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# Different Returns Different Pay Scales

6 March 2022

Inexperienced video poker players who are just beginning to take strategy seriously often ask the same questions.

Why is strategy different for different games? Do the machines deal cards differently to yield different paying hands?

Answers: Strategy differs because payoffs are different. We pursue Aces aggressively in Double Double Bonus Poker, where four Aces bring either 800 for a five-coin bet or 2,000 if the fifth card is 4 or lower.

In Jacks or Bette or Bonus Poker Deluxe, four Aces are no better than any other quads. The payoff for a five-coin bet is 125 in Jacks or Better or 400 in Bonus Deluxe regardless of card rank.

And no, machines don't deal cards in different proportions in different games. If you made the same plays on every game, winners would come up with the same frequencies, but your returns would be different because of the different pay tables.

Let's do a comparison using one hand in three different games. A reader, Seth, recently asked about this hand: two pairs, with the high pair consisting of Aces, and one non-matching card.

The games are 9-6 Jacks or Better, 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker and 8-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe. Seth plays in a casino with pretty good video poker and those games were available to him.

Best strategy options are to hold one pair and discard the other three cards or to hold both pairs and discard the fifth card.

If you hold both pairs, there are 47 possible draws. Four would give you a full house -- either of the remaining two Aces or either of the cards that would match the other pair. The rest would give you two pairs.

In Bonus Deluxe and Jacks or Better, it doesn't matter which pair you hold. It does matter in Double Double Bonus, where four Aces pay more than other quads, so let look at possibilities if you hold Aces and discard the rest.

Of 16,125 possible draws, 11,250 leave you with a high pair. Other possibilities are 2,629 two pairs, 1,852 threes of a kind, 169 full houses and 45 four-Ace hands. In Double Double Bonus, a maximum of 12 of those four-Ace hands would include low-card kickers for the 2,000-coin bonanza. If the starting had includes 2s, 3s or 4s, then the number of kicker hands could drop to 11, 10 or 9.

In 9-6 Jacks or Better, two pairs pay 2-for-1. Hands down, the best play is to hold both pairs. The average return for holding both pairs is 12.98 coins per five wagered, while holding either pair will bring 7.70.

The situation changes in 9-6 Double Double Bonus, where the best play is to hold Ace-Ace and discard the rest. Two pairs pay only 1-for-1 and Ace payoffs are enhanced.

With no 4s or lower to start, average returns are 9.65 coins on Ace-Ace and 8.40 when holding both pairs. At the weakest starting point, where the other pair and the fifth all are 4 or lower, the average on Ace-Ace drops to 9.43, but that still beats the 8.40 on both pairs.

Bonus Poker Deluxe pays only 1-for-1 on two pairs, but Aces pay no more than other quads. That leaves a closer call than in either Jacks or Better or Double Double Bonus. but it favors holding both pairs. Average returns are 7.98 coins when holding both pairs and 7.60 when choosing one pair and discarding three cards.

The dynamic is different among the three games, but players' strategic reaction to different payoffs is the X factor. The game deals cards in the same proportions regardless of pay table.
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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.