A New Game for Me

I was looking at dollar progressives and found a 9/6 Triple Double Bonus Poker game where the royal was at $5,300, aces without a kicker were at $1,400, and the two kicker jackpots were just slightly higher than reset. It was a bartop game, the meters rose by 1% with each dollar played, and nobody was playing it.

I have not played a lot of progressives, but I was pretty sure this was positive. I went to my hotel room, checked my computer, and found out it was right at about 101%, including the slot club. I created a strategy using the Wizard of Odds Video Poker Strategy Calculator, studied that, practiced the game on WinPoker for about twenty minutes, and headed down to play.

I knew going in that this was a heaven-or-hell game. The variance on this game is about 125. Comparing that to other games, Jacks or Better is 19.5, Deuces Wild is 28, and Double Double Bonus is 42. 

It took me four hours to lose $3,000 — and that’s even though I hit a $2,020 jackpot with 33334. I was tired and decided to quit and come back the next day.

When I went back, my high point was being ahead $2,200 after six hours.  I had managed to hit that same $2,200 jackpot twice more, and then managed to lose all of that plus another $1,000 over the next three hours. 

I took a brief break. When I returned, the aces jackpot was more than $1,600 while the aces with a kicker jackpot was more than $4,300. I wasn’t positive, but I thought that with the aces jackpot so high, on a hand like AAA35, the correct play now was AAA rather than AAA3. I did that the one time I got such a hand, and later held just a simple AA and was dealt the other two without a kicker for a $1,695 jackpot.

Even though the royal was at $5,500 now and the aces with a kicker jackpot was also high, I was pretty sure it was no longer a good play. When I got back to my computer, I confirmed this was only a 99.6% game before the slot club, with the slot club today being pretty small. No thanks.

The fact that I ended up losing $2,100 was somewhat disappointing, but not a big deal. If you’re going to be playing this game, that kind of result must be pretty common. I didn’t set out to write this as a way to vent over losing so much money.

What struck me about this game is the number of times you are drawing one card to a big hand. In most games, when you’re dealt four to the royal, you have a one-card draw to 4,000 coins. In Double Double Bonus, you also have one-card draws to AAAA, 2222, 3333, and 4444 for relatively large hands. But in this game, you also have that draw to AAA2, AAA3, AAA4, 222A, 2223, 2224, 333A, 3332, 3334, 444A, 4442, and 4443. And these jackpots are typically for 2,000 or 4,000 coins!

If you’re the kind of person who emotionally dies whenever you miss a one-card draw — this should not be a game you consider. The above hands are mostly 46-to-1 shots (that is, one success every 47 tries, on average), and it’s not that rare to go 100 or more such draws in a row without connecting. And if you’re not connecting on these draws, you’re losing big time. You only get paid 10 coins for 3-of-a-kind, compared to the more-usual 15, and this adds up fast. Plus, you’re breaking aces full, deuces full, treys full, and fours full — whether they contain a kicker or not. 

For those who play the same game regularly, whatever that game is, you get a feeling with how fast it can go bad on those times when it does go bad. I have those reference points for many games. But this game goes down faster. It goes up faster too. Those big jackpots come out of nowhere. It’s just a different experience than I was used to.

The strategy for the game was unusual to me. You regularly hold 3-card flushes containing a king, queen, or jack, and also 3-card flushes with no high card at all. You prefer any 3-card royal to a pair of jacks, queens, or kings. And you prefer an unsuited QJT to a suited QT but not a suited JT. I’ve seen all of these plays before, but if I hadn’t gone home or to my hotel room, looked at the strategy, and practiced on the computer, I would have made many, many mistakes. I assume the same is true for most players who are not familiar with this game.

I’ll play this game again when I see such an opportunity. I just don’t expect it to happen very often because I don’t regularly see this game with progressives on it. And unless it has at least a 1% edge, I’m not interested. A 1% edge is higher than I usually insist upon before playing video poker, but the high variance eats you up at times. A 1% cushion protects me somewhat.

Someday, I suppose, I’ll see Triple Triple Bonus Poker with high enough progressives. This game pays 4,000 coins for 2222A, 3333A, and 4444A and pays for that by shorting the straight from 20 coins to 15. That game will have a higher variance yet. And since it’s not currently supported in the Wizard of Odds Video Poker Strategy Calculator, it’ll take me longer to get up to speed. But if I see a 1½% edge or higher, I’ll be up for it.

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