This article is part of a series of articles that explores strategy peculiarities in the video poker game of Double-Double Bonus Poker.

Basic information about the Double-Double Bonus Poker version of the game was presented in an article entitled “Double-Double Bonus Poker Basics.” That article also presented reasons someone would want to play Double-Double Bonus Poker. If the reader is unfamiliar with Double-Double Bonus Poker he or she should read that article.

Because of the dramatic differences in the pay table (particularly when it comes to the pays for four-of-a-kind hands) the playing strategy is quite different from other games such as Jacks or Better. This article is the second in a series that addresses those changes and gives the logic behind some of the not so obvious playing decisions.

I regularly receive questions concerning how to play certain video poker hands. The sample hands that are examined came from actual questions sent by members the video poker playing public.

All the information concerning the hands in this article and series are based on the following pay table. The pay numbers are totals for the five credits bet on the hand. This is because playing fewer than five credits gives the house more of an edge than is necessary. Video poker should never be played with less than five credits in order to take advantage of the 800-for-1 pay on a royal flush with five credits played versus 250-for-1 credits when less than five credits are played. Here is the pay table.

Pay Table
Double-Double Bonus Poker 9/6-Return 98.98 %, Variance 42.0
Hand 5 Credits
ROYAL FLUSH 4000
STRAIGHT FLUSH 250
4 ACES w/ 2, 3, 4 2000
4 ACES 800
4 2s, 3s, 4s w/A,2,3,4 800
4 2s, 3s, or 4s 400
4 5s thru Ks 250
FULL HOUSE 45
FLUSH 30
STRAIGHT 20
3 OF A KIND 15
2 PAIR 5
JACKS OR BETTER 5

Okay, now that the basics are addressed, let us begin.

One of the most common questions from players of Double-Double Bonus poker concerns a hand that has three aces and a 2, 3, or 4 “kicker” (as well as an additional card that does not improve the hand).

Why all the confusion surrounding this hand? There is a very logical reason for this.

A hand containing four aces without a 2, 3, or 4 pays 800-for-5. However, a hand containing four aces and a “kicker” of a 2, 3, or 4 pays 2,000-for-5. That is two and a half times as much. With that much riding on the decision, is it better to keep a kicker with the three aces or is it better to just keep the three aces? 

Take it from me, there is a very strong urge to try for the hand that pays half of what a royal flush pays. But is that the best move over time? Which hold will allow the player to make more money over time? After all, that is the outcome for which players should strive.

Let’s assume the dealt hand contains: Ac, Ah, Ad, 8s, 2s.

In order to determine the best hold, we have to determine the largest total return over time. That is the result for which we are aiming. Although it is possible to manually calculate the average return of any hand, using a video poker program makes the job a whole lot easier. The results shown below are from a program called Winpok6.

Here are the first several lines of return information generated by the program. The first column shows the potential hold. The second column shows the return for the five credits played and the final column shows how many total hands can be formed from the hold.

Hold Return Total Hands
AAA-- 62.4468 1,081
AAA-2 59.1489 47
AAA8- 33.6170 47
AAA82 15.000 1
AA--- 5.8640 16,215

By reviewing the information, it is obvious that there are really only two options to consider:

Option 1: Hold the three aces and the 2 of spades.
Average return is 59.1489 credits for five credits played.

Option 2: Hold just the three aces.
Average return is 62.4468 credits for five credits played.

Clearly the best option is option 2. But why is that the case?

It all has to do with the hands that are possible based on the cards that are held. If the kicker is included along with the three aces, you are limiting the number of winning hands that can be formed. When more hands are possible, some of those can be high paying hands that are not possible when holding additional cards. 

In this example, there are 47 possible hands if you hold the kicker with the three aces. All of them are winning hands because each hand will contain at least a 3-of-a-kind (Aces). They are:

  • 43 possible hands containing three of a kind paying 15-for-5
  • Three possible hands containing a full house paying 45-for-5
  • Only one possible hand with four aces and a kicker (the hand that includes the final ace) paying 2,000-for-5

However, by holding only the aces, there are 1,081 possible hands – all of them winners. They are:

  • 969 possible hands containing three of a kind paying 15-for-5
  • 66 hands containing a full house paying 45-for-5
  • 35 possible hands containing four aces paying 800-for-5
  • 11 possible hands containing four aces and a kicker paying 2,000-for-5

How can there be 35 hands that have four aces when there is only one ace left in the deck as shown in the third line? The answer is simple. There may only be one ace left in the deck, but there are 35 other cards in the deck that don’t make a hand of four aces and a kicker.

It is obvious by looking at the numbers. The best way to play a hand containing three aces and a kicker is to hold just the three aces. This allows many more opportunities to score a hand containing four aces or four aces with a kicker. The additional hands that are possible improve the overall return of this hand.

Please keep in mind that the answer above is based on the specific pay table shown. It is possible that different pay tables will result in a different recommended hold. 

It is an unfortunate fact of nature, that even though a player is giving up some money in the long run, they still want to “swing for the fences” and save the kicker. They feel that giving up only 3.3 credits on average per hand is well worth the excitement of hitting the big one a bit more often.

However, if you are serious about playing video poker and play a moderate amount, it will pay to learn the proper playing strategy for the specific game you are playing. To do this, find the playing strategy for the game you wish to play online. Playing strategies for many of the most popular games and pay tables are available there.

Playing strategies for games and pay tables that are not available online can be generated by video poker programs and apps available for purchase either online or from a smartphone app store. Consider purchasing one of these to give yourself the best chance of winning.

While the phrase “it is better to be lucky than good” has some truth to it, the more video poker you play, the less luck is involved and the more the math of the game reigns supreme. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of that math.

Jerry “Stickman”

You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerry@aol.com