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Best of John Grochowski

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Bonus Hand Triple Play Poker

9 August 2005

Each year at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, I check out new games by the dozens. And each year months pass before I actually see the games on casino floors.

So when I spotted a game called Bonus Hand Triple Play Poker during a stroll through Empress Joliet, the name seemed familiar, but I was a little shaky on the details.

When I sat down to play, it all came back to me. If you get two pair, three of a kind, a straight, flush or full house on the initial deal, then on the next bet you get a bonus hand for each hand played. If you're playing all three hands and you're dealt two pair, then next time around you get six hands for the price of three. With a little luck, winning streaks can get REALLY good.

I asked Jim Ouimette, Empress' slot director, how the games were performing. He said they hadn't been getting much play, and he was looking for reasons.

The maximum bet --- 10 coins per hand, or 30 for all three, compared with a 15-coin max on standard Triple Play --- might be an issue. The bigger factor seems to be that the pay tables look absurdly low, even though they're really not when the bonus hands are taken into account.

I chose the 25-cent Jacks or Better version --- several video poker games are incorporated under the Bonus Hand theme, and the player can choose coin denominations, too. The pay table was a 9-5 version --- full houses pay 9-for-1, flushes 5-for-1 --- with one big negative. Three of a kind pays only 2-for-1 instead of the standard 3-for-1.

With no bonuses, the game would be a true coin gobbler, paying only 91.1 percent instead of the 98.2 you'd get on a 9-5 Jacks or Better game with the full payoff on three of a kind.

Ah, but there are bonuses, and they make an ENORMOUS difference. A qualifying winner will be dealt on 7.59 percent of hands. On the next play, your 30-coin bet will bring six hands instead of three, and your expectation soars from 91 percent to 182 percent of your wager. And on 7.59 percent of those qualifiers --- about 0.57 percent of all hands --- you'll get another qualifying winner. In those cases, the bonus hands beget bonus hands, so on the next play you'll get nine hands, yielding an average return of 273 percent of your bet.

Every once in a while, you'll even get a qualifier with nine hands on the screen. That'll win you nine bonus hands, but you can't use them all on the next play. No more than six can be used at any one time, but any extras carry over to the next hand.

The bottom line is that this isn't a 91-percent game to shy away from. It's a 98.4-percent game, right in line with 9-5 Jacks or Better with the full 3-for-1 payoff on three of a kind. There are even better pay tables available from manufacturer IGT, but at this level I had a good run for my money, and a good time.

* * *

The change to a 2-for-1 payoff on three of a kind from the standard 3-for-1 means we need to tweak our strategy for Bonus Hand Triple Play Jacks or Better. A low pair remains more valuable to hold than a single high card, but there are a few small nuances.

Let's try a few sample hands:

King of diamonds, Queen of diamonds, Jack of diamonds, Queen of spades, 4 of hearts:

The drop to 2-for-1 on three of a kind depresses the value of the pair of Queens enough that in the Bonus Hand Jacks or Better game, the better play here is to hold the suited King-Queen-Jack. Our average return will be 7.21 coins per five wagered on the three-card royal, or 7.11 on the Queens. In 9-6 Jacks or Better, we're better off holding the Queens, with an average return of 7.68 coins to 7.44 on the three-card royal.

8 of hearts, 8 of diamonds, 9 of clubs, 10 of spades, Jack of clubs

Players used to holding low pairs instead of open-ended four-card straights need to adjust in the Bonus Hand game. If the four-card straight includes at least one Jack or higher, we hold it instead of a low pair. Here, our average return is 3.72 coins on 8-9-10-Jack, or 3.54 on the pair of 8s. In 9-6 Jacks or Better, 8-9-10-Jack is still worth 3.72 coins, but the value of the pair of 8s rises to 4.12.

9 of hearts, 10 of spades, Queen of diamonds, King of clubs, 4 of hearts

In regular Jacks or Better, we hold inside straights only if they include at least three high cards. Here, we hold inside straights with at least two high cards. The inside straight returns an average of 2.34 coins in either the Bonus Hand game or 9-6 Jacks or Better, but holding Queen-King drops to 2.33 coins in this Bonus Hand pay table, compared with 2.42 in 9-6 Jacks or Better.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski