Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus is a casino poker game, meaning that it’s derived from classic player vs player poker, but instead the player plays against the house. Specifically Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus is a derivative of the popular Texas Hold ‘Em game, played with a standard 52 card deck, where both the player and the dealer are dealt 2 hole cards and 5 community cards are dealt, with both parties using their own cards and the 5 community to make their best possible 5 card hand.
Initially the player places an ‘Ante’ wager and the dealer will deal out 2 hole cards to the player and themselves. The player is then allowed to view their hole cards and decide whether to ‘Call’ or ‘Fold’. Folding ends the hand and give up the Ante bet. If the player chooses to Call they have to place a second wager twice the size of their Ante bet then the first 3 community cards are dealt out by the dealer. The player is then offered the choice to ‘Bet’ on the ‘Turn’ bet or ‘Check’. If the player chooses to Check, unlike folding the current bets are not given up and play of the hand is continued with no raise of bet or the player can choose to Bet and place an additional wager equal to the Ante bet. After the player has made this decision the fourth community card is dealt out. Then player is offered the Bet or Check decision for the final time on the ‘River’ bet before the fifth community card is dealt out.
Once the 5 community cards have been dealt out both the player and the dealer select the 5 cards from their own hole cards and the 5 community cards that will give them the strongest hand. Regardless of the situation – even if the player and dealer are tied – the 2 cards that are not used in the player or dealer hands are never considered. The hands are then compared to decide the winner.
Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus ranks hands according to a hierarchy common to poker games which is explained below (strongest to weakest);
* Royal Flush – The Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten cards all of the same suit.
* Straight Flush – five numerically adjacent cards of the same suit (Example – 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of Diamonds). Where both the player and dealer hold a Straight Flush the hand with the highest card is considered the winner.
* 4 of a Kind – four cards of matching rank (Example - 7 of Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades). Where both the player and the dealer hold 4 of a Kind the hand with the higher rank is considered the winner.
* Full House – three cards of the same rank and two cards of a different but matching rank (Example – 8 of Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds and Jack of Spades and Hearts). Where both the player and dealer hold a Full House, the hand with the higher rank 3 of a Kind is considered the winner.
* Flush – five cards of the same suit (Example – Ace, 8, 5, 2 and Queen of Spades). Where both the player and dealer hold a Flush the hand with the highest card is considered the winner. Where the highest card is matched the second highest is consider and so on.
* Straight – five numerically adjacent cards ignoring suit (Example – 7 of Spades, 8 of Spades, 9 of Clubs, 10 of Diamonds and Jack of Diamonds). Where both the player and dealer hold a Straight the hand with the highest card is considered the winner.
* 3 of a Kind – three cards of the same rank with 2 unmatched cards (Example – 9 of Spades, Clubs and Hearts with any two other cards that are not the 9 of Diamonds or a matching pair).
* Two Pairs – two sets of two cards of matching rank with one unmatched card (Example – 4 of Clubs and Hearts, 8 Clubs and Spades and a fifth unmatched card). Where the player and dealer both have two pairs, the hand with the highest pair is considered the winner. If both hands have matching top pair, the higher of the two lower pairs is considered the winner. Where both pairs are matched, the hand with the higher ‘Kicker’ (final unmatched card) is considered the winner.
* Pair - two cards of matching rank with three unmatched card (Example – 6 of Clubs and Hearts and any three other cards that are not the six of Spades or Diamonds and are not of matching rank). Where the player and the dealer hold a matching pair, the hand with the highest Kicker card wins. If the Kicker also matches, the hand is decided by the second Kicker then the third if the second Kickers also match.
* High Card – any five unmatched cards ranked as the highest card (Example – 5 of Spades, 9 of Clubs, 7 of Clubs, 2 of Hearts and Ace of Diamonds would be considered ‘Ace High’).
In the instance where both the dealer and player have hands of matching value by the above table (normally occurring when the 5 Community Cards are the best hand for both the player and the dealer), the hand is considered a push and the player’s bets are returned.
Unlike other poker based casino games, there is no qualification hand for the dealer to play. As long as the player did not Fold, the winner is the party with the stronger hand by the above rules.
If the player loses all bets placed are lost. If the player wins payouts are decided as follows;
* If the player has 3 of a Kind or less the Ante bet is returned to the player while the Call, Turn and River bets are paid out at 1 to 1.
* If the player has a Straight or better all bets, including the Ante bet, are paid out at 1 to 1.
The majority of Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus games also offer a side bet usually referred to simply as the ‘Bonus Bet’. This side bet is optional but if the player chooses to place it the results are determined from the two player hole cards only (other than for the top paying hand which sometimes considers the dealer’s hole cards) and paid out before the Call bet is placed.
