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Learn the correct way to play tricky hands

By Henry Tamburin


In the previous two issues of Strictly Slots, I reviewed some of the common blunders players make when playing Jacks or Better. This month I’ll continue this series with Double Bonus (DB).

First a short background about DB. The game gets its name because it pays exactly double the payoff for four-of-a-kind hands compared to Bonus Poker. The greater payoffs for four-ofa-kind hands (especially four aces) are what attract players to play DB. However, to fund the premium payouts on four-of-a-kind hands, the return for two pair is reduced from 2 for 1 to 1 for 1 (or even money). This reduced payout affects the game’s volatility compared to Bonus Poker (and Jacks or Better). In layman’s terms, increased volatility means you can expect a much greater swing in your bankroll in the short term when you play DB compared to Jacksor-Better or Bonus Poker (even with perfect strategy). It also means you will lose more quickly playing DB; nevertheless, in any session you have a shot at some big payoffs if you hit the four-of-a-kind hands that pay a premium. If the latter doesn’t occur during your playing session (and most likely it won’t), expect your bankroll to head south very rapidly.

There are many different pay schedules for DB. I’ve listed a few of them in Table 1. The key numbers to focus on when you evaluate the pay schedule for a DB game is the per coin payoff for the Full House, Flush, and Straight. The best DB game pays 10 coins for the full house per coin played, 7 for the flush, and 5 for the straight (known as a full pay 10/7/5 game). This game has an Expected Return (ER) of 100.17%, one of the few video poker games where a player can gain the edge over the casino solely with perfect playing strategy. Unfortunately, you will rarely find a 10/7/5 Double Bonus game outside of Nevada.

The most common per coin payoff you are most likely to find for the full house-flush-straight is 9/7/5 and 9/6/5. Decreasing the full house payoff by one-unit results in a 99.11% ER for the 9/7/5 game. The 9/6/5 game has a dismal 97.81% ER. You can check the database on to determine if your local casinos offer DB and what the payout schedule is.

The playing strategy for DB is more difficult to master for recreational players. Most blunders that are made by players are the result of not recognizing all the hand options or using the playing strategy for Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker. For example, how would you play this hand? (Assume the game is 9/7 DB.)

Most players who are familiar with the Jacks or Better playing strategy would hold the Ace alone and not even consider any other hold for this hand. However, the correct hold for DB is the three-card straight flush with two gaps (2-3-6). (Did you consider it when you looked at the hand?) Holding the Ace alone is a common blunder made by players.

Blunders with Three Aces and Full House

How would you play this hand?

Most players would hold the paying full house; however, that would be a mistake in DB. A full house trumps all three of-a-kinds except three aces in this game. The best play is to hold the three aces over the full house. (Yes, you should toss the winning full house since holding three Aces has more value because of the bonus payoff for four aces. The ER for holding the full house is 45 coins while it’s 50.7 coins for holding the three aces.)

Hands with a Straight and a Low Pair

How would you play this hand?

Many players blunder and hold the low pair. But the correct hold is the four card consecutive straight 8-9-10-J. With DB, holds from 8-9-10-J through 10-J-Q-K have more value over a low pair and the latter has more value over holding 2-3-4-5 through 7-8-9-10.

More DB blunders next month.

Henry Tamburin, Ph.D. is a blackjack and video poker expert. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide (, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter (, lead instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course, and host of For a free three-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter, go to

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