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Best of John Grochowski

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An Odd Variation of Bonus Poker at Green Valley

21 March 2002

One of my favorite parts of any visit to Las Vegas is checking out the latest and greatest in locals casinos. Slot clubs and meal deals usually are strong, and the gambling has to be better to attract locals who know just what they want.

What they want mostly is video poker, and plenty of it. The pay tables have to be top of the line to impress someone who has seen the real deal at other locals joints.

Strong video poker is what I expected to see earlier this month when I checked out the Palms and Green Valley Ranch Station. And that's what I found--pay tables that would send any video poker players in other parts of the country into a royal frenzy.

At both casinos, quarter players could choose among full-pay Deuces Wild, a 100.8 percent game with expert play and not available in most of the country; 10-7 Double Bonus Poker, a 100.17 percent game, and 10-6 Double Double Bonus Poker.

That Double Double Bonus game is a real rarity. The version that's usually regarded as full-pay is 9-6 Double Double Bonus, with the numbers meaning the game pays 9-for-1 for full houses and 6-for-1 for flushes. With expert play, that's a 98.9 percent game. The 10-6 version, upping the full-house return to 10-for-1, so far has been seen only in a few Las Vegas locals casinos. It kicks the theoretical return with expert play up to 100 percent.

Few players really attain such lofty returns, and the Palms and Green Valley are both happy to mark the high-paying games with "100 percent payback" signs. The games are an attraction.

The Palms has more of the 100-percent-plus games, and its overall video poker mix is stronger than Green Valley's. If I were to stay at one of the two resorts on a future trip--and I do like to stay at the locals places from time to time--I'd choose the Palms.

But what makes Green Valley Ranch Station interesting is its collection of oddball games. Green Valley, southwest of the Strip near where Interstate 215 splits off I-15, has games with a twist, games that leave even an educated player trying to deduce a strategy as situations pop up.

Usually, I like to run a game through the computer before I play, but I found myself drawn to an odd variation of Bonus Poker with extra pays on three of a kind. As in Bonus Poker, four Aces pays 80-for-1 (or 400 coins for a five-coin wager); four 2s, 3s or 4s pay 40-for-1 and four 5s through Kings pay 25-for-1. Two pair pays only 1-for-1 instead of the 2-for-1 standard on Bonus Poker, and that costs the player about 12 percent of the long-term payback. The game gives a little of that back by paying 6-for-1 instead of the usual 5-for-1 on flushes and 5-for-1 instead of 4-for-1 on straights.

Left at that, this would be a pretty awful game. But three Aces pay 7-for-1 instead of the usual 3-for-1, and paybacks also are enhanced to 5-for-1 on three 2s, 3s and 4s. That leaves a full pay table as follows: royal flush, 250-for-1 (increases to 4,000 coins with five wagered); straight flush, 5-for-1; four Aces, 80-for-1; four 2s through 4s, 40-for-1; four 5s through Kings, 25-for-1; full house, 8-for-1; flush, 6-for-1; straight, 5-for-1; three Aces, 7-for-1; three 2s through 4s, 5-for-1; three 5s through Kings, 3-for-1; two pair, 1-for-1; pair of Jacks or Better, 1-for-1.

In addition, three of a kind on the initial deal, before the draw, pays a bonus of one coin for each coin wagered on three 5s through Kings, three coins on three 2s through 4s and six coins on three Aces. Bet five coins, and three Aces on the deal brings at least 65 coins--30 for the 6-for-1 bonus on the deal and 35 on the 7-for-1 payback on the draw. Even if you don't draw the fourth Ace or fill in a full house, that's a return that'll keep you going for a little while.

Is it worth playing? When I got home, I crunched the numbers in two parts. First, I checked out the return on the basic game, knowing that without the bonuses for the dealt triplets, the payback percentage would be pretty bad. So it is. It checks in at 94.7 percent with expert play, and that would make it one of the worst video poker games around. The bonuses upgrade the game considerably. They add 3.9 percent to the overall return, making this a 98.6 percent game.

The main strategy variations are brought about by the 7-for-1 payback on three Aces. We break up two pair to keep a pair of Aces. We even break up a full house that includes three Aces--the Aces alone are worth nearly as much as the full house, so why not take a shot at the fourth Ace? With an Ace and one face card, we hold just the Ace, although we hold two faces instead of an Ace.

Would I play it again? Not in Las Vegas, where it's surrounded by all those 100-percent games, but maybe as a single-line quarter game in a market with lesser video poker options. Was it worth the $20 I lost? As a one-shot deal, sure. I got the entertainment value of figuring out a new game, and I got this column, too.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski