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by: John G VP.
A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag: Q. My husband and I were playing those Game King machines with a bunch of different video poker games on them. He started playing 8-5 Bonus Poker, and I noticed that there was also 8-5 ACES Bonus Poker, which gives the same payoffs as Bonus Poker except that four aces in the right order pays 4,000 coins instead of 400.

I asked my husband if we should play ACES instead and take a chance at the
bonus, and he said he thought they fixed it so that the aces came up less
often on that game.

Is that how they work it? Do they give you the big bonus if you get lucky,
but fix it so that you don't get lucky so often?

Sally, via e-mail

A. Given the same strategy, four aces or any other winning hand will occur
with the same frequency, regardless of pay table. Expert players will make
some strategy adjustments that will cause four-ace hands to come up more
often -- not less -- in ACES than in regular Bonus Poker.

The random number generator program that determines the cards that are dealt
is the same program whether we're playing Bonus Poker, ACES, Triple Double
Bonus Poker or any other 52-card variation of five-card draw video poker.
The pay table has nothing to do with which cards we see; it just determines
how much we're paid once we have our final hand.

In ACES Bonus Poker, each ace has a letter displayed on the card -- "A,"
"C," "E" or "S." If a four-ace hand spells out "ACES" in the proper order on
consecutive cards -- the fifth, non-ace card may not appear in the middle of
the hand -- the payoff for a five-coin wager is 4,000 coins instead of the
usual 400 on four Aces.

Drawing the four Aces in the proper order is a fairly rare event -- less
common than even a royal flush. In the 8-5 version, where full houses pay
8-for-1 and flushes pay 5-for-1, Bonus Poker returns 99.2 percent in the
long run with expert play. The ACES bonus raises that theoretical return
only to 99.4 percent.

Strategy for Bonus Poker and ACES Bonus Poker is nearly identical. There are
a few situations in which we might alter our play to chase the bonus. For
example, if we have a full house in which the first three cards are aces
that spell out "ACE," or the last three are aces that spell out "CES," we'll
discard the other pair. If the three aces are in any other order, we keep
the full house instead.

Because we chase the aces more often, they will come up more often.
Similarly, when we adapt our strategy for games such as Super Aces, the
effect is to increase the number of four-ace hands. In Super Aces, which
pays 2,000 coins for a five-coin bet on any four-ace hand, we'll break up
two pair that includes a pair of aces, and just hold the aces, while in many
other games (Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, Jacks or Better), we'll hold
both pair. The effect of the Super Aces strategy adjustment is to increase the number
of four-ace and three-of-a-kind hands, while decreasing the number of full
houses. It's our strategy that makes the difference, not any change in the
way cards are dealt.

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