Comprehensive Video Poker Guide for Bonus Poker

Bonus Poker video poker expands upon basic video poker gameplay in ways that
create more excitement for players. It does this by jacking up the payments for
certain four of a kind hands. If you can score one of these hands while playing,
you have a good chance of walking away from the machine with a significant

Bonus Poker Logo

Video poker was created under a standard format known as Jacks or Better. It
was so named because getting a pair of jacks or higher (queens, kings or aces)
was the easiest hand to make that would return you some money from your original
bet. Jacks or Better gameplay is known for being steady, but it might lack a bit
in terms of thrills.

That’s because the one hand that returns you something close to a
jackpot-style payoff, the royal flush, is extremely hard to come by. As a
result, you can level off while playing without ever really seeing anything that
would boost your winnings to a relatively high level in a single hand. Bonus
Poker video poker was created to remedy that situation.

When playing the most basic form of Bonus Poker video poker, either at a
casino or on a gambling website, you get a boost if you can manage a four of a
kind comprised of twos, threes or fours. You score an even bigger boost if you
manage four aces. In fact, four aces pay off at a higher level than a straight
flush, even though the latter is a harder hand to make.

In addition, most basic Bonus Poker video poker that you will find either in
casinos or on an online casino site
pays off in a very similar manner to Jacks or Better. In most cases, the only
hands where the pay is different is for the full house and flush hands. These
are usually discounted from Jacks or Better payoffs to compensate for the higher
payouts for the aforementioned four of a kind hands.

Bonus poker has also become a kind of catch-all name for any video poker game
that alters the pay structure for video poker beyond what you would expect for
Jacks or Better. There are many different variations that you will be able to
find. Each gives the player a boost on some hands but then makes up for it by
taking away some payments elsewhere.

In this article, we’ll focus on basic Bonus Poker video poker, but we’ll also
talk about bonus games in general. We’ll look at gameplay and explain how your
strategy can have an impact on your success. Finally, we’ll explore whether or
not Bonus Poker video poker is the right game for you based on its benefits and

Bonus Poker Video Poker Gameplay

When you sit down to play basic Bonus Poker video poker, you don’t need to
know anything different than you would if you were playing Jacks or Better. The
structure of the game is essentially the same, as is the manner in which you
play each hand. This makes it a good game even for those who are relatively new
to the game.

In addition, the pay structure for Bonus Poker video poker, as revealed by
the pay table, is very similar to Jacks or Better. So, you can consider this a
good game for those who wish to transition from basic video poker games to some
of the more complex bonus formats you will be able to locate, both in casinos
and online.

Keep in mind that some of the games that contain the word “bonus” in the
title might include some twists in the gameplay. But for the game known as Bonus
Poker video poker, you are basically following the same steps as if you were
playing any other kind of basic video poker machine.

Those steps are as followed:

  1. Put Some Money Into the Machine: You should base
    how much money you put in on what the game’s denomination might be (a
    dollar, a quarter, a penny, etc.) and how long you plan on playing. Remember
    that you have to bet at least one “coin” or “credit” to play a hand, and the
    coin or credit is equal to the denomination.
  2. Decide on Your Bet: You can bet anywhere between
    one and five credits for each hand. Keep in mind that it’s always
    advantageous to bet five coins or “max bet.” This is because the payoff for
    the royal flush, the most coveted hand in video poker, dramatically
    increases when you are playing five coins over just one through four.
  3. See the Deal: The machine will deal you five
    cards from a simulated deck of 52. Your probabilities of receiving those
    cards are the same as if you were playing five-card draw poker at home.
    Ideally, your initial deal will contain either a winning hand, as determined
    by the pay table, or something very close to it.
  4. Decide on Your Holds and Discards: In an effort
    to get the best possible hand, you will have one chance to discard any
    number of the five cards you’ve been dealt. They will be replaced by cards
    from the original deck from which you were dealt. That means that you won’t
    get two of the same cards in the draw for your final hand.
  5. Draw: Once you hit the “Draw” button, the
    machine will replace the cards that you discarded (if any) and your hand
    will be complete. If it matches one of the winning hands, your account will
    be credited with the corresponding amount as determined by the pay table.
    Alternatively, your hand won’t be a winner, and there will be no credit (the
    amount of the bet will have been debited from your account at the time of
    the deal).
  6. Keep Going or Quit: Once that process is
    complete, you can simply bet and deal again to start the whole thing over.
    At any point, you can cash out your remaining bankroll. Or you might play
    until your bankroll is entirely depleted, at which point you’ll have to
    insert more money when completed.

