Bonus Video Poker Strategy

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Bonus Video Poker, also known as 8/5 Video Poker, is a variation of “Jacks or Better” that pays bonuses for certain premium hands. The “bonus” refers to an increase in the Royal flush payout from 250:1 to 800:1, while four-of-a-kind receives a bonus depending on the rank of the cards: 5~K (25:1), 2~4 (40:1) and Aces (80:1).

The trade-off for the bonuses comes from reductions in the payouts for the full house (8:1 instead of 9:1) and the flush (5:1 instead of 6:1). A pair of Jacks is still worth even money (1:1), just as all of the other “premium” hands retain their values: two pair (2:1), three of a kind (3:1), straight (4:1) and straight flush (50:1).

As in Jacks or Better, a losing hand—one containing less than a pair of Jacks—can be expected on about 55% of all deals. A single pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces paying even money—neither winning nor losing—will come up about 21% of the time. The premium hands make up the remaining 24% of all hands, and among them the bonus hands can be expected with a frequency of slightly less than 0.01%.

The Threshold Decisions

Compared to Jacks or Better, the bonus schedule has no affect whatsoever on how the player should treat any premium hands (two pair or better) that are dealt as the initial five cards. The basic rule of thumb is to “always keep the winners.” Breaking up the winning combination should not be considered, except for the following circumstances.

For a straight or a flush, if four of the cards form part of a Royal flush, discard the fifth card and attempt to improve the hand to a Royal. For example, when dealt the A-K-J-10-6 of hearts, discard the 6 and attempt to draw the missing Queen of hearts. The probability of success is just 1-in-47, but the potential payout is 800:1, making the discard a mathematically correct decision.

Also, when holding a high pair—Jacks Queens, Kings or Aces—it is also correct strategy to keep the winners with one exception. If four of the cards form a suited run (such as Qs-Qd-Jd-10d-9d) or an inside straight-flush draw (such as Kd-Qs-Qd-Jd-9d), discard the fifth card (the off-suit Queen of spades) and attempt to improve the hand to a straight flush. Again, the potential payout (50:1) exceeds the odds of success, which are no less than 1 in 47.

All Other Decisions

In playing initial hands valued at less than Jacks or better, the bonuses do have an effect on how the player establishes the priorities that guide decision-making. It is appropriate to always hold three or four cards to a Royal flush or four cards to a flush. It is also the correct strategy to hold the unsuited K-Q-J-10, even if it means breaking up a low pair. In all other cases, keep the low pair and discard the other three cards.

If no pair is dealt initially, the following list shows the priorities of cards to keep, from highest to lowest:

  1. 4 to an outside straight
  2. 3 to an open-ended straight flush draw with 1 high card and 0 or 1 gaps
  3. A-K-Q-J unsuited
  4. 2 suited high cards
  5. 3 to an open-ended straight flush draw with no high cards and no gaps
  6. 4 to an inside straight with 3 high cards
  7. Unsuited K-Q-J
  8. Unsuited Q-J
  9. 3 to a straight flush draw with 1 high card and 2 gaps or any Ace-low draw
  10. K-Q or K-J unsuited
  11. J-10 suited
  12. A-K, A-Q or A-J unsuited
  13. Ace
  14. 3 to an open-ended straight flush draw with no high cards and 1 gap
  15. K-10 or Q-10 suited
  16. King, Queen or Jack
  17. 3 to a straight flush draw with no high cards and 2 gaps

Any hand that does not fit one of the patterns described above is “garbage” and the player should discard all five cards. If this strategy is followed exactly, the player can expect a return rate of 99.1~99.2%.

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