Video poker is the preferred game of many experienced players who enjoy frequenting the casino floors and use a combination of skill, strategic play and acuity to beat the house at its own game. Each variation of video poker has its own peculiarities and knowing both its pros and cons can reduce the built-in house advantage to less than half a percent. Furthermore, video poker is among the few casino games where the player can even gain a slight edge over the house if they master the optimal strategy of play.
There are numerous variants of video poker and one of the most popular and commonly spread options is Bonus Poker. In fact, when it comes to popularity, Bonus Poker is only trailing behind Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild. The game is also available at a large number of respected online casinos and usually, there is the option to enjoy it in a multi-hand format as well. Players who are familiar with the rules of play and the strategy for Jacks or Better, will experience no difficulties in understanding Bonus Poker since the two games share a large number of similarities.
Basics of Bonus Poker
Since Bonus Poker rests on the foundations of Jacks or Better, the basic rules and the gameplay of the two video poker variants are quite similar. Both are based on the hugely popular five-card draw. Bonus Poker, too, utilises a standard French deck containing 52 cards only as no jokers are in play. As a point of fact, the greatest disparity between the two variants is the “bonus” payout on Four of a Kind hands with cards of specific ranks. Hence, the game borrows its name from this additional payout, but we will tackle this subject in detail in the next section.
The game starts with players deciding how much they want to bet per hand and there is generally the option to stake one to five credits on each round, with some of the most commonly used denominations being 0.01, 0.02, 0.05, 0.10, 025, 0.50, and 1.00. Once the bet is made, the player presses (or clicks) the Deal button, at which point, five cards are dealt randomly from the deck. This constitutes one’s starting hand. The objective is to evaluate its strength and decide which cards are worth holding and which ones should be discarded in order to complete a hand that qualifies for a payout. Following the rules of five-card draw, Bonus Poker allows players to keep or discard all five cards they receive on the deal.
Once players have made up their minds which cards to hold, they click the Deal button again to draw replacements for their discards. This is what constitutes the final hand – if it is listed among the qualifying hands in the paytable, the player will collect a payout on the basis of its rank and the number of credits they have initially staked.
The great thing about Bonus Poker (and video poker, in general) is that players are able to calculate the probability of forming specific hands on the draw. Another advantage of this casino game is that it utilises a standard 52-card deck (with four cards of every rank and 13 cards of each of the four suits), which renders it possible to determine what the strategy for optimal play is.
This is achievable because after the original deal, there are only 47 cards left in the deck and judging by the starting hand, players can evaluate the odds of drawing to certain qualifying hands. Additionally, one can calculate the theoretical payout percentage of a given Bonus Poker variant by using the payouts in the paytable and the probability of forming each hand.
The Paytable and Hand Rankings in Bonus Poker
The paytable is the core of all video poker variations and the same applies in full force to Bonus Poker. As we have said earlier, many of the qualifying hands in this variation coincide with these in Jacks or Better. There is one key difference, though, and it lies in the extra payout for Four of a Kind hands with Aces, which usually pay up to 400 credits if you bet the maximum of five coins. Respectively, the payout is 80 to 1 if you bet the minimum of one coin.
Additionally, there are two other payouts for Four of a Kind. Quads with four 2s, 3s or 4s, pay 40 to 1 for one-credit wagers and 200 for five-credit bets. Meanwhile, quads of 5 through King offer a maximum payout of 125 credits if you stake the maximum. These additional payouts are the main attraction that draws players to Bonus Poker, not to mention they carry the potential of helping one end what seems as a disastrous betting session profitably.
There is one drawback which comes as a direct result of these “quad bonuses”. A closer look at a Bonus Poker paytable will most likely result in many players noticing there is a reduction in the payouts for two other important hands, the Full House and the Flush. Full pay Jacks or Better variations pay 9 to 1 for the Full House and 6 to 1 for a Flush, while in Bonus Poker, the payouts for these two hands are reduced to 8 to 1 and 5 to 1, respectively.
This may not seem like a big deal to some, but in fact, it is, because it leads to a reduction of the expected return, which in Bonus Poker is around 99.17% as opposed to 99.54% in full-pay Jacks or Better. From this, it follows that if players fail to hit a quad, they will lose money at a faster pace in 8/5 Bonus Poker because the Full House and the Flush do not pay as much as they would normally do.
Other than that, the hand rankings and their corresponding payouts are the same as those in other popular video poker variants. The highest ranking hand is, of course, the Royal Flush, and as such, it offers the most generous prize of 4,000 coins per five-credit bet. On that note, it is important to mention the Royal Flush makes it worth it for players to wager the maximum because hitting it would offset the reduction in the payouts for smaller bets.
