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by: John G VP.
Video poker payoffs have their quirky ups and downs Video poker pay tables are full of little wrinkles that are designed to look like great deals for players. Sometimes they are great deals, sometimes not. The classic example is Deuces Wild, which in the original version paid 5-for-1 on four of a kind, 3-for-1 on full houses and 2-for-1 on flushes.
That full-pay version paid 100.8 percent with expert play, and while few players are experts, casinos soon were looking for a game that didn't give back quite so much.

One solution was a pay table that dropped four of a kind to 4-for-1increased full houses to 4-for-1 and increased flushes to 3-for-1. An average player might think that's a great deal, gaining paybacks on two lower-ranking hands while giving up only one unit on four of a kind. But in Deuces Wild, we get four of a kind more often than full houses and flushes combined, so the effect is to drop the theoretical return to 98.9 percent. What looks like a gain is a loss.

In a roundabout way, all that came to mind not long ago when I found myself looking at a screen offering a number of different video poker games, including  Double Aces and Faces and Double Double Aces and Faces.

Double Aces and Faces is essentially Double Bonus Poker, and Double Double Aces and Faces is the equivalent of Double Double Bonus Poker. The difference comes on four-of-a-kind hands. For a five-coin bet, Double Bonus Poker returns 800 coins on four Aces, 400 on four 2s, 3s or 4s and 250 on four 5s through Kings. In Double Aces and Faces, the 400-coin bonus payoff comes on four Jacks, Queens or Kings, while four 2s, 3s or 4s are reduced to the garden-variety quad level of 250 coins.

Similarly, in Double Double Aces and Faces, it's the four Jacks through Kings that get the 400-coin treatment, and if the four Jacks, Queens or Kings are accompanied by another face card or an Ace, the payoff jumps to 800 coins. Further, if four Aces are joined by a face card, it means a 2,000-coin bonanza. In standard Double Double Bonus Poker, those bonuses kick in with 2s, 3s or 4s instead.

I've had players tell me they'd rather play Double Double Aces and Faces than Double Double Bonus Poker even if they have to settle for a lower payback on full houses or flushes, the payoffs most often adjusted if the house wants to change the payback percentage on a video poker game.

Why? Because the bonus four of a kind occurs more often with face cards than with low cards. We'll hold a single face card because a pair of faces is the lower rung of the pay table -- a pair of Jacks or Better brings our money back, so we'll often draw to a single Jack, Queen or King.

That's a valid point. We draw more bonus quads in the Aces and Faces games than in the regular Bonus Poker variations.

Do the increases in bonus quads make up for the loss of return lower on the pay table on full houses or flushes?

No. Not even close.

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My game choices included  dollar Double Aces and Faces comes with a 9-6 pay table, meaning full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes pay 6-for-1. With expert play, that brings back 97.97 percent of our coins wagered, a small rise from the 97.81 percent on standard 9-6 Double Bonus.

The Double Double Aces and Faces game had a 9-5 pay table, returning 98.37 percent with expert play. On 9-5 Double Double Bonus Poker, with the bonuses on the low cards, the theoretical return is close, at 97.87 percent.

There’s some gain by having the big payoff on the face card quads, but we gain far more if we can find a better pay table on Double Bonus and Double Double Bonus games. On 9-7 Double Bonus, the theoretical return is 99.12 percent, and on 9-6 Double Double Bonus, the theoretical payback is 98.98 percent. We get bigger jumps from increasing full houses and flushes than we do from changing from bonuses on low cards to high cards.

Is it worth looking for Aces and Faces games? Sure. If the rest of the pay table is the same, then we get a little extra by going with A&F. If not, the full house and flush payoffs mean more than where we collect our bonuses.

***Along with checking out Aces and Faces, I looked over  Multi-Hand Blackjack. Designed by Action Gaming the same company that devised Triple Play Poker and other multi-hand video poker games; this gives video blackjack the multiple-hand spin. After the initial hand is dealt, we make decisions that are played out three, five or 10 times depending on whether we choose Triple Play, Five Play or Ten Play options.

Alas, Multi-Hand Blackjack has the old video blackjack problem. Blackjacks pay only even money instead of the 3-2 you'll get at the tables. That adds 2.1 percent to the house edge. There are some compensating rules (six cards under 21 win except against blackjacks; surrender against any card except an Ace; with maximum bet, player blackjacks beat dealer blackjacks). And there
are some other negatives (double down on two-card 10 and 11 only; no double down after splitting pairs; no re-splitting pairs).

The bottom line is that blackjack players are far better off if they look for games that pay the full 3-2 on two-card 21s.

******

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