Not all video poker paybacks created equal
John Grochowski email@example.com April 25, 2012 5:00PM
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Updated: April 25, 2012 10:10PM
There’s a quirk in Illinois gaming regulations that makes it impossible for casinos within the state to offer video poker players some of the top-shelf games they see in Nevada, Mississippi and other states. Whereas all states require a minimum payback percentage on electronic gaming devices, Illinois also enacted a maximum. No electronic gaming device in Illinois may have a theoretical return of more than 100 percent.
One popular game affected by this is Double Bonus Poker. The full-pay version that I look for when I go to Nevada returns 10-for-1 on full houses, 7-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 on straights, and players refer to it as 10-7-5 Double Bonus. With expert play, it returns 100.17 percent, though the strategy is difficult and most players get several percent less.
Instead, in Illinois we sometimes see 9-7-5 Double Bonus, where the payback on full houses drops to 9-for-1. It’s a pretty good game, returning 99.1 percent with expert play. Once you factor in free play along with meals and other comps through rewards cards, a player who knows his stuff can get very close to a break-even game.
The drop in full house payoff from 10-for-1 to 9-for-1 doesn’t change Double Bonus Poker strategy by very much. There’s really nothing we can do to force the pace of full houses. If we’re dealt two pairs, we’re almost always going to hold them, regardless of the full house payoff.
There’s one exception, and that’s when your two pairs include a pair of Aces. In full-pay 10-7-5 Double Bonus, where your five-coin bet is going to get you 50 back on a full house, the better play is to hold both pairs. You have four chances in the remaining 47 cards to fill out the full house, and your expected value is 8.83 coins per five coins wagered for holding both pairs. That nudges out the 8.82 EV for holding just the Ace pair.
That’s a close enough call that dropping the full house payback to 9-for-1 leads to a strategy switch. The EV for holding just the Aces drops a smidgeon, to 8.77, but the EV of holding both pairs takes a steeper drop, to 8.40. So when dealt two pairs that include a pair of Aces in 9-7-5 Double Bonus, we hold just the Aces and toss the other three cards.
Other than that one play, strategy in 9-7-5 Double Bonus Poker is the same as in the 10-7-5 version. Watch out for versions that reduce returns on full houses and straights, but if only full houses change, there’s no need for a strategy overhaul.
John Grochowski is a local free-lance writer. Look for him on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.