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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Finally, a use for a kicker

2 November 2012

Dear Mark: I like to play Double Double Bonus Poker. What is the best pay table that I should be playing on? Nancy S.

I am glad to see, Nancy, that you recognize that getting the greatest return out of any video poker game, you need to find the optimum pay table first.

Double Double Bonus Poker is a video poker game based on Bonus Poker, which is a hybrid of Jacks or Better. The name, Double Double Bonus, comes from the payoffs for specific four-of-a-kind hands that pay double the amount paid in Double Bonus, just so long as your hand is accompanied with a "kicker" of an ace, 2, 3 or 4.

Besides its high volatility compared to other video poker games, the other downside compared with a Jacks or Better machine is that the payout for two pairs is a push. You are compensated for that even money payoff with a payout of 800 coins for four aces per five coins wagered, and a 2,000-coin payday if your hand includes a 2, 3, or 4 as your kicker.

The paytable you want to look for pays 9:1 per coin wagered for a full house, and 6:1 for a flush. The expected return on this machine is 98.98 percent, assuming you play max coins and every hand perfectly. If you couple your proficient play and a worthy pay table with incentives like cash back and other comps and goodies, Double Double Bonus, mathematically at least, can become a winning proposition that can give you overall return greater than 100 percent.

Dear Mark: Last week you wrote the following about Jacks or Better: "When playing perfect basic strategy on a machine with a decent pay schedule, you can reduce the house advantage to well under 1 percent. Look for a 9/6 (nine for the full house, six for a flush) non-progressive machine or an 8/5-er (same as above) with a progressive meter attached that reads at least, $2,200 on a quarter and $8,800 on a dollar machine." Regarding that 8/5 machine with a progressive meter, I was under the impression that the chances of hitting a royal are the same on every hand, on every machine, and it would not matter what the progressive jackpot is. Gary J.

You are correct, Gary, in that it really doesn't matter what the progressive jackpot amount is, but a larger, growing jackpot, money-wise, is the smarter play.

Playing any progressive video poker machine when the jackpot is high has nothing to do with its being ripe, simply because your chances for hitting any jackpot are the same on every hand. An electronic deck doesn't change when playing a progressive because the random number generator used to shuffle the cards has no memory. It does not know Gary's playing a progressive. The probability of a royal flush on every hand remains the same: 40,000:1.

Dear Mark: With blackjack, is there a difference in strategy when doubling when I have an 11? A dealer told me you should always double down, while I believe you have written that is not always the case. What is the correct play here? Jim L.

Doubling down, Jim, is one of those extra monetary gains that can shift your bankroll to the positive, so anytime you have a two-card 11, don't shortchange yourself. Using your scenario of the player having an 11, you would double against any dealer up card, except for an ace showing if playing on a multiple-deck game. On a single-deck game, you would double against a dealer ace.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died." — Steven Wright
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.