A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I have questions on three hands in Bonus Poker. How would you play these?

**Ace of spades, Ace of clubs, 9 of clubs, 9 of hearts, King of diamonds

**3 of hearts, 3 of diamonds, 3 of spades, 7 of hearts, 7 of spades

** Ace of hearts, Ace of spades, Ace of diamonds, 6 of spades, 6 of diamonds

A. This email came from a player who in the past couple of months has submitted several strategy questions on Double Double Bonus Poker.

Bonus Poker differs from Double Double Bonus in a couple of important respects. The four-of-a-kind bonuses aren’t as large. In Bonus Poker, assuming five coins wagered, you’re paid 400 coins on four Aces, 200 on four 2s, 3s or 4s, and 125 on other quads. In DDB, payoffs are 2,000 on four Aces with a 2, 3 or 4 kicker, 800 on four Aces, 800 on four 2s, 3s or 4s with an Ace, 2, 3 or 4 kicker, 400 on four 2s, 3s or 4s, and 250 on other quads.

The other is that Bonus Poker pays 2-for-1 on two pairs, while Double Double Bonus pays only 1-for-1.

Those differences cause some significant strategy shifts. In the first hand above, Double Double Bonus players would break up the two pairs to hold Ace-Ace, leaving the possibility of quads open.

But in Bonus Poker, the quad Aces are worth less, there’s no kicker bonus, and two pairs pay more. The result is a hand that’s not a close call. In 8-5 BP, holding the two pairs and discarding the King brings an average return of 12.55 coins per five wagered, while holding the Aces and discarding the rest brings only 8.41.

The third hand, a full house with three Aces, also necessitates different strategies. In DDB, the better play is to hold the Aces alone, taking a chance on improving to four Aces with or without the kicker.

But in Bonus Poker, the lower quad payoffs favor keeping the full house if full houses pay either 8-for-1 or 7-for-1. In 8-5 BP, holding all four cards brings a flat return of 40 coins per five wagered, while holding the Aces and discarding the pair brings only 32.93. With a 7-5 pay table, the 35 for the full house still tops the 32.62 on the Aces.

Should you find yourself at a game with full houses reduced all the way to 6-for-1, then the strategy reverses and you break up the full house. In 6-5 BP, holding just the Aces brings an average return of 32.21 coins, while the full house returns only 30 for a five-coin bet.

The middle hand, a full house with three 3s, is not a close call in Bonus Poker. In 8-5 BP, returns are 40 coins on the full house or an average of 24.42 on the Aces by themselves. In DDB, you’d also hold the full house in 9-6, 9-5 or 8-5 games, but break up the full house to hold the 3s if the pay table is 7-5 or worse.

Q. What do you say to a dealer who repeatedly tries to cajole you into taking even money on blackjacks? It wasn’t just once. It must have been 10 times over a couple of days. I’d decline, and he’d give me the “only sure win in the house” line, over and over. When he’d have blackjack too, then he’d tell me, “See? Should have insured that.”

A. I wouldn’t say a thing. Just keep playing a solid game and don’t worry about what the dealer tells you.

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