Bonus Poker Video Poker Guide
When video poker arrived in casinos and gaming halls in the 1970s, it didn’t take long to become incredibly popular. Unlike other instantly popular things from that decade – such as bell-bottoms and platform shoes filled goldfish – video poker remains popular decades later.
While fads have come and gone since then (remember the “Pet Rock?”), not much has changed with video poker at all.
In fact, the most popular video poker games still have similar software to when they were first popularized.
Developers have often found it difficult to change the style or format of video poker games, as players are reluctant to move away from what makes this particular game so appealing.
This is probably because, over the years, video poker has been regarded as the smart choice for players.
With the right application of knowledge and skill, along with a generous pay table, the house holds a minimal (and sometimes even negative) edge over players.
In contrast to the constant evolution and changing face of games like slots, many believe video poker is perfect just as it is.
Although the basics of video poker have stayed the same (there are only so many things you can do with the draw card format, right?), there have been slight alterations to the original version.
Bonus Poker is certainly one of the more popular variants of video poker. It differs from the basic Jacks or Better in that it pays out bonuses on certain hands.
When this version first hit the market, it was advertised to players as offering bigger and more frequent wins. There are increased (bonus) odds for particular four-card combinations, such as 40:1 for quads of 2’s through 4’s and 80:1 for four aces.
Four 5’s through to kings pay at 25:1 – just as in Jacks or Better – but there are slight variations in other hands, which this guide will explain in detail.
The payout percentage on 35/35/35 Bonus Poker is 99.66%, which makes playing it a no-brainer. The trouble is finding a machine offering these odds.
For the purpose of this guide – and especially for the strategy involved – we will use examples pertaining to the next highest-paying Bonus Poker machine. This is the 8/5 version, which comes with a 99.17% return on investment when using an optimal strategy and playing with five credits.
First, we’ll look at how Bonus Poker differs from Jacks or Better, analyzing the odds and the best strategy for playing. Then, we’ll give our verdict and explain what makes it a good choice for every video poker player to consider.
How to Play Bonus Poker
For players with even the most limited experience of playing Jacks or Better video poker, Bonus Poker will not be difficult to get used to. Honest!
The game is a closely-related successor to Jacks or Better – and as we mentioned above – is only slightly different to this format. In most video poker games, gameplay revolves around the hand you are dealt.
At the danger of stating the absolute obvious, the first thing you will need to do is find a Bonus Poker machine.
If you’re in a casino, head straight to the video poker section or the bar and you should find numerous Bonus Poker titles. Pick one, dust off the seat, put down your drink, and we’ll explain what to do next.
Your First Game of Bonus Poker
Once you’ve sat down in front of a vacant Bonus Poker machine, you will feed money into the slot/note feeder to begin.
Once you have deposited your money, you will see the amount on the screen. Next, choose how many credits you would like to play with. You can opt to play with between one and five credits. Credits are how much you are willing to wager.
For example, if you’re playing $0.25 video poker at five credits per hand, your wager is $1.25 per hand. When playing video poker, you should always play on the maximum bet.
Five credits, also known as “Max Bet,” allows you to play for the highest payout in the game. In Bonus Poker, you will typically play for the highest prize of 4,000 coins.
This can only be won on five coins, so we advise you always play with five coins in order to maximize your chances of winning big. Big wins like this make up for your previous losses, which is why Bonus Poker’s return on investment is so high.
Once you have selected your coins and prompted the machine to deal, you will see five cards drawn on the screen.
This game is fundamentally draw poker, so you have the option to discard or keep some, all, or none of the cards on screen. If you opt to keep two cards and discard three, for example, the game will deal you replacement cards until you have five cards again.
Once you have made your decision to hold/discard, your final poker hand will determine whether you have won or lost.
Depending on where you play Bonus Poker, the machines and software may have an “auto-hold” function. We will explain what this is and its importance at the end of this section.
The software will immediately let you know whether you have a successful hand. The pay table – which is generally displayed on the upper half of the screen – will illuminate what combination you have and the payout for that win. If you have lost, you have the option to start over.
The Pay Table
As we’ve alluded that Bonus Poker being heavily based on Jacks or Better, it should come as no surprise to see the pay table reflect this (for the most part).
As you can see from the example of an 8/5 Bonus Poker pay table below, you will need a pair of jacks, at least, to win a prize.
