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Best of John Grochowski

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Two Pair Video Poker Hands

23 January 2020

Video poker strategy isn’t always about making what seems to be a common-sense play.

Two-pair hands are a prime example. That’s something I learned in the 1990s when Double Bonus Poker was a new game.

I read a book that said when two pair included two Aces, Kings, Queens or Jacks, the best play was to hold the high pair and discard the other.

That made sense to me. Double Bonus was the first game to pay 1-for-1 on two pairs instead of the 2-for-1 on Jacks or Better or Bonus Poker. So with no improvement from the draw, a high pair was as valuable as two pairs.

Holding just a high pair and discarding three cards would open the possibility for a big four of a kind payoff. All I’d be giving up would be the one-card draw to a full house.

Then I met Lenny Frome, the pioneer among video poker analysts, and he set me straight. I couldn’t make four of a kind often enough from a two-card start to make it worthwhile to pass up the one-card full house draw. The better play is to hold both pairs.

There are exceptions, including one in Double Bonus Poker that Frome and I didn’t discuss because there was no need at the time. Full-pay 10-7-5 Double Bonus, rare today, was plentiful then, and the exception comes with reduced full-house pays.

If full houses pay 9-for-1 or less in Double Bonus, it’s best to hold Ace-Ace and discard a second pair.

By the numbers, in 10-7-5 Double Bonus, holding two pairs brings an average return of 8.83 coins per five wagered, while discarding a pair and keeping a pair of Aces brings 8.82.

If full houses pay less, the numbers flip in favor of breaking up two pairs to hold Ace pairs. In 9-7-5 Double Bonus, the average return for holding two pairs dips to 8.40 coins, while holding the Aces and discarding the rest brings 8.77.

So in Double Bonus, if the full house pays 9-for-1 or less, it’s better to hold a pair of Aces than two pairs.

In games that didn’t yet exist when Frome and I had our initial talk, four-Ace jackpots sometimes are supersized. In Double Bonus, four Aces bring 800 coins for a five-coin bet. But in Double Double Bonus, the jackpot can grow to 2,000 coins if the Aces are accompanied by a 2, 3 or 4. White Hot Aces pays 1,200 on four Aces even without a kicker, and Super Aces pay 2,000.

In those games, you’re better off holding an Ace pair than two pairs.

Note that King, Queen and Jack pairs aren’t included in those exceptions. It’s still better to hold two pairs than a pair of Aces unless your game is Super Double Bonus Poker.

Super Double Bonus returns 600 coins for a five-coin bet if you draw four Jacks, Queens or Kings. Still, if full houses return at least 9-for-1, it’s better to hold two pairs instead of two faces.

If the full-house pay is reduced, the strategy flops.

If you’re dealt two pairs including two matching faces while full houses return 9-for-1, the average return for holding both pairs is 8.40 coins. That beats the 8.21 on the face pair.

However, if the full house return drops to 8-for-1, the average on the faces is 8.16 coins vs. 7.98 for holding two pairs.

Most of the time, it’s best to hold two pairs. But pay attention to game, pay table and opportunities where a strategy flip can help you. .

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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