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Straight flush or four aces?

24 September 2012

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

QUESTION. Can you explain why the payoff for a straight flush is less than the payoff for four aces, when in poker the straight flush beats the four aces? Regardless of whether the machine is Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, etc, the amount for the straight flush is always the same, even though those machines offer additional payouts with other fours of a kind.

ANSWER. The goal of the game designers is to make a fun game that people will want to come back and play, not necessarily to reflect the true odds of the game. People like the attainable bonus payoff on four aces. It happens often enough that everybody gets it occasionally, and that keeps players coming back.

In Jacks or Better, the game on which most other video poker games are based, the only really big jackpot is the 4,000-coin bonanza for a five-coin bet on royal flushes, which come up only about once per 40,391 hands. Game designers saw a need for a large secondary jackpot to shoot for, something that would leave players feeling happy when they left the game.

Should that jackpot be on the next rarest hand? In Jacks or Better, straight flushes come up about once per 9,148 hands. For an average customer playing about 500 hands an hour, that’s more than 18 hours between straight flushes. Those hands just don’t occur often enough to provide much positive reinforcement.

Instead, game designers turned to four-ace hands, and also ramped up the paybacks on other fours-of-a-kind. In Double Bonus Poker, four aces come up about once per 4,406 hands, and four 2s, 3s or 4s about once per 1,896. The aces pay 800 coins for a five-coin bet, and the 2s, 3s or 4s pay 400. On a quarter machine, that’s $200 on the aces, $100 on the low cards.

Taken together, on the average quads worth at least $100 will come up about once per 1,316 hands, or once per 2.6 hours of play. If you don’t get such a hand in a given session, chances are someone playing near you will. That’s much more of an attraction to keep players coming back than putting the big payoff on a hand that comes up only once per 18 hours.

By the way, payoffs sometimes are raised on straight flushes. I have seen versions of Double Bonus Poker that return 80-for-1, or 400 coins for a five-coin bet, instead of the standard 50-for-1. There aren’t very many of those machines around, however, and the biggest reason casinos don’t use them is that enhanced straight flush pays don’t attract players.

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

> More Books By John Grochowski