How to score big payouts while avoiding the pitfalls
By Henry Tamburin
Double Double Bonus Poker (DDB) is the most popular video poker game in the country. That’s because it’s possible to hit several big payouts besides the royal flush, and this draws players to the game. Unfortunately, there are also some pitfalls to playing DDB, which most players are not aware of.
Table 1 summarizes the different pay schedules for DDB that you are likely to encounter. The first thing that should jump out at you is the amount of the payoffs for four-of-a-kind hands. They are rather large payoffs, especially if the fifth card in the hand (the “kicker”) is a specific card.
For example, the payoff for four Aces is 160 times your bet but if the kicker is a 2, 3, or 4, the payoff jumps to 400 coins. (That’s a 2000-coin payoff, or one-half the payoff for a royal flush, betting the maximum of five coins.) Likewise, the payoffs for four 2s, 3s, and 4s increases from 80 to 160 coins times your bet with an Ace, 2, 3, or 4 kicker. These mini-jackpots are the magnet that attracts players to this game.
What most players don’t understand is the larger payoffs come at a price; namely, the payoff for two pair is only even money (or 1 to 1). By transferring some of the game’s payouts from the more frequent two pair to the less frequent four-of-a-kind, it becomes a much more volatile game (more about this shortly).
Tabl1 also summarizes the ER for the different DDB pay schedules (bottom of each column). The best DDB game pays 10 coins for a full house and 6 coins for a flush per coin played (see Table 1). The Expected Return (ER) for 10/6 DDB is 100.07%, meaning the player would have a tiny advantage over the house if he played every hand perfectly.
There are many casinos in the Las Vegas area that offer 10/6 DDB. (Just go to either www.vpfree2.com or the video poker page on www.lasvegasadvisor.com to obtain a list of casinos that offer 10/6 DDB at different denominations.) Unfortunately, 10/6 DDB is not readily available in other areas of the country. (Partly the reason for this in that in some gaming jurisdictions, casinos can’t offer a game where the ER is over 100%). Nevertheless, it behooves you to find a casino that has at least the 9/6 DDB pay schedule, which has a 98.98% ER. (I wouldn’t recommend playing the 9/5 or 8/5 DDB games because the ERs are woeful. Again, check www.vpfree2.com for a list of casinos outside Las Vegas that offer 9/6 DDB.)
The high volatility of DDB results in most players going broke rather quickly if they are not lucky enough to hit one of the high payoff hands. In other words, most players play DDB undercapitalized. For example, supposed you were to play 9/6 Double Double Bonus instead of the much less volatile 8/5 Bonus Poker (BP). Both games have roughly a 99% expected return (ER) but the variance for 9/6 DDB is much higher (41.99) compared to 8/5 BP (20.90) Let’s assume you have a $200 bankroll and you want to play for two hours (1000 hands). By using the bankroll function in the Video Poker for Winners software program, you can determine what your chances are of going broke for each game. The results are:
Playing the low-volatile 8/5 Bonus Poker, you will lose your $200 stake only 2.55% of the time on average (that’s roughly 1 out of every 40 sessions).
Playing the more volatile 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker, you will lose your $200 stake 28.66% of the time (that’s roughly 11 out of every 40 sessions you’ll tap out).
This means you are 11-times more likely to tap out with your $200 bankroll if you play 9/6 DDB instead of 8/5 BP. The point is this: Video poker games that are highly volatile (such as Double Double Bonus) require more bankroll to prevent going broke. (Also, your “emotional” bankroll will be tested in games that are highly volatile because you can experience some long “dry spells”.) Let me repeat this so it sinks in: DDB is very volatile.
Assuming you have the bankroll and the stomach to play DDB, you should master the playing strategy before you risk any money. The playing strategy for DDB is tricky because of the importance of the ace (see my Tip of the Month). You’ll find a playing strategy for DDB on the video poker page at www.wizardofodds.com. You should also consider practicing the strategy at home with video poker training software until your playing accuracy is at least 99% before risking money in a casino. (I recommend Video Poker For Winners or Optimum Video Poker training software, both available on my web site.) I also recommend that you purchase the DDB strategy card by Dancer and Daily and take it with you when you play so that if you are not sure how to play a hand, you can refer to the strategy card.
Double Double Bonus Poker Pay Schedule
Payout Per Coin Played
|4 Aces with 2, 3, 4 kicker||400||400||400||400|
|4 2s, 3s, 4s with A, 2, 3, 4 kicker||160||160||160||160|
|4 2s, 3s, 4s,||80||80||80||80|
|Expected Return (ER)||100.07%||98.98%||97.87%||96.79%|
* 4000 coins for a five-coin royal flush
Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He is the host of the smartgaming.com website and the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter (for a free three-month subscription, visit www.bjinsider.com/free). For a free copy of his Casino Gambling Catalog, which contains books, strategy cards, and software for video poker players, call toll free 1-888-353-3234, or visit the web store at smartgaming.com.