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Bonus Poker Deluxe requires a little tinkering with strategy

By John Grochowski


When it comes to casino games, my wife Marcy is risk averse. She likes playing video poker on the software I’ve installed on a couple of computers at home, but the thought of betting $1.25 at a time on a quarter machine makes her blanch.

When we’re in a casino together, we always reserve time to play next to each other. Usually, that involves picking a couple of penny slots. She knows they have lower payback percentages than video poker games, but she’s a lot happier risking 30 or 40 cents at a time than $1.25.

Still, in any casino that has high-payers in the video poker area, I head off by myself for a while. Every once in a while, she surprises me and decides to splurge a little.

That happened one January day in a casino that had full-pay 9-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe. Marcy plays enough video poker on the computer that she knows each game and each pay table brings its own expert strategy. She has good command of Jacks or Better strategy, but had never played Bonus Poker Deluxe.

“What do I need to do different here,” she asked as soon as we sat down.

My response: “Not much.”

There are some games in which we can lope along with Jacks or Better strategy with minimal tinkering. Bonus Poker Deluxe is one of those. The full-pay 9-6 version, paying  9-for-1 on full houses and 6-for-1 on flushes, returns 99.64 percent with expert play. Using 9-6 Jacks or Better strategy on the game drops the return only three-hundredths of a percent, to 99.61 percent. The  more common 8-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe returns 98.49 percent, and expert play is identical to strategy for 9-6 BPD.

I remember  well the first time I encountered  BPD. It was in Las Vegas in the early 1990s. I was used to Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild and Bonus Poker, “Deluxe” was new. After about 15 minutes, I was ready to move to something more familiar. My money seemed to be disappearing fast.

There’s a reason for that. Two-pair hands pay only 1-for-1 instead of the 2-for-1 you get on Jacks or Better, and as a common payer, that makes a huge difference in volatility.

On the plus side is a rise in four of a kind returns, and that’s the reason players love this game. On Jacks or Better, all quads pay 25-for-1, or 125 coins for a five-coin wager. On BPD, all quads pay 80-for-1, or 400 coins for a five-coin wager.That’s the “Bonus Deluxe” part.

The two-pair payoff is the change that drives the minor strategy differences in this game. Because the drop in two-pair payoffs limit the value of complete redraws, we chase more inside straights in BPD.

In Bonus Poker Deluxe, we draw one-card to four-card inside straights if there are no high cards in the hand, such as 9-7-6-5 of mixed suits. That’s something we don’t do in Jacks or Better. If there are high cards in the hand, we have a different cutoff point than in Jacks or Better. In JOB, we draw to inside straights only if they contain at least three high cards, Jack or higher.

If the game is Bonus Poker Deluxe, the cutoff point is two high cards instead of three. We do hold K-Q-10-9 of mixed suits, but not Q-10-9-8.

We also draw one card to four-card inside straights if there are no high cards in the hand—something we don’t do in Jacks or Better.

Concentrating more of the payoff in the rarer four-of-a-kind hands makes BPD a more volatile game than Jacks or Better. There’s the opportunity for bigger wins when the quads are coming, but also faster losses because the payoffs on common two-pairs aren’t high enough to ease losing streaks.

For a 95 percent chance of remaining in action after 10 hours of play on a quarter machine at full-pay 9-6 Bonus Poker Deluxe, you need a $770 bankroll, higher than the $450 on 9-6 Jacks or Better, but lower than the $885 on 9-6 Double Double Bonus. Drop down a level to 8-6 BPD—a much easier  game to find in many markets—and the bankroll requirement rises to $831.

Let’s try some sample hands, and use 8-6 BPD as our touchstone instead of the rarer 9-6 version:

Hold K-Q-10-9. If you hold K-Q, there are 16,125 possible draws, and your most frequent winner will be a high pair, with 5,022 possible draws. Your next most frequent winner will be two pairs, with 711 possibilities. Those 711 mean more to us in games that pay 2-for-1 on two pairs than they do in BPD. The bottom line is that in 8-6 Bonus Deluxe, we’ll get back an average of 2.34 coins per five coins wagered if you hold K-Q-10-9 and only  2.23  if you  hold  K-Q and discard the rest.

There are fewer chances to draw a high pair to get our money back when there’s only one high card in the mix. The average return of 2.18 coins for holding the lone queen betters the 2.02 on Q-10-9-8.

With no high cards in the hand, we’re back to drawing to the inside straight. The low return on two pairs limits the value of a complete redraw. So we hold 10-9-7-6, instead of tossing the lot, as we would in Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker. In 8-6 BPD, the average return is 1.7 coins on holding those 4 vs. 1.61 on the redraw.

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