJ
31) 3 Cards of an INSIDE Straight Flush with 2 Gaps, 0 Hi, 0 Penalty
32) Suited KQ9 or KJ9
33) 3 Cards of an INSIDE Straight Flush with 2 Gaps, 1 Hi
34) Suited QJ8
35) 3 Cards of an INSIDE Straight Flush with 2 Gaps, 0 Hi, 1 Penalty

Even though we are saving for only certain hands, there are still 35 lines of strategy. This is quite a bit to memorize for a tournament.

Fortunately, many of the lines of strategy can be combined without sacrificing any of the return. This greatly simplifies what needs to be memorized.

Here is a combined version of the strategy:

1) Any Dealt Four of a Kind or Better
4 cards of a Royal Flush
2) 3 of a Kind
3) 4 cards of an OPEN Straight Flush (Suited 2345-9TJQ)
4) Pair of Aces
5) 4 cards of an INSIDE Straight Flush
6) 3 Cards of a Royal Flush
7) Pair of 2s, 3s, or 4s
8) Pair of Js, Qs, Ks
9) Pair of 5s thru Ts
10) 3 Cards of an OPEN Straight Flush (Suited 345-9TJ)
11) Ace
12) Any 3 Cards of an INSIDE Straight Flush except 2 gaps
13) Two Cards of a Royal Flush except AT
14) Any 3 Cards of an INSIDE Straight Flush

By combining strategy lines, we eliminated over half the lines. This brings the total to only 15 lines. This is much easier to memorize and will make playing at a much higher maximum speed attainable.

How well will this strategy work?

Only time will tell. The tournament my friend mentioned has not yet happened as of this writing. However, the prizes breakdown for the tournament is:

1st Place $25,000
2nd Place $12,500
3rd Place $8,000
4th Place $6,000
5th Place $3,500
6th-10th Place $1,750
11th-20th Place $1,250
21st-50th Place $750
51st-100th Place $500
101st-200th Place $200
201st-250th Place $125

The tournament consists of four sessions of 10 minutes each and will have about 500 people playing. I would say my friend’s chances of ending in the money are quite high.

As always, may all your wins be swift and large, and your losses be slow and small.

Jerry “Stickman”


Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. He authored the video poker section of Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker! You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerryg@gmail.com
Jerry Stickman

Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com
Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com