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Figuring out video poker machines

12 December 2013

At most video poker games, it’s a simple task to tell the higher-paying games from the real coin gobblers. The big payers have higher paybacks on full houses and flushes. Barring some rare switch elsewhere on the pay table, a 9-6 Jacks or Better game, where full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1, pays more than an 8-5 game. An 8-5 Bonus Poker game pays more than 7-5 a 7-5 game.

Deuces Wild is different. Not only are there changes up and down the pay table, the rule of thumb that a change lower on the pay table has a greater impact than one higher on the pay table doesn’t always apply. In the version players call full-pay Deuces, four-of-a-kinds pay 5-for-1, full houses 3-for-1 and flushes 2-for-1. A more common game nicknamed “Illinois” or “Airport” Deuces, quad payoffs are reduced to 4-for-1, but full houses raised to 4-for-1 and flushes 3-for-1.

Note that Illinois/Airport Deuces has higher payoffs on two hands lower on the pay table, full houses and flushes, and lower payoffs only on four-of-a-kinds. Yet full-pay Deuces has the higher return, 100.8 percent with expert play vs. 98.9 on Illinois/Airport. That’s because four of a kind occurs a lot more often than full houses or flushes in Deuces Wild, even though it’s a higher-ranking hand.

Full-pay Deuces has become a rare game in modern casinos. Unless you visit joints that cater to Las Vegas locals, you might play a lifetime of video poker without ever encountering games that pay 5-for-1 on four-of-a-kind.

With that in mind, most players would be better off to focus on “4-4” versions of Deuces Wild -- games that pay 4-for-1 both on four-of-a-kinds and full houses. If you see a game that pays 4-for-1 on quads but only 3-for-1 on full houses, you’ve found a low-payer. I’d walk away and look for something better.

But even within 4-4 games, there are high-payers and low-payers. Here’s a quick guide on what to look for within the 4-4 Deuces category.

Not So Ugly Deuces Wild: In most markets, this is the best Deuces game you’ll find. It returns 99.7 percent with expert play, and the full pay table looks like this:

Natural royal flush, 250-for-1 (jumps to 4,000 with five coins wagered); four 2s, 200-for-1; royal with wild cards, 25-for-1; five-of-a-kind, 16-for-1; straight flush 10-for-1; four-of-a-kind, 4-for-1; full house, 4-for-1, flush, 3-for-1, straight, 2-for-1, three-of-a-kind, 1-for-1.

The machine glass or screen doesn’t say, “Not So Ugly.” It just says “Deuces Wild.” The NSU part is a player nickname for quick reference. In the casino, you have to tell Deuces games apart by looking at the pay tables.

Within the NSU subfamily, there are a couple of rare variations. On drops the five-of-a-kind pay to 15-for-1 but raises straight flushes to 11-for-1. That’s very nearly a 100-percent game -- 99.96 percent with expert play. Another leaves most of the pay table alone, but drops wild royals to 20-for-1, leaving a 98.8-percent game. You’re a lot more likely to find the normal NSU pay table than either of those variations.

Illinois, or Airport, Deuces: The pay table differences are on five-of-a-kind and straight flushes. Illinois/Airport takes them down a notch to 15-for-1 on five-of-a-kind and 9-for-1 on straight flushes. That leaves a game with a 98.9 percent return with expert play. Illinois/Airport has been around for more than two decades, longer than NSU, and is common in most regions of the U.S.

20-12 Illinois/Airport: In the last few years, I’ve seen this game in increasing numbers, to my dismay. It reduces the wild royal payoff to 20-for-1 and five-of-a-kind to 12-for-1, leaving game that pays 97.1 percent with expert play. If you’re just looking lower on the pay table, you won’t spot the difference until your first wild royal pays only 100 for a five-coin bet instead of the usual 125. At this level, I walk away.

20-10-8: The same as above, except that it also reduces the straight flush return to 8-for-1, and drops the return with expert play to 94.5 percent. Ugh.

20-10-8, with a 2-for-1 flush: One more pay table drop, from a 3-for-1 payoff on a flush to 2-for-1. You can live with a 2-for-1 flush return if you’re one of those lucky few with access to full-pay Deuces. On a 4-4 game, the reduced flush is just piling on by a casino looking for a quick cash grab. It takes expert play to get 92.1 percent. An expert would walk on past, and a non-expert is better off at the penny slots.

As with any video poker game, there are some terrific variations in this Deuces Wild family, but when the pay tables drop, be prepared to march away in 4-4 time.

Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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