Overview of Bonus Six

Bonus Six logoThe hybrid table game known as Bonus Six was designed and trademarked in the late 1990s by Tom Perkins and Thomas Sawyer, who worked together as part of the casino game design firm Ten Stix, Inc.

Among the other table games created and marketed by Ten Stix around this time were Ten to Win, Shotgun 21, Push Your Luck, and Hold’em 88.

By 2002 the five-card stud variant Bonus Six, which is also referred to by the names Bonus 6 and Bonus 6 Stud Poker, was approved for play in California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Of these six states, however, the game appears to have caught on most prominently in Colorado, where Bonus Six became a regular offering on the table games menu at casinos found in the regional gambling mecca of Black Hawk.

Bonus Six Game Elements

Bonus Six shares a similar name to an aspect of Three Card Poker known as the 6 Card Bonus, but other than the terminology, these two games have nothing to do with one another.

Bonus Six incorporates elements of classic five-card stud poker and modern table games like Let It Ride. By pitting players against a pay table – rather than one another or the dealer – Bonus Six is premised on the poker construct of forming the best possible five-card hand.

With up to two (and sometimes three) crucial decision points for the player occurring with each hand, Bonus Six adds the element of skill, which can often be lacking in new table game designs. Deciding whether or not to continue with the hand, or fold and fight another day, forms the game’s foundation, and players with a savvy card sense can give themselves an edge.

If you’ve recently discovered Bonus Six being played in your local casino, and you’d like to learn more before buying in, this page is the place for you. Here you’ll find a breakdown of the gameplay structure and rules, followed by a guide to locating Bonus Six tables, along with a handy introduction to the proper strategy needed to play correctly.

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Rules and How to Play

Bonus Six is played using the standard table games format, which means players sit on one side of a semi-circular table, while a dealer runs the game from behind the table.

Bonus Six Basics

The game uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards, and the single deck is reshuffled at the conclusion of each hand.

The objective of Bonus Six is to form the best possible five-card poker hand, according to the traditional poker hand hierarchy. An escalating pay table is used to award payouts to winning hands, and a detailed breakdown of the Bonus Six pay table will be included below.

Steps to Playing Bonus Six

STEP #1 To begin a hand all players must place a mandatory ante bet equal to at least the table minimum. At this point, players may also elect to purchase insurance by paying exactly one-half of their ante bet amount. The insurance policy aspect of Bonus Six will be described in more detail below.
STEP #2 With all ante bets and optional insurance payments in place, the dealer will then distribute two cards face down to each player, along with one community card face up in the middle of the felt. This community card remains in place and can be used by all players to help form the best possible five-card poker hand.
STEP #3 Once the community card has been revealed, each player assesses the relative strength of their own two hole cards in conjunction with the community card. At this point, each player (moving from right to left on the table) is given the choice between betting or folding.

  • By betting, players must place an additional wager equal to their original ante bet in order to continue with the hand.
  • By folding, players opt to forfeit their ante bet, along with any insurance payment previously made.
STEP #4 For players who decide to continue by placing the second bet, the dealer will distribute a third hole card. Once again, the decision between betting or folding will be offered, and the same rules apply: betting requires a third bet equal to the ante, and folding ends the hand immediately for that player and all of their pending bets are claimed by the house.
STEP #5 The remaining players with live hands will then be dealt a fourth hole card to complete their five-card poker hand.

Any players who opted to purchase the insurance policy will now be given an opportunity to purchase a fifth hole card in order to improve their current hand. The cost of this extra hole card is equal to the original ante bet, essentially representing the fourth bet, and players can use any combination of their five hole cards and the community card to form the best possible five-card poker hand.

STEP #6 One aspect of the insurance payment and fifth hole card payment which players should always keep in mind is that these chips are never returned by the house. Even when you produce a winning hand, the insurance payment and extra bet made to purchase a fifth hole card are simply claimed by the house, with subsequent payout odds applying only to the original ante bet and following two bets.
STEP #7 With all hands now completed, players then turn over their cards to reveal their best possible five-card poker hand. The pay table below depicts the most commonly used Bonus Six payout scheme, along with descriptions of each poker hand:

HAND DESCRIPTION PAYOUT
Royal Flush Broadway straight (A-K-Q-J-10) of the same suit 1000 to 1
Straight Flush Five consecutive cards (9-8-7-6-5) of same suit 100 to 1
Four of a Kind Four of the same card (Q-Q-Q-Q-A) 50 to 1
Full House Three of a Kind + One Pair (Q-Q-Q-A-A) 20 to 1
Flush Five cards of the same suit (2h-6h-9h-Kh-Ah) 6 to 1
Straight Five consecutive cards (6-5-4-3-2) 4 to 1
Three of a Kind Three of same card (Q-Q-Q-2-A) 3 to 1
Two Pair Two pairs of the same card (Q-Q-A-A-2) 2 to 1
High Pair (6-Ace) One pair of the same card, 6 through Ace (Q-Q-2-3-A) 1 to 1

By combining four hole cards (or five with the insurance and an extra bet) with the lone community card, players are able to form any of the traditional poker hands listed above.

STEP #8 Once all payouts have been distributed, the dealer will reshuffle the deck and players will place their ante bets to begin a new hand.

Bonus Six Payout Requirements

Paytable iconFor one pair hands, the minimum requirement to qualify for a payout is a pair of 6s or better, similar to the Jacks or Better construction of the popular video poker format.

Payouts begin at even money for making one pair (of 6s or better) and escalate accordingly as the hands progress. Two pair pays out at 2 to 1, three of a kind pays out at 3 to 1, a straight 4 to 1, and a flush 6 to 1. From there, the payouts jump significantly, rising to 20 to 1 for making a full house, 50 to 1 for landing four of a kind, 100 to 1 for a straight flush, and 1,000 to 1 for the mother of all poker hands: the royal flush.

Remember one thing about Bonus Six payouts, though: the payout odds listed above don’t apply to the insurance payment or the last bet needed to purchase a fifth hole card. These chips are simply claimed by the house, and your payouts on winning hands will be based only on the original ante bet and the subsequent two bets.

Bonus Six Example

Deck of Cards iconAs an example of the payout process in action, let’s assume an ante bet of $10 has been placed, and the insurance has been purchased for $5 more. The player then proceeds to make both of the additional bets for $10 each, before purchasing a fifth hole card for another $10. At this point, the player has wagered $45 total ($10 ante + $5 insurance + $10 bet + $10 bet + $10 for fifth hole card = $45).

Let’s assume the community card is the 10 of diamonds, and the player holds the following hole cards: 7d-8s-9c-Jh-2d. With these five hole cards, the player’s best possible five card poker hand is the 7-8-9-10-J straight, good for a 4 to 1 payout.

The house immediately claims the insurance payment ($5) and the fifth hole card payment ($10), leaving $30 in wagers on the table. At 4 to 1 odds, the dealer will pay the player $120 in chips. So all told, the player wagered $45 total to win $120 for a profit margin of $75.

Best Places to Play Bonus Six

Recommended iconIn 1991 the state of Colorado legalized gambling within jurisdictions other than tribal reservations, partly to preserve historical communities like Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek which were on the verge of becoming ghost towns.

Today, Black Hawk has emerged as the undisputed leader among Colorado’s state-authorized casino destinations, and visitors have access to more than a dozen individual properties. The game of Bonus Six (or Bonus 6) has become quite common throughout the town of Black Hawk, so it’s very likely that you’ll find the game at one of the 17 local casinos listed below. For the sake of clarity, however, we’ve bolded the three casino properties in Black Hawk which are known to currently run Bonus Six tables.

