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Best of John Grochowski
Super Aces20 May 2003
Royal flushes at video poker are fairly rare events, occurring once every 40,000 hands or so, depending on the game.
That top jackpot--$1,000 for a five-coin bet on a quarter machine or $4,000 on a dollar machine--is neither large enough nor frequent enough to account for video poker's popularity. A high frequency of smaller wins and higher payback percentages than you find on slot machines--along with a skill factor unmatched on the slots--is what keeps players coming back.
Some games have an additional factor--a large secondary jackpot that hits much more often than royal flushes. That was and is missing on the Jacks or Better game that started video poker's rise in the early 1980s. The second highest-paying hand is a straight flush, an uncommon event in itself at about once per 9,148 hands. Even with such scarcity, straight flushes pay only 250 coins for a five-coin bet--$62.50 on a quarter machine. That payoff is neither large enough nor frequent enough to be a factor in bringing players to the games.
It's different on many games that have followed Jacks or Better. In Double Bonus Poker, the payoff on four of a kind, 5s through Kings, equals that 250-coin straight flush payoff, and the quads come up about once per 622 hands, giving the player reasonable hope in any session. It has even larger payoffs on four 2s, 3s or 4s (400 coins, about once per 1,900 hands) and four Aces (800 coins, once per 5,000 hands). Double Double Bonus Poker, one of the most popular games around, kicks it up a notch with a 2,000-coin jackpot--half the royal flush payoff--on four Aces accompanied by a 2, 3 or 4. That comes up about once every 16,000 hands, 2.5 times as often as a royal.
With the rise of multiple-game and multiple-hand machines, we're seeing more and more video poker games with large, attainable secondary jackpots. Super Double Bonus Poker not only pays 800 coins for a five-coin bet on four Aces, it pays 600 on four Kings, Queens or Jacks. Triple Double Bonus Poker pays 4,000 coins--as much as a royal--on four Aces with a 2, 3 or 4, and 2,000 coins on four 2s, 3s or 4s with an Ace, 2, 3 or 4.
One favorite of mine is Super Aces, available on many Triple Play/Five Play and Ten Play machines in the Chicago area. The secondary jackpot here is 2,000 coins on four Aces, with no low-card kicker needed. For a quarter player, that's a $500 payoff on a hand that occurs about once per 4,200 hands--nearly 10 times as often as a royal flush.
The full-pay version returns 99.8 percent with expert play and has the following pay table per coin bet: royal flush, 250 (rises to 4,000 coins for a five-coin bet); straight flush, 250; four Aces, 400; four 2s, 3s or 4s, 80; four 5s through Kings, 50; full house, 8; flush, 5; straight, 4; three of a kind, 3; two pair, 1; pair of Jacks or better, 1.
Casinos often reduce the payback percentage by cutting the payoff on full houses. If full houses pay only 7-for-1, Super Aces returns 98.7 percent with expert play; drop that full house payback to 6-for-1 and the overall return drops to 97.7 percent.
Strategy requires a few adjustments to account for that big payoff on Aces. Let's try a few sample hands in full-pay Super Aces.
Ace of hearts, Ace of clubs, 2 of clubs, 3 of clubs, 4 of clubs: In most video poker games, we'll break up a pair of Aces to hold four parts of a straight flush. That's even true in Double Double Bonus Poker, with its 2,000-coin jackpot on four Aces with a low card. Not so in Super Aces, where any four-Ace hand nets that big payoff. Here, holding the pair of Aces brings an average return of 12.03 coins per five coins wagered, while holding the four-card straight flush brings an expected return of 11.06 coins.
Ace of diamonds, Jack of clubs, 10 of clubs, 7 of clubs, 2 of hearts: There are four viable choices here--the lone Ace, Ace-Jack, the three-card double-inside straight flush, Jack-10-7 and the two-card royal, Jack-10. We'll choose differently according to which game and which pay table we're playing. In Super Aces, the lone Ace is the best choice, with an expected average return of 2.52 coins per five wagered, compared with 2.30 on Jack-10-7.
Ace of clubs, King of diamonds, Queen of hearts, 5 of spades, 2 of spades: With an eye on possible straights, we'll often keep King-Queen or Ace-King-Queen in other video poker games. Super Aces and Double Double Bonus Poker have something in common in that the Aces are valuable enough that with this start, we keep just the Ace. In Super Aces, the expected return on the Aces is 2.45 coins. The next best option in this game is either Ace-King or Ace-Queen, at an expected return of 2.24 coins. Those plays at least give us a shot at a miracle draw for the other three Aces. And the Aces are what this game is all about.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski