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Expert Strategy for Double Down Stud Video Poker

13 December 2001

By John Robison

Double Down Stud is based on stud poker and it is played differently from most other video poker machines, which are based on draw poker. Draw video poker games give players the opportunity to improve their hands by discarding cards and drawing new ones. Double Down Stud, on the other hand, gives players the opportunity to double their bets after seeing their first four cards.

You begin play by betting 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 coins. The machine then deals 5 cards face down and turns over the first 4 cards. You now have the option of doubling your bet. If you choose to double down and you have enough credits to cover the additional wager, the machine will use your credits to cover the bet. Otherwise, you'll have to insert more coins.

Because you don't have the opportunity to improve your hand by drawing cards, paying hands are harder to get in Double Down Stud. The Double Down Stud paytable can therefore afford to be more generous than a draw video poker game's paytable for the same hands. The 1-coin payoffs are as follows: a pair of Sixes through a pair of Tens pay 1 coin, a pair of Jacks or better pay 2, two pairs 3, three-of-a-kind 4, a straight 6, a flush 9, a full house 12, four-of-a-kind 50, a straight flush 200, and a royal flush 1,000. With max coins bet, that's an initial bet of 5 coins and an additional 5 coins to double down for a total of 10 coins, the royal flush payoff is 20,000 coins.

The key to playing expert draw video poker is knowing which cards to discard. The key to playing expert Double Down Stud is knowing when to double down. If you never double down, the long-term payback for the game is a paltry 72.5%. If you always double down, the long-term payback is just a hair better at 72.6%. Playing the expert strategy which follows, your long-term payback is 97.8%.

Expert strategy: Double down on these hands: all pat hands, four cards to a royal flush, four cards to a straight flush, four cards to a flush, and outside straights. (An outside straight is a straight that can be completed at either end. Two-Three-Four-Five is an outside straight, for example, because you can complete it with either an Ace on the low end or a Six on the high end. Ace-Two-Three-Four is not an outside straight because you can complete it on only one end.)

Obviously, you want to double down on all pat hands. Since you can see only four cards, the pat hands in Double Down Stud are: a pair of Sixes or better, two pairs, three-of-kind, and four-of-a-kind. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doubling down on these hands. You are guaranteed to at least break even.

Say you bet five coins and you get a pair of Sixes, a Two, and a Nine. You've already won at least five coins because you have the pair of Sixes. The fifth card may improve your hand to two pairs or a three-of-a-kind. Now you double down and the fifth card is a Seven. It doesn't help you. You get paid ten coins. Either way, doubling down or not, your bet is returned to you. It's a push.

But look at what happens if the fifth card gives you two pairs. Without doubling down, your net profit is 10 coins (15 coin payoff - 5 coins bet). When you double down, though, your net profit doubles to 20 coins (30 coin payoff - 10 coins bet). And if the fifth card is the Six you need for a three-of-a-kind, your net profit doubles from 15 coins (20 coin payoff - 5 coins bet) to 30 coins (40 coin payoff - 10 coins bet).

Should you play Double Down Stud? Its long-term payback is only average compared with other video poker machines' paybacks. Double Down Stud's long-term payback of 97.8% is just slightly better than the 97.3% long-term payback of an 8/5 Jacks or Better machine. You should consider playing Double Down Stud if its payback is better than the paybacks of the other video poker machines available.

You should also consider playing Double Down Stud if you're new to playing video poker. The expert strategy for Double Down Stud is much simpler than the expert strategy for a draw video poker machine. You only have to decide whether or not to double down. You don't have to decide which one of the 32 combinations of cards you can hold is the best. You can get comfortable with the ranking of the poker hands while playing Double Down Stud and then move on to learning the more complicated strategies of the draw video poker games.

Finally, the best reason to consider playing Double Down Stud is if you want to play fewer than five coins at a time. Both Double Down Stud and most draw video poker machines pay a bonus for betting max coins when you hit a royal flush. Royal flushes occur once in every 649,740 hands in Double Down Stud, versus about once in every 40,000 hands in a draw video poker game. Because royals are so much rarer in Double Down Stud, you're much less likely to hit one and miss out on the max coin bonus and regret not having played the extra coins.

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots