HomeThe ShuffleVideo Poker, Part 2: Bonuses, Deuces, & Jokers

Video Poker, Part 2: Bonuses, Deuces, & Jokers

Just for the video poker novice, this how-to guide opens up a whole new way to gamble online, where skill and knowledge can help you whittle the house edge down to zero.

Video poker enthusiasts know how to search for their favorite games online. But for the video poker novice, this is a whole new way to gamble, with an exclusive club of players who devote themselves to learning correct strategies for each game.

And so we offer this series, as a primer for online slot players seeking a different experience—one where skill and knowledge can help you whittle down the house edge. In fact, in many case, you’ll find you can get that edge close to zero. Or better!

In Part 1, we looked at the game of Jacks or Better. (To refresh your memory, check out Video Poker: Part I right here.)

Now, we’d like to introduce you to the main video poker variants that have been out there for decades—the Bonus Poker variations.

There are several:

  • Deuces Wild, with one of the strongest player edges in the casino
  • Jokers Wild, a consistent player favorite in markets like Atlantic City

How to Play Bonus Poker

When IGT introduced video poker to the casino world, there was one game—Jacks or Better Draw Poker.

In short order, players learned the pay schedule and strategy—which cards to hold and which to fold in each situation—until they could play hours on end without thinking about strategy.

But eventually, players demanded a bit more pizzazz in their game. That’s when IGT came up with bonuses for certain four-of-a-kind hands. The obvious first choice was four Aces. Instead of the normal 25-for-1, four-of-a-kind payoff, IGT’s mathematicians decided to pay 80-for-1 for four Aces. And even in the common quarter denomination, that’s a satisfying $100 for landing the bullets.

To make it more interesting, they decided quad hands other than Aces should get a bonus. And in a real stroke of genius, IGT got the idea to give a jolt to the lowest four-of-a-kind hands in poker—four 2s, four 3s, four 4s. Each of these hands would pay 40-for-1, or 200 credits at max coin ($50 in quarters; $200 in dollars). And so Bonus Poker was born.

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Why Players Love Bonus Poker

The original Bonus Poker is a favorite of enthusiasts, for a couple of reasons. First, the bonuses minimally affect other parts of the pay schedule, and the return-to-player percentage. Second, Bonus Poker provides a nice, steady, low-volatility experience. So there are no big leaps of fortune.

The top-paying schedule on regular Bonus Poker is 8/5. That means the single-credit payout is 8 for the full house, and 5 for the flush. (These are the two payouts manipulated in most games to affect the payback percentage.) That compares to 9/6 in regular Jacks or Better.

Remarkably, lowering those two payouts by a single coin affects the payback percentage very little. The return to payer with correct strategy on 9/6 Jacks or Better is 99.54 percent. On 8/5 Bonus Poker, it is 99.17 percent. For most players, the adrenaline rush of landing a bonus quad hand more than makes up for that 0.37 percent difference in return.

And remember, with most online slots returning around 94 percent, that return-to-player is a bargain. Also, it’s incentive enough to learn the right strategy.

So, here’s the complete top-paying Bonus Poker schedule (single-credit payouts):

  • ROYAL FLUSH                250 (4,000 at max bet)
  • STRAIGHT FLUSH        50
  • 4 OF A KIND-ACES        80
  • 4 OF A KIND-2,3,4         40
  • 4 OF A KIND-5-K            25
  • FULL HOUSE                   8
  • FLUSH                                5
  • STRAIGHT                        4
  • 3 OF A KIND                     3
  • 2 PAIR                                 2
  • JACKS OR BETTER        1

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Double Bonus Poker

It wasn’t long before the popularity of Bonus Poker spawned variations. There are a lot of them, but we’ll concentrate on the first two—Double Bonus Poker and Double Double Bonus Poker.

Double Bonus Poker is just that—it doubles the four-of-a-kind payouts—for four Aces from 80-for-1 to 160-for-1—800 at max bet; for four 2s, 3s or 4s from 40-for-1 to 80-for-1; for four 5s through Kings, 50-for-1. Payouts for the full house and flush also are higher in the full-pay schedule—10-for-1 and 7-for-1, respectively.

The tradeoff comes at the bottom of the pay schedule—instead of 2-for-1, two pair simply returns the bet—1-for-1. In practice, this makes for a more volatile experience than normal Bonus Poker. Since two pair is the most common outcome in poker and the big pays are doubled, you’ll see big swings in fortune. For most people, the bigger quad payouts are worth it.

Here’s the top-returning 10/7 Double Bonus Poker schedule. It’s hard to find, since it carries a 100.17 percent payback percentage—a player’s edge game with correct strategy.

  • ROYAL FLUSH                250 (4,000 at max bet)
  • STRAIGHT FLUSH         50
  • 4 OF A KIND-ACES        160
  • 4 OF A KIND-2,3,4         80
  • 4 OF A KIND-5-K            50
  • FULL HOUSE                   10
  • FLUSH                                7
  • STRAIGHT                        5
  • 3 OF A KIND                     3
  • 2 PAIR                                1
  • JACKS OR BETTER       1

It’s more likely you’ll find the 9/7 version of Double Bonus, which returns 99.44 percent with correct strategy.

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Double Double Bonus Poker

Double Double Bonus Poker raises the quad payouts even more, and adds another factor—kickers, or the fifth card in the hand.

Four Aces with a kicker returns a whopping 400-for-1 in this game, or 2,000 credits at max bet. That’s half the value of the royal flush in Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker. Four Aces with any other kicker pays 160-for-1, the same as Double Bonus. Four 2s, 3s or 4s with a kicker of Ace, 2, 3 or 4 also pays 160-for-1. Any four of a kind with an Ace kicker pays 80-for-1.

Here’s the top Double Double Bonus pay schedule, returning 100.6 percent with correct strategy:

  • ROYAL FLUSH             250 (4,000 at max bet)
  • 4 ACES w/ 2,3,4            400
  • 4 ACES                             160
  • 4 2,3 4 w/ A, 2, 3, 4      160
  • 4 OF KIND-2, 3, 4         80
  • 4 OF A KIND-5-K          50
  • FULL HOUSE                 10
  • FLUSH                              6
  • STRAIGHT                      4
  • 3 OF A KIND                   3
  • 2 PAIR                               1
  • JACKS OR BETTER      1

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The Big ‘But’

Yes, you can land huge payouts in both of these games, but beware—these are highly volatile games. By definition, there are typically wild swings of fortune. If you don’t hit any four-of-a-kind hands, your session could be over pretty quickly.

Most importantly, if you’re going to pick one of the Double Bonus varieties, you need to study the strategy—there are many differences from the strategy you apply to Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker. For example, if you’re dealt two pair and one is a pair of Aces, you discard everything but the Aces.

As we noted last time, there are many sources you can use to learn video poker strategy, from numerous books—we recommend Bob Dancer’s Video Poker for the Intelligent Beginner or Jean Scott’s Frugal Video Poker—and software programs out there that are great for learning basic strategy. What’s great about the software programs—Dancer’s “Video Poker for Winners” is the most popular—is that they not only tell you the correct strategy, but they let you play the game on your computer, and even tell you when your choice is incorrect.

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Deuces Wild

Remember, strategy is vital to success on this game, where following the correct strategy on the top pay schedule can return up to 100.76 percent. Keep in mind this pay schedule (returns for single credit wager):

  • NATURAL ROYAL FLUSH 800 (4,000 at max bet)
  • FOUR DEUCES                        200 (1,000 at max bet)
  • WILD ROYAL FLUSH           20
  • FIVE OF A KIND                     15
  • STRAIGHT FLUSH                 9
  • FOUR OF A KIND                    5
  • FULL HOUSE                            3
  • FLUSH                                         2
  • STRAIGHT                                 2
  • THREE OF A KIND                 1

It’s rare to find that full-pay version of Deuces Wild. More often, you’re likely to find the secondary version, which returns 25-for-1 for the wild royal, 11-for-1 for the straight flush, 4-for-1 for four of a kind and full house, and 3-for-1 for the flush. And that schedule returns 99.96 percent with optimal strategy.

The good news here is that the strategy for Deuces is easy to learn. If you look it up online, you’ll find that most of it is self-explanatory.

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Jokers Wild

The version of video poker where the Joker’s wild—hence, a 53-card deck—is wildly popular, particularly in Atlantic City, where the top-returning pay schedules are a rare find. It’s a Kings-or-better game. The top pay schedule returns 100.64 percent, but keep in mind, it is a definite rarity. That single-credit schedule is:

  • NATURAL ROYAL FLUSH 800 (4,000 at max bet)
  • FIVE OF A KIND                    200
  • WILD ROYAL FLUSH          100
  • STRAIGHT FLUSH                50
  • FOUR OF A KIND                   20
  • FULL HOUSE                           7
  • FLUSH                                        5
  • STRAIGHT                                3
  • THREE OF A KIND                2
  • TWO PAIR                                 1
  • KINGS OR BETTER               1

You’re more likely to find one of the lower pay schedules, which lower the pays for several of the hands. They still return well—99.98 percent, 99.29 percent or, the most common, 98.93 percent. It’s a fun video poker version to play. As with the others, learn the strategy first, online or through software.

Finally, also as noted last time, for clarity, a 100 percent payback doesn’t mean you’re going to win. It means the odds are even between you and the house. It helps to think of it like flipping a coin. Over time, you’ll land on heads as often as you’ll land on tails. And always, always wager five credits for the maximum payout.

Next time, we’ll examine some of the newest video poker releases, which add slot-style bonus features to the basic poker game. Until then, enjoy playing video poker.

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