4-5 Bonus Video Poker

4-5 Bonus Video Poker

The premise of 4-5 Bonus Poker is that you start with 4 cards instead of 5. You still get to discard any of the 4 cards you're dealt, and you get a 5th card on the draw. This has an interesting effect on the payoffs for the game, because it changes the probabilities significantly.

Game King introduced 4-5 Bonus Video Poker to land-based casinos in 2006. While it may never become the most popular video poker game in history, 4-5 Bonus will certainly be one of the most challenging. The odds table should make that clear. You get better payouts than in most video poker games because, frankly, you're less likely to hit those high paying hands.

You can still get a decent low value hand with about the same probabilities as in other video poker games. That's why you'll want to play this game. If you're dealt a high card in the first 4, you know your hand is playable.

4-5 Bonus Video Poker Basics

All video poker games, including 4-5 Bonus, work according to the same general rules. You're playing against the house. Each hand is played from a standard single 52-card deck unless the game specifies otherwise.

You're dealt an initial hand of cards. Your only objective is to end the game with as high value a hand as possible. You don't have to beat anyone else's hand. In effect, the house is betting that you will lose. In most video poker variants the probability that you will be dealt nothing is usually a little over 50%.

You get one opportunity to improve your hand. You select your hold cards (the game may do this for you to preserve obvious wins, but you always have the option to overrule the game's defaults). Then you click on "Draw" and the game replaces your discards (if any).

In 4-5 Bonus video poker, you're always dealt at least one new card on the draw.

Players have evolved basic strategies for winning in video poker. Any variations in game rules call for adjustments in game strategy. Almost every video poker game is compared to Jacks or Better, which is the most basic variant of video poker.

You bet from 1 to 5 coins in video poker. Nearly everyone chooses to bet 5 coins because only the maximum bet is paid the highest prizes for the Royal Flush and Straight Flush. In other words, these two high-paying hands receive extra multiples for 5-coin bets.

The rest of the prizes are calculated by multiplying the lowest prize by the number of coins wagered.

The rules of 4-5 Bonus are much the same as for Jacks or Better.

There are no special wins in 4-5 Bonus video poker.

The game begins with the deal, in which you get four cards.

You choose which cards to hold and then click on "Draw". If you have any discards, those will be replaced, but the game then also deals you a 5th card.

Your outcome is determined by what you are holding in your 5 cards.

The probabilities of being dealt most winning hands in this game are much lower than in Jacks or Better. You're not "burning" a 5th card on the initial deal. In Jacks or Better you have the potential for seeing 10 cards (5 on the deal and 5 on the draw).

But in 4-5 Bonus, you only have the potential for seeing 9 cards (4 on the deal and 5 on the draw).

This enables the game to offer higher payouts than most other video poker games.

How Does 4-5 Bonus Video Poker Affect Playback Percentage?

As noted above, the lack of a 5th card on the deal significantly alters the probabilities in this game. In fact, the probability you end up with nothing is about 63%--dismal when compared to most video poker games.

To compensate for the less likely chance of being dealt a winning hand, the game pays higher prizes. There's also a slightly different breakout on winning hands.

Here's an example:

The basic "single pair" is split into 2 categories:

  • 1A pair of aces
  • 2A pair of jacks, queens, or kings

You get a higher payoff for a pair of aces-2 for 1 instead of even money.

4 of a kind receives similar treatment. There are 3 categories for this hand:

  • 14 aces
  • 24 deuces, 3s, or 4s
  • 34 of any other rank

The payoff for 4 aces is 200 for 1, but it drops to 100 for 1 for deuces, 3s, or 4s. All other 4 of a kind hands pay off at 80 for 1. These various payoffs for differently-ranked 4 of a kind hands are what distinguish Bonus Poker games from other video poker variatons.

Since players are more likely to throw away low cards, you're paid better for hanging on to a pair of deuces.

But you could just get lucky and be dealt a 4 of a kind made up of 3s on the draw. (It's easy to see which is more likely, though.)

In Jacks or Better, most players would go for a straight flush over 4 aces, but in 4-5 Bonus you're paid much better for the four aces.

Bottom Line

Your chances of winning this game are best among the low value hands (pair of jack through king up through full house). If you can pull anything better than a pair of (jack through king) you'll come out ahead on your bet. In the long game conservative play, should keep you alive and (maybe) help you get ahead.

What the Pay Table for 4-5 Bonus Video Poker Looks Like

The following odds were computed by Michael Shackleford based on the pay table from the game. The ranking is based on probability and theoretical return to player, not by prize amount.

Royal flush 800 0.000011 0.008722
Straight flush 100 0.000053 0.005266
4 of a kind aces 200 0.000142 0.028334
4 of a kind 2-4 100 0.000294 0.02938
4 of a kind 5-king 80 0.000942 0.075335
Full house 12 0.005157 0.061884
Flush 10 0.007334 0.07334
Straight 6 0.005621 0.033727
3 of a kind 4 0.054803 0.21921
2 pair 2 0.085274 0.170547
Pair of aces 2 0.061178 0.122356
Pair: jack-king 1 0.148214 0.148214
Nothing 0 0.630979 0
Total - 1 0.976315

The payback percentage is the same thing as the expected return, which is normally converted into a percentage. In this case, the payback percentage for 4-5 Bonus is 97.6%. We recommend sticking with video poker games where you have a 99% payback percentage or better.

But if this is the best video poker game in the casino, or if you just want to try your luck at something different, 4-5 Bonus is still better than almost any slot machine.

Let's talk about the concept of payback percentage, too. That's the percentage of each bet that the casino mathematically expects to pay you back in winnings over the long run. It's based on the probability of getting each hand multiplied by the amount you win if you hit that hand.

In the short run, of course, you won't see this kind of return. The long run doesn't kick in until you've played thousands or even 10,000 hands. It's also an average-if you play 100,000 hands of video poker and average how much you win back by 100,000, you'll get your actual payback percentage.

Slot machines, by the way, are the only game in the casino where you can't calculate the house edge or payback percentage. The house edge is how much the casino expects to keep every time you bet, so the house edge added to the payback percentage always equals 100%.

The math behind the calculations is the same. To calculate the payback percentage for a slot machine, you multiply the probability of getting each result by the payoff for that result.

But on a slot machine, you have no clue about the probability of getting a specific symbol. In 4-5 Bonus, you know the probability of getting a specific symbol-it's 1 in 52. The random number generator for video poker games use a standard deck of cards to determine the probabilities of getting each symbol.

On a slot machine, the probability of getting a specific symbol might be 10%, 8%, 5%, or any other number you can think of.

In fact, most slot machines have a payback percentage of 95% or less. Most video poker games have a payback percentage of 95% or more.

The other major difference between slot machines and video poker games like 4-5 Bonus is the effect of player decisions. The payback percentage we just mentioned assumes you're making the correct decisions every hand. That's why strategy plays a role in video poker. There is no strategy for slot machine games.

4-5 Bonus Video Poker Strategy Tips

There are few expert opinions about this game, but the odds clearly favor the player who doesn't chase the royal flush. It's such a low probability outcome that you'll be better off concentrating on the middle value hands.

Hang on to pairs that you can turn into 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, or a full house. If you're dealt 3 of a kind, you already have a strong hand.

You have a better chance of pulling 4 of a kind or a full house on the draw than you do of pulling a better hand.

You'll rarely draw to an inside straight, where you have the two high and two low cards needed for any kind of straight. If you have nothing in your first four cards then discard everything and hope for a pair or better on the draw.


4-5 Bonus is a different kind of video poker game from what most players expect. What makes the game fun and interesting is the incentive to play a different strategy than you're used to. You'll have to go deeper into your stake than you expect, but when you get those high value hands, the payoffs are better. And the expanded win list should appeal to some players, too.

We recommend you try this game just for the sake of variety. It underscores just how much variability goes into designing video poker games. The tradeoff for the disadvantage in starting with 4 cards may not be good enough for everyone. Still, if you like to push the edge and try new things this game is worthy of some coin if you can find it on the floor.

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