The paytable for the bet is as follows;
||RealTime Gaming, Vuetec
|Player and Dealer AA
||1000 to 1
||30 to 1
||30 to 1
||30 to 1
||25 to 1
||25 to 1
|Suited AQ or AJ
||20 to 1
||20 to 1
||15 to 1
||15 to 1
|Pair: KK, QQ, JJ
||10 to 1
||10 to 1
|Unsuited AQ, AJ
||5 to 1
||5 to 1
|Pair: 22 to TT
||3 to 1
||3 to 1
Any hand not included in the above paytable loses the Bonus bet.
The Optimal Strategy for Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus has a very straight forward element to it followed by a remarkably complex element.
The Call/Fold decision is easy – fold the following hands; unsuited 2/3, 2/4, 2/5, 2/6 and 2/7.
After the call fold decision the game becomes a lot more complicated to play in an optimum fashion. There isn’t an easy set of rules that can be applied to the Turn and River bets. As such we’ve provided a calculator that will allow you to enter your hand and will return the best possible play that you can make.
The rules described above are consistent across all online software providers we are aware of barring one. Offline these rules are widely referred to as ‘Las Vegas Rules’. ‘Atlantic City Rules’ change the game by only paying the Ante bet on a Flush or better rather than a Straight or better. If using the strategy calculator above against an Atlantic City Rules game, ensure to set the radial button to Atlantic City Rules.
For the Call/Fold decision, when playing against the Atlantic City Rules, the player should fold unsuited 2/3, 2/4, 2/5, 2/6, 2/7 and 3/4.
Online the only casino software we are aware of running Atlantic City Rules is Vuetec and this is only available on the ‘Extended’ version of their platform. Vuetec run the standard Las Vegas Rule set on their ‘Lite’ platform.
The house edge of Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus using the standard paytable and across the full round of wagering (Ante, Call, Turn and River bet) and assuming that the player plays using the optimal strategy discussed above is 0.53% under Las Vegas Rules and 1.47% under Atlantic City Rules. If the player does not play optimally this figure will rise.
The house edge of the Bonus bet using the standard paytable is 8.54% or 8.90% depending on whether the Player and Dealer AA has the increased payout. As player decisions cannot impact the Bonus bet this figure is constant.
For further information regarding the house edge for both the main game and the Bonus see Beating Bonuses (http://www.beatingbonuses.com/texasholdem.htm).
Below you can find a calculator to allow you to check the fairness of your wins/losses when playing Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus.
*This fairness calculator will assume that you’ve been playing with the optimal strategy detailed above. If you have not then the calculator will NOT return accurate results.
Unlike Blackjack the techniques used to gain an advantage over the game of Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus in the offline environment are not nearly so widely discussed. Gaining information on dealer’s hole cards – be that via edge sorting, steering or hold carding – can produce a player advantage as long as the information is used to alter the player’s Fold/Call strategy. With perfect knowledge of both dealer hole cards the strategy is trivial – Call, Turn and River bet any winning hand and Fold any losing hand – though it may be worth playing some losing hands to avoid unusual/suspicious folding decisions where you hold a strong hand. Even if playing the Bonus bet at the same time, as this bet is resolved before the playing decision is made, this should not impact the player strategy. With imperfect knowledge of two cards or knowledge of only one card the strategy is more complex.
If the player can gain advanced knowledge of one or both of their own cards (before bets are placed) it may be possible to gain a substantial edge over the Bonus bet. While we’re not going to publish numbers here (don’t ask – I don’t have them) it’s highly likely that if the first player card is an Ace the player will have an edge.
The rarity of the game in the offline environment (you’ll find Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus in gambling meccas or bigger casinos, though not the number of table options offered by other games), the specific circumstance required to be able to obtain the required information and the high skill level involved ensure that only the most diligent of professional players are ever likely to come across this information and it should be emphasized that the risks involved in gaining less than perfect information are likely to be substantial. In fact, given the complexity of the Optimal Strategy it’s unlikely that even given the right opportunity a player skilled enough to be able to beat Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus couldn’t find a better game to play.
The best source of information on how best to play with additional information can be found in James Grosjean’s ‘Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting’. The author provides the full and correct Optimal Strategy for Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus – no small feat in itself – and while the author does not directly examine having additional information, he does provide enough information that the more mathematically inclined reader could derive the correct strategy. This book is widely considered the Bible for the professional player and as such is not a worthwhile investment for anyone other than a full time professional Advantage Player (not to mention it requires a professional reference to obtain).
There are several methods of legitimately gaining an advantage playing online Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus games. By and large these involve the use of promotions, bonuses and comp point systems as the games by themselves – assuming the game is functioning in a correct fashion and there are no errors in the paytable – will not provide any additional information about the cards and shuffles after every hand.
It should be noted that online advantage play is not specific to Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus and in recent years the wagering requirements for player’s choosing to play any table game has inflated to the point that Texas Hold ‘Em Bonus is now often a sub-optimal choice for the player. For more information on beating online casinos see BeatingBonuses.com.
James Grosjean ‘Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting’
* All ‘House Edge’ figures in this article are based on the ‘loss per unit wagered’ rather than ‘loss per initial bet’.