Advantages of Video Poker

Video poker games like Bonus Poker video poker hold many inherent advantages
over some of its chief competitors for your casino dollar. These include:

  • Low-Pressure Gameplay: When you play video
    poker, you are the boss and don’t have to worry about the reactions of
    others. That includes the workers and patrons who might pressure you if you
    were out on the casino floor playing a table game. In addition, you can play
    the game at whatever pace you like.
  • Control Over Gameplay: Slot machines are also
    low pressure, but they give you no chance to apply any strategy, leaving the
    results up to luck. While there is also luck involved with video poker, you
    also can have an impact over whether you win or lose when you choose your
    holds and discards.
  • Probability Benefits: Slot machines do not tell
    you how many times their winning spins will come up during the course of
    play. Video poker doesn’t either, but it doesn’t need to because the
    probabilities of receiving certain cards will never change. As a result,
    there is less guesswork involved in video poker as compared to slot
  • Competitive Paybacks: We’ll talk more about this
    when we get to payback percentages, but payouts for video poker easily outdo
    what you could expect for slot machines. In fact, there are certain pay
    tables, such as the full-pay one for Bonus Poker video poker, which come
    very near 100% expected return for gamblers. That’s something that most
    other casino entertainments can’t quite match.

Again, all of these factors come into play with Bonus Poker video poker, but
it’s important to distinguish how the game is different from Jacks or Better.
That will help you decide if the game is for you or not and it will also help
you strategize once you decide to play.

Bonus Poker Video Poker vs Jacks or Better

Exploring Bonus Poker video poker is best done in comparison with Jacks or
Better. In many ways, these are the two basic building blocks for all other
video poker games. And the difference is very subtle, but important nonetheless.

The best way to explain those differences is to talk about the pay tables. A
pay table is a chart found in a video poker machine that explains how much each
possible winning hand will pay.

This chart is crucial information because it
will help you understand how to play the game in terms of strategy and what kind
of bankroll you should bring.

Let’s start by exploring the full-pay version of Jacks or Better. Note that
whenever we say full-pay when talking about video poker, it refers to the pay
table that pays the best to the gambler. We’ll soon explain why that is so

9/6 Jacks or Better Pay Table

Coins/Hands 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
Four of a kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5

Now, let’s compare that to the best-paying version of Bonus Poker video

8/5 Bonus Poker Pay Table

Coins/Hand 1 coin 2 coins 3 coins 4 coins 5 coins
Royal flush 200 400 600 800 4,000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
Four of a kind (aces) 80 160 240 320 400
Four of a kind (2s, 3s, or 4s) 40 80 120 160 200
Four of a kind (any other) 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 8 16 24 32 40
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
Three of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or better 1 2 3 4 5

A couple things to note: The numbers before the name of the game refer to the
odds that you can get on specific winning hands. In this case, 9/6 Jacks or
Better refers to the fact that the game pays 9 to 1 for a full house and 6 to 1
for a flush. 8/5 Bonus Poker pays 8 to 1 for a full house and 5 to 1 for a

You’ll also note that, where Jacks or Better does not distinguish between
four of a kind hands, Bonus Poker video poker does. You get more for four of a
kind hands involving twos, threes, or fours; and four aces tops them all.

Since Jacks or Better is the basis for all other video poker games, any
makers of new games will have to balance out any changes that they make. For
example, in Bonus Poker video poker, those specific four of a kind hands pay off
more than they would on Jacks or Better, but the payoffs for a full house and a
flush are lower in the bonus game.

Basically, what it means is that playing Bonus Poker video poker requires
looking a little bit harder for those four of a kind hands. Other games that
include “bonus” in the title put even more of a premium on four of a kind hands
than what you see in the pay table above. Some even include bonuses for specific
“kickers” in their winning hands, which would the fifth card in the hand not
included in the four of a kind.

This version of Bonus Poker video poker, however, is the one that hews
closest to Jacks or Better. Because only the ace through four in the deck gets
the four of a kind boost, it doesn’t require you to change strategy too much
(more on that below).

It also only increases volatility levels slightly from Jacks or Better.
Volatility in video poker refers to how easy it is to sustain play. Some bonus
games put so much of a premium on hard-to-achieve hands that it can be difficult
to keep your bankroll alive if you don’t get one of those hands early on in

In the case of this basic version of Bonus Poker video poker, the discounts
for the flush and full house, while they will cause slightly higher volatility,
won’t generally affect you too much if you are playing a short session. It would
only come into play if you played the game often, and, even then, the
differences would be slight.

Payback Percentages for Bonus Poker Video Poker

We’ve already established that video poker is governed by unchanging
probabilities. We have also explained how pay tables show you how each hand will
pay off. Combining those two elements creates something that is known as payback

Percent Sign Over Money

People often confuse payback percentage and think that it’s a hard and fast
rule about what you can expect from gameplay, but it’s really only an average
that gives you an estimate of what a game might return to the gambler over a
long period of time. In a short span, luck can pay havoc with the results.

In the case of the 8/5 version of Bonus Poker video poker which we spoke
about above, the payback percentage is 99.17%. That means that, on average, a
person that puts $10,000 into a machine would end up with a bankroll of $9,917.
The loss incurred would be $83.

Does that mean that every person who plays that amount will come away with
the same bankroll? No. It just means that the probabilities and pay tables are
geared toward that amount.

If you’re only playing a short time, the payback percentage is likely to be
skewed by luck’s effect on the small sample size. Someone who hits a royal flush
on one of their first ten hands would have a significantly high payback
percentage. And a person who loses ten hands in a row to start would have a
payback percentage of zero.

