Still, video poker is an online gaming staple. That's because a high frequency of smaller wins and high payback percentages, 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. If you're playing basic Jacks or Better, the 125-credit payoff for five credits wagered isn't going to get the juices flowing. But what if those quads or worth 250 credits? Or 800? Or 1,200? Or 2,000? All for hands that come up much more often than royals. Makes a difference, doesn't it?
Double Bonus Poker, for instance, gives you 250 credits for five wagered on four of a kind, 5s through Kings --- 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.
One favorite game of mine is Super Aces. 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. 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.
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