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Regal Poker

Is a video poker game by any other name just as sweet? That’s what we have to ask about Regal Poker, which is a creation of Spin Games available at many online casinos. While that name may not be familiar to you, casino veterans will be much more accustomed to this machine being offered as Bonus Poker – one of the more popular versions of this strategic casino classic on the market today.

As implementations of Bonus Poker go, however, Regal is definitely a good one. The interface is easy to use, and all the rules are followed faithfully. Best of all, it utilizes one of the best pay tables around for players, making this a game you can play nearly on even footing with the casino – if you know the right strategies to implement.

The Basics

This machine is a pretty typical video poker game in many ways. Each hand starts with the player making a bet of up to five coins, with various denominations available. The version we tested allowed coins to be played for anywhere from a penny to $5 each, though it is possible that some sites with this game might offer different spreads. If you’d just like to bet the maximum amount at your current denomination, the “bet max” button can be used to quickly set your wager.

This version of the game only offers single-handed play. Once you press the deal button, you will be dealt five cards from a standard 52-card deck. Clicking on any of these cards will mark them as “held.” Players may hold as many or as few of these initial cards as they like.

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Regal Poker

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Once you’ve made your decision on which cards to hold, it’s time to hit the deal button again. Now, all of the cards you did not hold will be discarded and replaced by new cards drawn from the remaining deck. The five cards you have at the end of this process will constitute your final hand.

Your winnings will be determined based on the strength of this hand, and are based on standard poker hand rankings. In order to score a win, you’ll need at least a pair of jacks, making this game very similar to Jacks or Better. In fact, it is almost identical: the only difference is a bonus given out for various kinds of four-of-a-kind hands, which is offset by some lowered payouts for middling hands. The entire pay table is as follows:

  • Royal Flush: 800
  • Straight Flush: 50
  • Four Aces: 80
  • Four-of-a-Kind (Twos, Threes, or Fours): 40
  • Four-of-a-Kind (All Other Ranks): 25
  • Full House: 8
  • Flush: 5
  • Straight: 4
  • Three of a Kind: 3
  • Two Pair: 2
  • Pair of Jacks or Higher: 1

There are two things that are important to know about this payout structure. First, all payments are made “for one.” This means that your initial bet is lost when you make it, and not returned along with your winnings. In other words, a high pair will see you break even, as you’ll earn a credit back that will cover the one you put into the machine.

The other note concerns royal flushes. The payouts above assume that you have made the maximum bet of five coins. However, if you bet fewer than this, the payout will be reduced to only 250 credits for each coin played. This raises the house edge, making it better to play for five coins at a denomination you can afford than for fewer, more expensive coins.

Finding a Worthy Strategy

One of the most rewarding aspects to video poker is the fact that strategy plays a big part in your results, at least over the long term. Strategy in this game consists of knowing which cards to hold in as many situations as possible. While some situations may seem obvious, much of proper play is counterintuitive, and some marginal situations confound even experienced players.

There are a few ways you can approach this when you play Bonus Poker. The tweaks to the payout structure make truly optimal (or near optimal) strategy more complex than in some other machines, especially when balancing seeking out four-of-a-kind verses a relatively unlikely straight flush. In fact, the ways of ranking some three-card draws is one of the most complicated parts of a true strategy chart for this game.

However, there are some shortcuts you can take to make this game much easier to play without sacrificing much of your expected returns. One of the easiest is to implement a simplified (but still solid) strategy for Jacks or Better. Because the two games are very similar, one strategy can cover both games for all but the most hardcore players of these machines. And while there are a few places where the correct play is not the same in both games, these are usually only marginal mistakes: a Jacks or Better plan should only cost you a couple hundredths of a percent in terms of return to player on Bonus Poker.

With that in mind, we present the following simple strategy for use in this game. It is based on one developed by Michael Shackleford, with a few minor adjustments, and we expect that it should cost you less than 0.1% over the optimal strategy for this game – meaning it will hurt you by less than one credit over every 1,000 hands you play.

In order to use this guide, just start from the top and continue down until you find a set of cards that you have in your hand. Hold those cards, discarding the rest. The list, in its entirety:

  • Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, Full House, or Three-of-a-kind
  • Four-Card Royal Flush Draw
  • Flush or Straight
  • Four-Card Straight Flush Draw
  • Two Pair
  • Pair of Jacks or Higher
  • Three-Card Royal Flush Draw
  • Four-Card Flush Draw
  • Any Pair
  • Open-Ended Four Card Straight Draw
  • Two Suited Cards, Jack or Higher
  • Three-Card Straight Flush Draw
  • Two Cards, Jack or Higher
  • Ten and Face Card of Same Suit
  • Any One Card, Jack or Higher
  • Discard All Cards

Other than that, there’s only one other point we want to touch on. As we mentioned before, it is important to play five coins if at all possible, as the payouts for a royal flush are reduced significantly when you play for a smaller wager. The difference is significant: while optimal strategy for the pay table on this machine is normally 99.17%, this would drop to about 97.78% when considering the reduced prize for royals, making this a much less attractive game.

A Strong Choice for Players

This online game offers the best common pay table for a Bonus Poker machine. This is a very important factor to point out, as 8/5 pay tables (named after the payouts for a full house and a flush) are often the very best offerings in a land-based casino, and are usually among the best ones at online gambling sites as well. That makes this a great implementation that you should be happy to play if you enjoy this particular variant.

There are a couple things we don’t love about this virtual implementation. The interface is a bit bland and simplistic, the buttons can be a touch finicky, and the lack of a multi-hand option will disappoint some players. However, the most important aspect here is the authentic gameplay and the presence of player-friendly rules, both of which are offered here. If you like video poker and are playing at a site that offers this machine, it’s a very solid option that will give you some of the best odds you’ll find on any game.

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