The best hand you can hope for is the royal flush, which pays out 4,000 coins if you are playing with a five-coin bet. Pretty standard for any Jacks or Better video poker game.
|Hand||1 Coin||2 Coins||3 Coins||4 Coins||5 Coins|
|Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s||40||80||120||160||200|
|Four 5’s through Kings||25||50||75||100||125|
|Three of a Kind||3||6||9||12||15|
|Jacks or Better||1||2||3||4||5|
Where Bonus Poker differs to standard Jacks or Better variants is in the four-of-a-kind payouts. In this variant, you can see that four aces are the second highest payout, following a royal flush. Four 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s are next, with four 5’s taking fourth place on the list.
The higher odds for these combinations will, of course, be felt elsewhere on the pay table. This is important to know if you are playing 7/5 and 6/5 versions, or those with altered pay tables.
In those circumstances, your full house and straight flush will have reduced odds to compensate for the higher payouts on certain quads.
When it comes to the flush and the full house, you should study the payouts before you play the game. These hands are often lowered on the pay table to bump up the bonus odds and alter the house edge.
As you can see from the pay table above, a royal flush is always the highest payout. Next, are the (4) four aces, which are typically the bonus hand.
Below, we will break down each of the winning hands, starting from highest to lowest in value (according to the example pay table above):
Royal Flush: This will always be the highest hand in video poker. In Bonus Poker, there is a 4000-credit jackpot to play for.
This is only when you play on five coins, which is why you should always play the maximum bet.
Four Aces: In Bonus Poker, you can bag anything around 75-80:1 on this bonus hand. Four aces will generally be the second highest hand in any version of Bonus Poker.
Straight Flush: With odds of 40:1, a straight flush can really make your session one to remember.
Four x 2, 3, or 4: These lower four-of-a-kind combinations pay pretty well, often at 40:1.
Any Other Four-of-a-Kind: The odds for any other quad are also reasonably high at 25:1.
Full House: A full house typically pays around 8:1 on an 8/5 pay table.
Flush: A modest 5:1 payout on the flush in most cases. Always check the pay table to make sure you’re not playing at lower odds though.
Straight: You can expect a payout of 4:1.
3 of a Kind: You can expect a payout of 3:1.
2 Pairs: You can expect a payout of 2:1.
Jacks or Better (Paired): The lowest payout possible, almost always evens.
Bonus Poker is a quick game. As players know, the faster the game, the more chance the house has of making a profit.
One feature unique to video poker games is the auto-hold function. When your cards are drawn, this feature automatically holds the cards most likely to make a winning hand.
Sounds awesome, right? It can certainly speed up the game and provide players with a little help along the way, but some are adamantly against using it altogether.
You may come across some unproven but common claims that certain video poker games have auto-hold software that does not use the optimal betting strategy. This has never been confirmed.
IGT – one of the original manufacturers of video poker machines – have also improved this software in recent times, which helps to prove that this is not true.
Whether you want to use the auto-hold feature will come down to your skill levels and just how much you enjoy making those important decisions.
Allowing the software to do this on your behalf may not be for you, or it might help. It all comes down to the player.
Bonus Poker Strategy
You should always be prepared for the inevitability of losses. Certain games pay higher odds for wins where the chances are firmly against you.
Other games pay shorter odds if you are more likely to win. In theory, this is how gambling should always work, but it is not that simple.
Las Vegas, like any place with casinos, is full of gamblers who have no idea of how to play the games they’re betting on. This gives casinos the envious advantage of making money hand over fist.
Guess what player the casino doesn’t want at the tables, or sitting in front of video poker machines?
Even if you’re looking to have fun when playing casino games, there is no excuse not to understand how the game works.
There’s nothing more fun than winning, after all. With video poker, your strategy is everything. If you’re serious about minimizing your losses and walking away with something in your pocket, you need a video poker strategy.
Understanding Bonus Poker Strategy
Once you’ve found an 8/5 machine, you will likely want to work out the optimal strategy for playing Bonus Poker.
To understand how to put a sound mathematical strategy chart together, you must first understand how odds and the frequency of hands work.
As there are 52 cards in a deck – and Bonus Poker odds are worked out on the number of cards – we can calculate that there are 2,598,960 potential five card hands pin the game.
Working out your Bonus Poker strategy involves figuring out what cards to hold and which to discard to give yourself the best chance of winning.
Below, we have illustrated a classic video poker strategy table for you. In order to use this table, a player must refer to the chart and opt for the strongest possible hand until they reach the bottom, which advises players to discard.