Over time, this will all even out. For comparison, the 9/6 Jacks or Better
game we highlighted pays off at 99.54%, a slight edge. It would take playing a
lot of hands over a long time for this edge to manifest itself.

If you prefer the opportunity for the higher payouts on the four of a kind
hands that come with the bonus game, that edge likely won’t matter to you. But
what should matter to you is that there are many different pay tables available
for this version of Bonus Poker video poker. And they will skew the payback

Take a look:

  • 7/5 Bonus Poker video poker: 98.01%
  • 6/5 Bonus Poker video poker: 96.87%

You can see how the lesser payments for the full house and flush will hurt
your expected payback. To confuse things even more, there are pay tables
available for Bonus Poker video poker that fudge with the payouts of other hands
besides the flush and full house. And that doesn’t even go into some of the
wacky payout structures for games that are under the bonus umbrella, like Triple
Double Bonus or Bonus Poker Plus.

Your best bet, when you see a machine in a casino or online, is to look at
the pay tables to see if they are familiar. If not, do some research to see what
the expected payback might be before proceeding to play. Otherwise, you could be
putting a damper on your potential winnings.

Learning Strategy for Bonus Poker Video Poker

The payback percentages above are based on a player who makes all the right
decisions when it comes to holding or discarding cards. Mathematics and
probability, in addition to the pay tables, govern what the right decisions are
for each and every hand.

If you’ve played basic
five-card draw poker
before, you might think that you can handle the
strategy for Bonus Poker video poker without much help. But there are many hands
that will come up during the course of play that might trip you up a little bit.

For example, let’s say that you’re dealt the following hand during gameplay:

Two of Hearts, Five of Hearts, Seven of Hearts, Jack of Hearts, Jack of Clubs

You might immediately notice that you have four hearts, which gives a draw to
a flush. But you also have a pair of jacks, which is already a hand that will
return your bet to you. On top of that, you can possibly draw for three, or even
four, jacks.

The correct play is to keep the two Jacks and discard the other three hearts.
Why? Over time, that play will return you more money than any other on that

“Over time” is the key phrase there. You might decide on the “wrong” play,
keeping the four hearts, and get the flush draw you were hoping for from the
beginning. Or you might play the two jacks, the “right” play, and watch as the
draw puts three more hearts in your hand, meaning that you would have made the
flush had you gone in that direction.

But playing that hand an infinite amount of times, you would win the most
money by playing the two jacks. And there are tricky examples like that all over
the place when you’re playing Bonus Poker video poker. How do you learn all the
right plays?

Here are three ways to do so:

  1. Practice Video Poker for Free: Many casino sites will let
    you play a simulation of Bonus Poker video poker for free. By doing this,
    you’ll get a feel for which cards to hold and which to discard. But, if you
    want to get serious about it, you should eventually move on to the next
  2. Video Poker Training: By a trainer, we mean training
    software that will school you in the ways of Bonus Poker video poker. Every
    time you play a hand incorrectly, the software will let you know. After a
    while, you’ll get the hang of the right plays to make.
  3. Consult a Video Poker Strategy Chart: If you can memorize a
    strategy chart, which compiles all the possible combinations of hands you
    might receive on the deal and ranks them from most to least beneficial, you
    can assure yourself of perfect play. Considering there can be around thirty
    combinations to learn for games like Bonus Poker video poker, memorization
    won’t be easy. But you might be able to focus on the hands that are most
    complex without having to memorize the obvious one.

Quick Strategy Tips for Bonus Poker Video Poker

  • Play the Max Bet: By doing this, you can assure
    yourself of the maximum payout for a royal flush. You might not think you
    have any chance of hitting it, but if you do, you’re really going to be
    kicking yourself if you haven’t bet the five-credit maximum.
  • Forget the Inside Straight: You might get
    excited to see that you have, for example, a three, four, five, and seven in
    your dealt hand. As a result, you could make the mistake of keeping all four
    of those cards. The chances of you drawing the six, however, are too small
    and not worth the measly 4 to 1 payoff for a straight.
  • Watch Your Twos, Threes, and Fours: Normally,
    you wouldn’t consider holding on to a pair of low cards if another hand is
    forming, but you have to remember the potential payoff for these three lower
    cards. They might not pay as much as four aces, but they do pay better than
    four of any other card in the deck.

What Are Pros and Cons of Playing Bonus Poker Video Poker?

Pros of Playing Bonus Poker

  • More big payouts are in play than with

    Jacks or Better
  • You get the bonus benefits without having to change up strategy too much
  • The game isn’t as volatile as other bonus variations
Cons of Playing Bonus Poker

  • Just a little more volatile than Jacks or Better, meaning that your
    bankroll might dwindle quickly
  • Might not go far enough in the bonus direction for thrill seekers
  • Lots of different pay tables that you have to consider

Conclusion on Bonus Poker Video Poker

Bonus Poker video poker essentially originated a whole brand of video poker
that many people had been craving. As the first of its kind, it offers a
relatively tame alternative to Jacks or Better. It makes for a good transition
point between players craving stability and action in their video poker.