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A Closer Look At Double Double Bonus Poker

 

The extra bonus payoff is a plus, but beware the volatility

 

By Henry Tamburin

 

The most important fact to remember about DDB is that it’s a highly volatile game, meaning the bankroll swings are much greater than a less volatile game such as Jacks or Better. Let me repeat this so it sinks in: DDB is very volatile.

Double Double Bonus (DDB) poker is by far the most popular video poker game. Its popularity stems from the extra bonus payoff that you get with four aces, 2s, 3s, or 4s accompanied with a “kicker” (a specific fifth card that is in the same hand as the four-of-a-kind). What follows are some facts about the game (good and bad), and some tips to improve your chances of winning.

poker

Kickers

 

DDB Poker was the first video poker game to implement kickers. In fact, its name “Double Double Bonus” is the result of the fact that the payoffs for specific four-or-a-kind hands pay double the amount paid in Double Bonus when a kicker is present. In DDB, a kicker is an ace, 2, 3, and 4.

 

 

 

 

The key hands in DDB that result in a bonus payout are:

Hand Payout with Five-Coins Played
Four Aces with2, 3, or 4 kicker 2000 coins
Four 2s, 3s, 4s withA, 2, 3, or 4 kicker 800 coins

Thus, it’s possible to be paid the equivalent of half a royal flush (i.e. $500 on a quarter-denomination machine) when you are dealt four aces with a 2, 3, or 4 kicker. How often will this occur? Roughly once in 16,000 hands. This is greater than the once in about 40,000 hands occurrence for the royal flush. This payout of half a royal flush is what makes DDB such an exciting game for players.

Pay Schedules

 

The following table summarizes the different pay schedules for DDB that you are likely to encounter, and the accompanying ERs (expected returns). The most prevalent pay schedule is 9/6. The expected return for this game is 98.98%, assuming you play every hand perfectly and you play max coins. I would strongly encourage you to not play a 9/5, or even worse, an 8/5 DDB game, simply because the ER is miserable. (Note: I’ve seen even lower pay schedules for DDB; these games should absolutely be avoided!)

Finally, you’ll see I’ve included a 10/6 pay schedule with a 100.06% ER. Unfortunately, this pay schedule is not readily available in most gaming jurisdictions. You will find them in certain locals casinos in Las Vegas, where the 10/6 pay schedule is offered in $1 and lower denominations. Check www.vpfree2.com for a listing of casinos that offer 10/6 DDB.

Double Double Bonus Pay Schedule

Payout per Coin Played

10/6 9/6 9/5 8/5
Royal Flush 250* 250* 250* 250*
Straight Flush 50 50 50 50
Four Aces with 2, 3, 4 kicker 400 400 400 400
Four Aces 160 160 160 160
Four 2s, 3s, 4s with A, 2, 3, or 4 kicker 160 160 160 160
Four 2s, 3s, 4s 80 80 80 80
Four 5 through Kings 50 50 50 50
Full House 10 9 9 8
Flush 6 6 5 5
Straight 4 4 4 4
Three-of-a-Kind 3 3 3 3
Two Pair 1 1 1 1
Pair of Js, Qs, Ks, As 1 1 1 1
ER 100.06% 98.98% 97.87% 96.79%

*4000 for a five-coin royal flush.

Playing Strategy

 

You might think the playing strategy for DDB would be identical to Double Bonus (after all, the names are nearly the same). But this isn’t the case. The factor that most affects the strategy is the payoff for the flush (rather than the payoff for the full house and straight). The flush payoff for 9/6 DDB is 6 coins times your bet, whereas it’s 7 coins in Double Bonus. (In fact, the playing strategy for DDB is closer to 9/6 Jacks or Better, because the flushes in the latter game pay 6 coins times your bet.)

The playing strategy for DDB is unique because of the extra value of Aces and kickers. For example, if you play DDB and you have a full house that contains three aces, you’d break up the full house and hold the three aces. Likewise, if you have a hand that contains two pair and one of the pair is aces, you only hold the two aces. You’ll also be going for inside straights more often playing DDB, compared to Jacks or Better.

You’ll find an accurate playing strategy for DDB on the video poker page at www.wizardofodds.com, including a list of 39 practice hands to test your playing skills. I’d also recommend that you consider using a video poker software training program on your home computer to practice the strategy—and there’s no shame in bringing a strategy card to the casino, either.

Variance

 

The most important fact to remember about DDB is that it’s a highly volatile game, meaning the bankroll swings are much greater than a less volatile game such as Jacks or Better. Let me repeat this so it sinks in: DDB is very volatile.

The reason the game is more volatile is because those juicy four of a kind jackpot hands containing aces through 4s with a kicker occur infrequently, at the expense of a reduced payoff for the more frequently hit two pair, straight, flush, and full house hands. If you don’t get lucky and get at least one four of a kind hand during a session, your bankroll will head south rather quickly. Because DDB has a high volatility, it also requires a relatively greater bankroll to get you through those long stretches from one jackpot to the next. Heed my advice and be prepared—emotionally, and financially—for the volatility that is inherent in this game.

Summary

 

DDB has these characteristics:

  1. The game offers mini-jackpots for infrequent four of a kind hands with a kicker.
  2. The ER of the common 9/6 DDB is 98.98%. This means most recreational players will lose in the long run playing this game because it’s rare to find casino perks that will increase the overall EV to greater than 100%. If you’re in Las Vegas, play the 10/7 DDB game.
  3. The playing strategy is unique, and you need to learn it before you play (don’t use the Double Bonus strategy even if the names of these games sound almost the same).
  4. The game is very volatile, so expect large swings in your bankroll.

Tamburin’s Tip of the Month

How would you play this hand in DDB?


Most players would hold the three aces along with a kicker because they’re hoping to draw another ace, which would give them four aces and a deuce kicker for a half-royal payoff. However, making that play is a mistake. With DDB, if your hand has three aces and a 2 through 4 kicker, you shouldn’t keep the kicker. The play that has the higher expected value is to hold the three aces and draw two cards.

A Closer Look At Double Double Bonus Poker.

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