The lowest ranking hand in the game is a pair of Jacks or other high pairs with Kings, Queens and Aces. As such, it rewards players with even-money payouts so practically they get the same amount they have originally wagered if they hit a high pair.
Another thing to beware of are reductions in the payouts for Two Pair hands. On occasions, you may come across 8/5 Bonus Poker games which offer even-money on winning Two Pair hands. Do have in mind other variations of video poker offer you two credits per credit wagered for Two Pairs, which is to say, anything less than this is a complete rip-off. Because of this, always make sure you go through the entire paytable of your preferred Bonus Poker variations to look for discrepancies in the other hands’ payouts.
|Bonus Poker Paytable|
|Four 2s, 3s, 4s||40||80||120||160||200|
|Four 5s – Kings||25||50||75||100||125|
|Three of a Kind||3||6||9||12||15|
|Jacks or Better||1||2||3||4||5|
Bonus Poker Deluxe
Some online casinos offer a variation of Bonus Poker, called Bonus Poker Deluxe. The game follows the same rules as the other variants based on Jacks or Better, but a difference can be found in the improved payouts for any Four of a Kind hand. The difference is here the rankings of the cards that make up the hand are irrelevant. This “improvement” is compensated for by paying less for Two Pairs. In most full-pay variants of video poker, the Two Pair pays 2 to 1. This is not the case in Bonus Poker Deluxe where a Two Pair pays even-money similarly to the lowest-ranking hands of high pairs.
Another parallel that can be drawn between Bonus Poker Deluxe and Jacks or Better is that the two games are available in full-pay and short-pay formats. As is usually the case, the discrepancies are to be found in the payouts for the Full House and the Flush which in some instances are dramatically reduced, working to the disadvantages of bettors. It is highly likely players will come across Bonus Poker Deluxe variants which offer 8/6, 8/5, 7/5, and in the worst case scenario, even 6/5 payouts for the Full House and the Flush.
The result is decreased theoretical payout percentages and long-term losses for the players. To prevent this from happening, one is recommended to search for a full-pay 9/6 version of Bonus Poker Deluxe which offers one of the highest return percentages in video poker, 99.64%. Compare this to the 95.36% RTP of the 6/5 variation of the game and you should understand why it is to be avoided like the plague.
Double Bonus Poker
Full-Pay Deuces Wild
Aces and Faces
Pick’em Video Poker
Video Poker for Real Money
Basic Strategy for Bonus Poker
Since Bonus Poker shares an impressive number of similarities with its predecessor Jacks or Better, it is anything but surprising the basic strategy for the two games largely coincide. We will now focus on the basic strategy for Bonus Poker which pays 8/5 for Full House and Flushes because this is the most widespread variation to be found.
As was said earlier, the only decision players are required to make after the initial deal is which cards to keep and which ones to discard. It may not sound like a big decision but what you choose will have a dramatic effect on whether you win or lose.
The rule of thumb states not to discard anything, if you have been dealt unbeatable or strong pat hands, such as the Royal Flush (one would be a fool to ruin a made Royal, after all), a Straight Flush, a Full House, a Flush or a Straight. There are two exceptions to this rule as far as the made Flush and the Straight are concerned. If you receive a made Flush which holds the potential of improving to a Royal, you should replace the card that stands in your way. The same is applicable to Straights – keep it as it is unless you are only one card away from the Royal Flush.
The strategy also recommends players to draw one card in cases when they are dealt one of the following opening hands – four cards to a Royal Flush, four cards to a Straight Flush, four cards to a Flush, Four of a Kind, and Two Pair. You also draw a card whenever you are holding a starting hand consisting of four cards to a Straight with a minimum of three high cards or an open-ended four-card Straight where there is room for improvement on either end of the hand. In comparison, there is a gap in the middle of inside Straights so usually there are only four cards (out of the remaining 47 in the deck) that can enable players to complete their winning hand.
The following opening hands require players to draw two cards – Three of a Kind, three-card Royal Flushes, three-card Straight Flushes, and three-card Straights which contain three high cards (i.e. Ace, King, Queen or a Jack).
Whenever players are dealt a qualifying pair of Jacks or higher, two high cards (King-Jack, for example) or are holding two cards to a Royal Flush, there are recommended to replace the three irrelevant cards in their opening hand in an attempt to improve it. Finally, in Bonus Poker, the basic, beginner strategy dictates that when holding only one high card, players need to keep it and discard the rest.