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The Big VP Debate

20 March 2022

When my wife Marcy and I go to casinos together, we usually play next to each other on slots, but play separately when I move to other games.

On a rare time when we played video poker together, I was drawn into a strategy discussion with another couple on the same bank of machines.

A woman had a low pair and a single Queen, and moved to hold the pair. The fellow next to her disagreed.

"That would be right in Bonus Poker, like we were playing last week," he said. "That's because two pairs pay double. You're playing Double Double Bonus, and two pairs pay only single. You have to draw another card to get the same single payback as drawing one more card to match your Queen would get here."

By paying double and single, he meant two pairs pay 2-for-1 in Bonus Poker and only 1-for-1 in Double Double Bonus. High pairs pay 1-for-1.

"Not only that," he continued. "If you hold the pair, you give up your chance for a royal. You want a royal, don't you?"

Usually in such situations, I keep my mouth shut. I might write about the encounter later and I might just let it pass, but I don't go out of my way to pick arguments.

But Marcy also was playing Double Double Bonus, and she wanted to make sure she had it right.

"I thought you were supposed to hold the pair even in Double Double Bonus," she said.

I nodded and tried to keep it low key. I said, "You are. I can show you at home."

The other players heard. Almost simultaneously, she said, "See? He thinks I'm right," and he said, "You disagree with me?"

I said yes, the chances of drawing three of a kind or better are a lot better when you start with a pair. You don't win as many hands as when you hold a high card, but the average payback is bigger.

He said, "The one-pay on two pair shoots your average payback. Anyway, what do you know about it?"

I replied, "I'm just someone who's played a lot. If you disagree, that's fine. Play your own way."

We all went back to our own games, though I did hear some grumbles meant for my ears.

At home, I brought up the games on WinPoker software and showed Marcy the possibilities.

The hand I used to demonstrate were 6s of hearts and spades, Queen of diamonds, 9 of clubs and 3 of diamonds.

In 8-5 Bonus Poker, average return per five coins wagered is 4.07 coins if you hold the pair and discard the rest. Hold the Queen instead, and the average return is only 2.38 coins.

That's not a close call. Hold the pair.

It is a closer call in Double Double Bonus because of the reduced payback on two pairs, but the better play by far still is to hold the pair.

In 9-6 DDB, the average return when holding the pair is 3.66 coins per five wagered. Hold the Queen instead, and the average payback drops to 2.18 coins.

That's a slightly smaller gap than in Bonus Poker, but it's still not a close call. Keep the pair.

In either game, if you hold the pair, 15.78 percent of final hands will be three of a kind or better, with payoffs of at least 3-for-1. If you hold the lone Queen, only 6.96 percent of hands are trips or better.

The lower two-pair pay on DDB is a factor, but the low pair vs. high card divide is not a close enough call to split our strategies.
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.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

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.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski