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This past week, I went out to my local casino to play my free play dollars. I didn’t have much time on this particular day to play, so I was pretty much limited to playing the $15 of free play and nothing more.

For those of you in a similar situation, you know that some days you walk out of there with $8 or $9 and $20 on others. On this particular day, I left with about $14. I was surprised when I cashed out because I felt that I had been doing well. I was playing Deuces Wild and the Deuces were showing up frequently enough to avoid any of those ugly cold streaks.

But as I reflected on my session, I also realize that I did not hit any Five of a Kinds, Straight Flushes or Wild Royals. Obviously, four deuces and a Natural Royal were out of the question. This is the nature of some of these video poker versions. On a regular full-pay Jacks or better machine, paying 99.5%, the Royal Flush adds about 2% to the payback. The Four of a Kinds adds about 6% to the payback. So, if you are playing a short session and don’t hit either of these hands, your real expected value is in the neighborhood of 91.5%

You might do better and you might do worse, but the odds of winning, even in a short session, are pretty low without hitting one of those hands. When we move to a game like Deuces Wild with even more high paying hands, this becomes magnified. Without a Royal, Four Deuces, Wild Royal and Five of a Kind, the payback is pretty bad. Roughly speaking, we are talking about a game with a payback of 85% 

So, when you consider that I wagered $15 and won back $14, I played at a 93.3% clip. This is significantly better than one would expect without any of those bigger hands. f I had continued to play, one of the two likely things would have occurred — either all the little hands that I was getting at a rapid pace would have dried up or I would have hit one of the bigger hands and pushed the payback closer to the theoretical payback of the game.

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If you play video poker, I have no doubt you have already seen this ‘phenomenon’ countless times. You are playing at a machine that is seemingly cold as ice. Even the little hands are not showing up much and then suddenly you get a Five of a Kind or a Wild Royal and you are close to even or maybe up a little. The truth is that the machine is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. That is the nature of a game like Deuces Wild. If you stick to Jacks or better, you will see the same thing, but on a somewhat smaller scale.

Knowing what to expect is a key piece of information for any video poker player. It is what makes us realize that everything is happening as it should and if you want it to keep happening, stick to the program and utilize proper strategy.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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