The options below are ordered from strongest to weakest:
- Four-of-a-kind/ straight flush/ royal flush – Any one of these combinations in the initial deal should always be kept.
- Four to a royal flush – Four cards in your hand and just one more to make a royal flush? You should always go for this combination, given the considerably high payout of the royal.
- Straight/ flush/ full house – You already have yourself a winner. Discarding cards makes no sense here. Never give up a winning set unless you’re four to a royal.
- Three-of-a-kind – Keep the three matching cards and discard the other two. You could end up with four of a kind or a full-house but will certainly end up with three-of-a-kind.
- Four to a straight flush – Given the higher payout for a straight flush – and the fact that you are four cards in – always go for this hand.
- Two pair – Discard the odd card to try for a full house.
- High pair -Hold on to the pair of aces, kings, queens, or jacks in the hope of landing three-of-a-kind, four-of-a-kind, or a full house.
- Three to a royal flush – A strong position to find yourself in but one which is far from assured of anything.
- Four to a flush – Just one card away from a flush. You should go for it.
- K, Q, J, T unsuited – With a card adjacent to K or T, you can land a straight. A high pair would be a welcome consolation.
- Low pair -In Bonus Poker, four-of-a-kind in the lower pairs pays big. A three of a kind would be a decent consolation.
- Four to an outside straight – Hoping for that final card to land the straight?
- Three to a straight flush (open-ended straight flush with at least one high card and no more than one gap) – Still a viable way to land a straight flush.
- A, K, Q, J unsuited – One card away from a solid hand.
- Two suited high cards – You get could lucky. At worst, one high card will get you a pair.
- Three to a straight flush (open-ended straight flush, with no high cards or gaps) – Still within interesting territory.
- Four to an inside straight with three high cards – Once again, an interesting position with a couple of variables.
- No suite J, Q, K – A straight, three of a kind, or a high-ranking pair are all possible.
- No suite J, Q – Within range to at least land a matching card for Jacks or Better.
- Three to a straight flush (one high card and two gaps which includes ace-low draws) – Still within distance of a nice hand.
- K, Q / K, J unsuited – Falling behind in terms of hope for a straight, but there is certainly a good chance of a high pair.
- J, T suited – Decent chance of making a high pair.
- A, K, or A, Q, or A, J unsuited – High pair or potentially two pair are the best you can hope for here, but there is a chance you could get lucky.
- Ace – Not much use by its lonesome.
- Three to a straight flush (open-ended straight flush with no high cards and one gap; can also include 2, 3, 4 suited) – There is a chance this could come good.
- K, & T, / Q, & T suited – Promise and potential, but nothing too promising without company. You should focus on adjacent cards for straights.
- J, Q or K – Once again, company required.
- Three to a straight flush (no high cards and no gaps) – Scraping the barrel.
- Discard all – There is no other way. You’ve reached the end of the line.
Bonus Poker: The Verdict
For the shrewd and cultured video poker player, 8/5 Bonus Poker is the best value of its kind in the casino. While it is not exactly the highest paying of any video poker game, it is not the worst, that’s for sure.
Aside from the attraction of bigger wins, most advocates of Bonus Poker boast of the high payouts.
With video poker, there is also a sense of transparency when playing the games, unlike many slots, for example. The house edge and return work out as some of the best a gambler can hope for, cementing Bonus Poker as one of the best of the best, by this logic.
Unlike other games like Joker Poker or Deuces Wild, the house still has an edge on players. It’s minimal, but it must be said that there are better games out there.
Still, given its simplicity and straightforward nature – especially when it comes to strategy – it may still be more suitable for novice video poker players.
Before you play Bonus Poker, you should first ensure you have a grasp of how video poker is played. The strategy – which we covered above – will certainly help you determine just how solid your hand is or can potentially be.
After playing several hands of bonus poker and trying this strategy out for yourself, we imagine that you would certainly recommend doing things the right way.
Whether you are a keen video poker player looking to broaden your horizons, or a curious slots enthusiast with a sudden urge to change, you could do a lot worse than playing Bonus Poker.
Not every game in a casino can boast such a remarkably low house edge while offering a big jackpot to boot. Throw in some fun, an excellent four aces bonus, and you have yourself a winner!
Bonus Poker is a no-nonsense video poker variant with a nice charm. It isn’t the Muhammad Ali of video poker games by any stretch, but it is certainly a contender for the belt.