  • Ameristar Casino Resort Spa Black Hawk
  • Black Hawk Station
  • Bull Durham Saloon & Casino
  • Bullwhackers Casino
  • Canyon Casino
  • Colorado Central Station Casino
  • Saratoga Casino Black Hawk
  • Gilpin Hotel Casino
  • Golden Gates Casino
  • Golden Gulch Casino
  • Golden Mardi Gras Casino
  • Isle of Capri Black Hawk
  • Lady Luck Casino
  • The Lodge Casino
  • Red Dolly Casino
  • Riviera Black Hawk
  • Sasquatch Casino

Aside from Black Hawk, Colorado, sightings, and reports of Bonus Six games in the other five states where it has been authorized for play have been few and far between. It’s highly likely that Bonus Six simply failed to catch on in the casinos and card rooms of California and Nevada, with dozens of alternative table game options competing for a limited amount of floor space.

When it comes to the online casino industry, Bonus Six hasn’t yet been adapted for play over the internet. This may be due to ownership issues over the game concept, or simply a lack of demand for this particular table game entry by online casino players.

The El Dorado Casino online gambling platform does offer a video poker format known as Bonus Six Poker, but this game plays out like traditional video poker and bears little to no resemblance to the Bonus Six game described on this page.

Strategic Considerations for Bonus Six

Betting Strategy iconWhen it comes to thinking strategically about casino table games, the first place to begin is by assessing the house edge. This percentage represents the theoretical hold expected by the house or the average amount of dollars a casino can expect to win given $100 of hypothetical wagers.

Put another way, for every $100 a player decides to wager on a particular casino game, the house edge percentage indicates the amount of money that player will lose over the infinite long run.

The best game in the house is blackjack, which carries a house edge of just 1.5 percent for players applying no strategy, and an extremely low 0.50 percent when basic strategy guidelines are used. Other bets in the casino which offer favorable house edges include the banker bet in baccarat (1.06 percent), the pass line bet on craps (1.41 percent), and single-zero roulette wheels (2.70 percent).

Bonus Six House Edge

For the game of Bonus Six, the house edge stands at a staggering 10.42 percent – making it a worse wager than so-called “sucker” bets like the $1 bet on the Big Six wheel (11.11 percent), hard rolls in craps (between 9.09 and 11.11 percent), and side bets on most table games.

And that’s assuming players haven’t paid for the insurance policy. When the insurance has been taken, the house edge on Bonus Six jumps to an astounding 23.83 percent, making the game worse than anything on the casino floor other than keno.

With these numbers in mind, the first and most important strategic concern to keep in mind about Bonus Six is to never pay for the insurance policy. Doing so immediately increases the house edge against you by more than double, while also making Bonus Six one of the most disadvantageous games in any casino.

Basic Strategy

Players will always find their way to unfavorable games, though, and after all, the temptation to pursue a big gamble is what the casino gambling industry has been built upon. So with that in mind, if you’re intent on trying your hand at Bonus Six sometime in the future, the following strategic guidelines devised by Michael Shackleford of Wizard of Odds fame should serve you well:

OPTIMAL PLAY FOR BONUS SIX
#1 NEVER purchase the insurance policy.
#2 When holding two hole cards, players should always BET with any of the following hands while folding all other hands:

  • Any pair or any three of a kind
  • Any combination of three suited cards
  • Any combination of three cards which can form a straight, including two high cards*
  • Any three high cards*
#3 When holding three hole cards, players should always BET with any of the following hands while folding all other hands:

  • Any pair, any two pairs, or any three of a kind
  • Any combination of four cards which can form a straight, flush, or straight flush
  • Any three high cards*
*High card is defined as any card ranked 6 or higher

Recommendation for Bonus Six

With a house edge of over 10 percent under optimal conditions, Bonus Six simply isn’t worth investing any serious time or money into. Literally every other game in the house gives you a better chance to win, even the most obscure hybrid table games. Playing any casino game with a house edge this high is a recipe for bankroll disaster, and unless you’re playing with money you can absolutely afford to lose, Bonus Six is a “sucker” game to be avoided at all costs.