UP DOWN & ALL AROUND
Triple Double Bonus gives video poker players a very wild ride
By John Grochowski
I once had a lengthy conversation with a team of casino executives who wanted to get my thoughts on video poker players. They knew that I hear often from video-poker-playing readers, and they knew from their own experiences that it was difficult to woo video poker loyalists to new games.
Comparisons were made among slot, video poker and table games players, and one exec finally boiled the question at hand down to basics. “Just what do video poker players want?” he asked.
Video poker players, I suggested, want to feel they’re getting a fair shot at the casino’s money. They’re less jackpot-oriented than slot players. A $1,000 jackpot for a royal flush on a quarter machine, which oc- curs only about once per 40,000 hands, is fine with them, as long as they feel they’re staying in action long enough to have a chance.
Video poker also was about interactivity and time on device, I told them. Player decisions that matter make the game interactive, and the lower jackpot levels mean the games can offer frequent small wins that extend time on device. When a game makes players feel they’ve got a reasonable shot at winning, encourages interactivity, and gives them a fair amount of time on device, it should build a loyal following.
Immediately after the meeting, I walked onto the casino floor, and the first three video poker players I came across were playing Triple Double Bonus Poker. So much for my grand theory of video poker players, I thought. Triple Double Bonus is less about time on device than nearly any other video poker game.
It’s an odd little game. Some video poker games are a nice, quiet ride, designed to extend time on device to the max—Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker, for instance, with their 2-for-1 payoffs on two pair helping to keep us in action.
Other games are roller-coaster rides, dropping the two-pair payoff to 1-for-1, but offering more chances at big wins such as the 2,000-coin jack- pot for a five-coin bet on Double Double Bonus Poker (four Aces with a 2, 3 or 4 as a kicker) or Super Aces (four Aces, no kicker needed).
Then there’s Triple Double Bonus Poker. It’s not a roller-coaster ride. It’s a bungee jump. A leap into the Grand Canyon. Not only is the two- pair payoff reduced to 1-for-1, the three-of-a-kind return is 2-for-1 instead of the standard 3-for-1 on most games.
With short payoffs on frequent winners, Triple Double Bonus is a quick trip. Either you hit the big hands, or you’re out of action fast.
So why do players take the plunge? Because the big hits can be really big. Bet five coins, and four Aces with a 2, 3 or 4 kicker pays 4,000 coins—that’s $1,000 on a quarter machine, as much as you’ll get for a royal flush. And with four 2s, 3s or 4s, a 2, 3 or 4 as a kicker will bring us a 2,000-coin bonanza.
The full pay table on the full-pay version of the game looks like this: Royal flush 250-for-1 (jumps to 4,000 with a five-coin wager); straight flush 50-for-1; four Aces with a 2, 3 or 4, 800-for-1; four 2s, 3s or 4s with an Ace, 2, 3 or 4, 400-for-1; four Aces with 5 through King, 160-for-1; four 2s, 3s or 4s with 5 through King, 80-for-1; four 5s through Kings, 50-for-1; full house 9-for-1, flush 7-for-1, straight, 4-for-1; three of a kind, 2-for-1; two pair,1-for-1; pair of Jacks or better, 1-for-1.
With expert strategy, that version pays 99.6 percent, making it one of the highest-payers around while also being one of the most volatile. With the flush reduced to a 6-for-1 payoff, the overall return drops to 98.1 percent.
The big attraction, of course, is the quads with kicker. With expert strategy, royal flushes come up about once per 45,358 hands. Aces with the low kicker come up better than three times as often, at once per 14,214 hands. Waits between those 4,000-coin bonanzas are a lot shorter than on other video poker games. The 2,000-coin hit per five coins wagered for four 2s through 4s with a kicker occurs about once per 5,795 hands, in the vicinity of once per 10 hours of play at a moderate but steady pace.
Let’s try out a little strategy for Triple Double Bonus Poker. Let’s say you’ve got this hand:
Ace of clubs, Ace of hearts, Ace of diamonds, 4 of spades, Jack of hearts.
You might think we’d model our Triple Double Bonus strategy after Double Double Bonus. After all, in Double Double Bonus is the earliest and most popular game to use fifth-card kickers to increase bonuses on certain four-of- a-kind hands. But we play this hand the opposite of the way we’d do it in Double Double Bonus. In Double Double Bonus, we would hold just the three Aces to maximize our chances of drawing the fourth Ace. But in Triple Double Bonus, the jackpot on four Aces with a low card as a kicker is so large that we have to go for it, so we hold the 4 with the Aces.
2 of clubs, 2 of hearts, 2 of diamonds, 4 of spades, Jack of hearts
See what we’ve done here? Just substituted deuces for Aces, with the same extra cards. Is the 2,000-coin jackpot for four 2s with a kicker enough for us to keep the 4, or do we discard both the 4 and the Jack to give ourselves an extra chance at drawing the fourth deuce? The answer isn’t what a Double Double Bonus player would expect. Even with a jackpot no higher than the Aces-plus-kicker payoff on Double Double Bonus, in Triple Double Bonus we hold the kicker along with the three 2s. Just discard the Jack.
Ace of clubs, Ace of hearts, 2 of diamonds, 2 of spades, 7 of clubs How far do we push our desire to pursue the kicker hands? To the point that we hold a kicker with three Aces or three low cards, and no farther. With two Aces or fewer, we do not hold a low-card kicker. Average return per five coins wagered in the 9-7, full-pay game is 10.17 coins on the pair of Aces, but drops to 9.29 coins if we also hold one of the 2s.
Ace of spades, Ace of clubs, Ace of hearts, 2 of diamonds, 2 of spades
Just as in Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus, we break up a full house that includes three Aces. In Triple Bonus we also keep a deuce. The average return on Ace-Ace-Ace-2 is about 96 coins per five wagered, compared with 78 if we hold just the Aces. Keep the full house and we get 45 coins. Triple Double Bonus pays 9-for-1 on full houses.
Ace of clubs, Queen of hearts, Jack of diamonds, 8 of spades, 3 of spades: In many video poker games we’d hold Queen-Jack and dump the Ace, because the Ace is a limiting factor on straight draws. But in Triple Double Bonus, you have to give yourself a chance, no matter how much a long shot, at drawing the big jackpot hand.
Ace of clubs, Queen of hearts, Jack of diamonds, 8 of clubs, 3 of clubs: Our desire to go for the big hit is mitigated by the 7-for-1 payoff on flushes in the full-pay game. If you’re able to find the full-pay game, you’ll want to hold all three clubs in this situation. But on the 9-6 version, this is a hold the Ace, toss the rest hand.
Whichever version you play, enjoy the wild ride if you’re a thrill- seeker, and look for a different game if you’re timid of heart and bankroll. May the Aces be with you.