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Deuces Wild variations

17 March 2009

Deuces Wild has been with us for more than a quarter century, firmly entrenched as one of the most popular video poker games.

But though it's long been a casino standard, Deuces Wild is not at all a static game. It's continually evolving, with changing pay tables that transform high payers to low payers and back again, and demand changes in strategy if you're going to keep up.

All this is done without ever changing the name of the game. An average player looks at the machine and just sees "Deuces Wild." A player in the know checks the pay table and can tell at a glance whether the machine is a high-paying version, a coin gobbler or something in-between.

One of the latest wrinkles has gotten the nickname Almost Positive Deuces Wild — APDW for short — though the glass still just says "Deuces Wild." With expert play, it returns 99.96% in the long run, making this one of the best games I've ever seen outside Las Vegas.

Recognizing the good ones takes a little bit of knowledge and awareness. One hint: If four of a kind is set at the most common payoff of 4-for-1, check to see if full houses also pay 4-for-1 and flushes 3-for-1. Those don't guarantee a good game, but if payoffs on those hands are lower, you can be sure it's a game to leave alone.

Let's look at a few games and their pay table differences, then next week check out some strategy variations.

Full-pay Deuces Wild (100.76% with expert play): Rare outside Nevada, and becoming less common all the time even in Las Vegas, this is a game I play whenever I get the chance. Even though an expert player expects to win money in the long run, there still will be more losing sessions than winners before the less common hands — four Deuces and natural royal flushes — make up the difference.

The full pay table for a one-coin wager looks like this: Natural royal flush, 250 (jumps to 4,000 for a five-coin bet); four deuces, 200; royal flush with wild cards, 25; five of a kind, 15; straight flush, 9; four of a kind, 5; full house, 3; flush, 2; straight, 2; three of a kind, 1.

That 5-for-1 on four of a kind is important. Four of a kind is a common hand in Deuces Wild, and most versions pay only 4-for-1 on quads.

Almost Positive Deuces Wild (99.96%): This is the newbie among favorable Deuces games. If you play at expert level, you'll get enough back in cash back and comps to make this a positive expectation game. Differences between this and the full-pay pay table are that straight flushes pay 11-for-1 instead of 9; four of a kind pays 4-for-1 instead of 5; full houses pay 4-for-1 instead of 3, and flushes pay 3-for-1 instead of 2.

The high payoff on straight flushes and the increased return on flushes mean that experts adjust strategies to chase those hands more often.

Not So Ugly Deuces Wild (99.7%): Players had gotten into the habit of calling low-paying Deuces games "Ugly Ducks" — "ducks" being slang for "deuces." When this version appeared in the last decade, well, 99.7% is not so ugly. Pay table is the same as APDW except that five of a kind pays 16-for-1 instead of 15 and straight flushes are lowered to 10-for-1 instead of 11.

Illinois Deuces Wild (98.9%): Also called Airport Deuces for its availability at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, this game was nicknamed "Illinois Deuces" by the late video poker guru Lenny Frome. Though it first appeared in Nevada, its appearance excited players at the Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, Ill., where it was the highest-paying game available in the early 1990s.

This is the game on which Almost Positive and Not So Ugly Deuces are based, the first to pay 4-for-1 on four of a kind while increasing full houses to 4-for-1 and flushes to 3-for-1.

Fooler Deuces (97.06%): Here's one to watch out for. Most of the pay table looks like Illinois Deuces, but royal flushes with wild cards drop to 20-for-1 and straight flushes to 12-for-1. Players who look for full houses to pay 4-for-1 and flushes to pay 3 often get sucked into this game, unaware that they're being shorted so much elsewhere on the pay table. This is a game to leave alone.

Colorado Deuces Wild (96.77%): Every time a new gaming market has opened, casinos have used Deuces Wild pay tables that were lower than those common in Nevada. In Colorado, this version was as good as it got when casinos opened in the 1990s. To me, it's a game to avoid with that low return. Compared to the full-pay Deuces pay table, four of a kind drops to 4-for-1, but there is no increase on full houses (3-for-1) and flushes (2-for-1). Instead the increases come on five of a kind (16-for-1) and straight flushes (13-for-1). Those hands aren't common enough to come anywhere near making up for the drop on quad payoffs.

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:

> 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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski