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Dealing with Deuces Wild pay tables

12 July 2011

It's a basic principle of video poker that changes low on the pay table make a bigger impact than changes on bigger-paying hand. That's because smaller-paying hands come up a LOT more often than the big poppers.

That doesn't mean the smart video poker player ignores the payoffs on big hands and focuses on choosing games with the right small pays. You have to eyeball the entire pay table, but the place to start is making sure you're getting the best available deal low on the pay table.

Deuces Wild is a special case, one where four of a kind is a particularly important hand. Because of the effect of the wild cards, we actually get four of a kind more often in Deuces Wild than we get full houses, flushes or even straights. A change in quad pays makes a huge difference.

But still, we have to pay attention to payoffs on wild royals and fives of a kind, hands where I'm seeing short pays more and more often.

Take the version the late video poker analyst Lenny Frome called "Illinois" Deuces Wild. These days, some players, including those at the VPFree video poker website, call it "Airport" Deuces, in reference to games at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.

With five coins wagered on the standard "Illinois" Deuces game, you'll get 4,000 credits on a natural royal flush, 1,000 on four 2s, 125 on a royal with wild cards, 75 on five of a kind, 45 on a straight flush, 20 on either four of a kind or a full house, 15 on a flush, 10 on a straight and 5 on three of a kind.

Expert play brings a 98.9% return to players. Add in cash back or free play through the player rewards system, the value of comps for meals, rooms or other amenities, bounce-back cash coupons through direct mail and other perks, and it's a game that gives a player who knows the ins and outs something very close to an even break.

Few casinos have the full-pay version of Deuces that'd get you a 25-coin return per five wagered on four of a kind. The game was always rare outside Nevada, and nowadays it's not a common offering even within the Silver State. So in most casinos, we start off looking for a 20-coin pay on four of a kind, and we want to see it matched up with 20 coins on full houses, then down to 15 on flushes. If we see only 15 on full houses, 10 on flushes, or — heaven forbid — both short pays, we have a game to avoid.

But even if we see that 20/20/15 sequence, we have to pay a little attention to the bigger hands, too.

In the last few years, I've spotted increasing numbers of Deuces Wild games in which a wild royal pays 20-for-1 — 100 credits for a five-credit bet — instead of the standard 25-for-1, 125-for-5. And I've seen 12-for-1 pays, or 60 credits for 5, on five of a kind.

The impact isn't as great as it would be with a short pay on four of a kind, full houses or flushes, but there's an impact nonetheless. A game that looks like Illinois Deuces except for 100-for-5 pays on wild royals and 60-for-5 on five of a kind drops the overall return from 98.9% to 97.1 for those who play at expert level.

That's too big a gap for cash back, free play, comps and bounce-back vouchers to bring your total anywhere near break-even. With those short pays, the expert play is to walk away.

FREQUENT QUADS: Four of a kind is the most important hand in Deuces Wild. We get quads more often than full houses, flushes or straights — in the full-pay game, where four of a kind pays 5-for-1, or 25-for-5, it's a quad once per 15.4 hands. Compare that to once per 47.1 for full houses, 60.3 for flushes and 17.7 for straights. Quads account for 32.5% of our total payback. The next biggest shares come from three of a kind (28.4) and straights (11.3).

Those numbers shift with our strategy as pay tables change, but four of a kind remains a big impact hand. The drop to 4-for-1, or 20-for-5, requires all kinds of positives to even begin to make up the difference. A game Frome nicknamed "Colorado" Deuces changed only three hands from the full-pay version. With five coins wagered, payoffs on five of a kind were increased to 80 from 75, straight flushes soared from 45 to 65, and four of a kind dropped a notch from 25 to 20.

The drop in pays on quads overwhelmed the increases on the other hands, and the overall return dropped from 100.8% with expert play on full-pay Deuces to 96.7 on the "Colorado" game. To get to 98.9% on the "Illinois" game, the five of a kind and straight flush pays were rolled back to 75 and 45, with the quad drop to 20 partially offset by increasing full houses from 15 to 20 and flushes from 10 to 15.

Non-Nevada players may never see a full-pay Deuces game with that 25-coin quad return. When I'm in Las Vegas, I seek it out. It's a rare treat.

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