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Best of John Grochowski

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Two-to-one payouts on video poker and blackjack

31 March 2013

QUESTION: I recently found a strange variation on video poker. It was a quarter 7/5 Double Double Bonus Poker game, except with an eight-coin maximum bet instead of the usual five. At the top of the pay table, there was some serious weirdness. Royal flushes paid 250-for-1 and were a straight multiplier. Even with eight coins bet it paid only 2,000 instead of the 4,000 for a five-coin bet on most video poker games.

Four aces with a low card kicker paid 2,000, just like on regular games, but it was the same 2,000 at eight coins instead of at five coins. And I don’t know what they were doing with straight flushes. With a five-coin bet, it paid the 250 you’d expect, but then it took giant leaps to 600 if you bet six, 1,000 for seven and 1,500 for eight. The rest of the pays were normal.

Can you explain any of that? Is this a good game? How many coins should you bet?


ANSWER: You don’t say where you were playing, but I can hazard a guess that it was in a jurisdiction that limits jackpot size. One such jurisdiction is Illinois bars and restaurants, where there is a $500 maximum payout -- 2,000 coins on a quarter game.

Such a jackpot restriction would be the reason you saw 2,000-coin royals and an aces-plus-kicker jackpot that didn’t increase with increased wagers. The disproportionate boosts in the straight flush returns are meant to give you an incentive to bet the max despite the jackpot limits.

Is it a good game? Well, it’s about as good as any other 7/5 Double Double Bonus game, provided you make some strategy adjustments to be more aggressive in chasing straight flushes. With expert play, 7/5 Double Double Bonus returns 95.7 percent on the standard casino version. On the version you found, the return is 94.5 percent if you wager up to five coins. With a maximum eight-coin bet, the return rises to 96.2 percent, slightly more than the casino version.

That’s still not a game I’d seek out. The 9/6 version of Double Double Bonus, where full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1, returns 99.0 percent and isn’t difficult to find in casinos. With an 8/5 pay table, Double Double Bonus returns 96.8 percent, and most casinos have it. It’s better to save your quarters for the casino versions than to play your oddity.


QUESTION: I play in a casino that had a Two-for-Tuesday special. There were drink and dinner specials and double points on the rewards card. The big thing was double pays on IRS jackpots of $1,200 or more. Multi-hand video poker games like Triple Play were excluded.

I asked the marketing guy why there were no table specials, and he said they'd think about it for the future. I said they could pay 2-1 on blackjacks, and he laughed and said EVERYONE knows not to do THAT.

How much more costly is it for them to pay 2-1 blackjacks than to pay double IRS jackpots? The best video poker game that would bring double jackpots on the royal is $1 9/6 Jacks or Better.

ANSWER: No doubt many table games managers who have heard tales of woe from casinos that have made the 2-1 blackjack offer. In the 1990s, the Alton Belle near St. Louis offered 2-1 blackjack pays and found its seats filled with max-betting pros who had flocked to the casino after word was put out in an online community.

Such promotions can work at limited bet sizes, such as 2-1 payoffs on wagers up to $10 or $25. At that level, it’s a bonus for loyal locals and less of an opportunity for profit big-bankrolled travelers.

Paying 2-1 on blackjacks is about a 2.3 percent swing in the edge toward the players. An ordinary six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17 while players are allowed to double on any first two cards, including after splits, may split pairs up to three times for a total of four hands, and has no other exotic rules, has a house edge of 0.6 percent against a basic strategy player when blackjacks pay 3-2. With 2-1 blackjack pays, that becomes a 1.7 percent PLAYER edge.

The 9/6 Jacks or Better game you say is the best video poker play in the casino in question returns 99.54 percent with expert play. That’s the same as a 0.46 percent house edge. With an 8,000-coin royal, 9/6 Jacks or Better becomes a 101.86 percent game with expert play, a 1.86 percent player edge.

On a percentage basis, there’s not that much difference between the enhanced video poker and blackjack games. However, 2-1 payoffs on blackjacks in the past have led to greatly increased wagers, while the five-coin max bet prevents that from happening in video poker. The house loses a lot more money offering a 1.7 percent edge to blackjack players betting $500 or $1,000 than to those betting $5 or $10, or to video poker players betting $5 a pop.
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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski