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Kick Out Those Low-Card Kickers in Double Double Bonus20 June 2001
By John Grochowski
It's always tempting to go for the big jackpot, and often in video poker that's just what we do. We'll break up a flush, straight or high pair for a one-card draw to a royal flush, tossing away smaller payoffs for a chance at a bonanza.
Still, in Double Double Bonus Poker, the best play is to discard a low-card kicker when holding three Aces, a play that sometimes confuses fans of the game. Several readers have e-mailed me to say they understand drawing two cards instead of one would increase their chances of drawing the fourth Ace. Still, they wondered, would they be better off to keep a low-card kicker since drawing the fourth Ace then would bring them a 2,000-coin jackpot, while four Aces without a 2, 3 or 4 as the fifth card pays only 800 coins.
One fellow who had been holding the kicker came up lucky twice in one day. He had been playing Double Double Bonus on a 50-cent Triple Play Poker machine. After holding three Aces and a deuce, he had to settle for three of a kind on two hands, but pulled the fourth Ace on the third. That's a 2,030-coin hit, the kind of hand that can make your day at the casino.
He didn't stop there. About 20 minutes later, he was playing some more Double Double Bonus on a 25-cent Five Play game. Again, he held three Aces and a deuce, and again, he drew the fourth Ace on one hand. Bam! A 2,060-coin jackpot.
Naturally, that set him to wondering. Is it really the best play to discard the kicker? Sure, you're twice as likely to draw the fourth Ace with a two-card draw, but four Aces plus a low card pay 2.5 times as much as four Aces with a 5 or higher. And if you fail to draw the fourth Ace, doesn't holding the kicker increase your chances of drawing a full house?
The problem with that little analysis is that you don't toss away all chances at the 2,000-coin bonanza by discarding one 2, 3 or 4. There are still 11 among the 47 cards remaining in the deck.
To give the scenario with the lowest difference in average payback between holding or discarding the kicker, I'm going to assume that full houses pay 9-for-1. Some Double Double Bonus machines pay only 8-for-1 or even (ugh!) 7-for-1 on full houses, but those lower paybacks move the percentages farther in favor of holding just the three Aces.
If we hold the three Aces plus the kicker, we have 47 possible draws. Just one will give us four Aces plus kicker for that 2,000-coin bonanza. Three will give us full houses for 45 coins and 43 will leave us with three of a kind for 15 coins. Our average return per hand is 59.15 coins.
If we hold just the three Aces, we have 1,081 possible two-card draws. Eleven of them will give us four Aces plus a 2, 3 or 4 for 2,000 coins, another 35 will give us four Aces without the kicker for 800 coins, 66 will give us full houses for 45 coins and the remaining 969 will leave us with three of a kind for 15 coins. Our average return per hand is 62.45 coins per hand.
A couple of things to note: By keeping the kicker, we draw the fourth Ace only once per 47 hands, but when we draw two cards, we get the fourth Ace once per 23.5 hands. And nearly a quarter of those will also include a low card kicker, meaning we still have a decent shot at the 2,000-coin jackpot.
Also, the difference in the probability of drawing full houses is much lower than you might think. When we hold the kicker, we'll draw a full house once per 15.7 hands. When we hold just the three Aces, we pull a full house once per 16.4 hands.
Of course, it's hard to argue with luck, and if I were in the player's position, I'd be plenty happy with two 2,000-coin hits. Would he have done anywhere near as well if he'd made the "right" play?
Maybe. For certain, he still would have had four Aces for 800 coins at least once on each draw. Video poker cards are dealt serially, off the top of the electronic deck. Since the Ace was the next card off the top in two of his hands, it would have been the next card off the top even if he'd held the kicker. Beyond that, there's no way to tell if he would have drawn a low-card kicker on either big win, or if he'd have pulled the fourth Ace on another hand or two.
Either way, it's a nice hit. As for me, I'll stick with the percentages and discard the kicker. Playing video poker is not a one-shot deal. I know I'll be back for more, and with repeated casino visits, playing the percentages will help more often than it hurts.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.