Video poker is always high on my list of games when I hit the casinos, but on some variations years can pass between sessions.

So on a November outing, when I touched the icon to launch Super Double Bonus Poker, I had to think a little and play a little slower than usual. Complicating matters was that this machine had an 8-5 pay table, returning 98.7 percent with expert play, and not the 9-5, 99.7 percenter I’d learned to play earlier.

Super Double Bonus is a quirky game in that four Jacks, Queens or Kings pay 120-for-1, or 600 for a five-coin max bet.

The hands that caused me some qualms as I played were full houses that included three matched faces; two pairs that included two Kings, Queens or Jacks; multiple high cards of mixed suits; and low pairs vs. a high card.

I knew strategies for 9-5 Super Double Bonus. Would they hold up when the full house payback dropped to 8-for-1?

Here are hands where I had to make those decisions – I kept track on my phone – and the verdict on strategy.

Jack of hearts, Jack of spades, Jack of diamonds, 7 of diamonds, 7 of spades: Is the 600-coin return on four faces enough to break up a full house?

In 8-5 Super Double Bonus, the answer is yes. Holding the three Jacks brings an average return of 41.44 coins per five wagered, while holding the full house brings a flat return of 40 coins. However, in the 9-5 version, where the full house brings 45 coins, it’s a better play to stand pat.

Queen of diamonds, Queen of clubs, 10 of hearts, 10 of spades, 8 of spades: In most video poker games, it’s a better play to hold two pairs over a single high pair, even though the pair brings the same five-coin return per five wagered as two pairs. There is an Ace-pair exception in games with big four-Ace bonanzas, but with lower cards its best to hold both pairs.

However, in 8-5 Super Double Bonus, holding Queen-Queen brings an average return of 8.16 coins, and that’s better than the 7.98 for holding both pairs. As with the full house, that’s a reversal of strategy from 9-5 Super Double Bonus, where holding both pairs returns 8.40 coins and drawing three to Queen-Queen brings 8.21.

King of spades, Jack of hearts, 10 of clubs, 7 of spades, 4 of diamonds: It’s almost always better to hold two high cards than one, even if they’re in different suits. That remains true in Super Double Bonus. Average returns are 2.26 coins on King-Jack, 2.21 on the lone Jack or 2.14 on just the King in 8-5 Super Double Bonus. Normal strategy prevails.

Jack of diamonds, 9 of hearts, 6 of spades, 6 of hearts, 5 of clubs: A low pair vs. a high card is an easy decision in most games – the pair has far more payback potential than the high card.

That holds up in Super Double Bonus. In the 8-5 game, average returns are 3.75 coins on 6-6 and 2.30 on holding just the Jack. The allure of a 600-coin pot on four like faces is nowhere near enough to flip the strategy.

Bottom line: The lower full house return on 8-5 Super Double Bonus necessitates strategy changes vs. the 9-5 game on full houses with three like faces and two pairs with a face pair, but unsuited high cards and hands with a low pair and a face can be played normally.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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