The agony & ecstasy of 4-to-a-royal

May 2, 2005 2:17 AM

We’ve all seen it, either on the deal or after the draw. It’s called four-to-the-royal, and it plays with our emotions like no other casino game can.

Without a doubt, nothing in video poker is as exciting as seeing four royal cards show up on the deal. Then, however, the mind starts pondering, "Why couldn’t the darn thing just have DEALT the royal instead of making me go through this?"

Could it be that we’re really disappointed because we’ve been given a shot at big jackpot? Does the hand confuse that much?

Yes and no. Yes, because sometimes thousands of dollars could have instantly been ours but for that one last card. And have you ever been dealt four of them on any of the multi-plays, then hit the draw button only to see a collection of high pairs and maybe a flush or two pop out?

And no, because we should ALL be glad to see such a deal. How many times do we get a tantalizing opportunity to get a royal flush anyway?

Of course, when four do show up and we hit the royal on the draw, it seems so easy. After all, we had to have a ton of luck just to get that deal, and then a ton more on the draw.

Nothing personifies this more than a personal playing experience I’ve had recently at the Venetian. They have a Triple-Play bank of progressive royal machines that tops out at $250,000 for the dealt royal. That’s an impressive amount for hitting a dollar royal flush on the deal — which does of course happen. I’ve had four in my career. One even came with a $25,000 bonus.

I know the self-proclaimed "advantage players" around town might look at the pay tables first to determine if the play is a positive one assuming flawless play throughout eternity. That, of course, is the neurotic work of fools who haven’t a clue. Geeks with slide rules are what build those tall, beautiful buildings up and down the Strip.

Yes, folks, it was the casinos that thought of the long-term first, and it is the casinos that have the theoretical long-term advantage over every player that walks through their doors.

But I play a common sense game of video poker, and I don’t worry about what Einstein would have done if he were a robot playing in a controlled environment. The jackpot was there, probably no one had hit it in quite a while, and it was a lot of money for playing dollars.

This was a Saturday late night, and I think there are 12 machines. I was the only one playing at the time. I decided to give it a $600 crack on 7/5 Bonus Poker. It turned out to be one of the craziest video poker rides I’ve experienced”¦ and one of the most exasperating. Before I knew what was happening, I was dealt four aces. Then the struggle began.

In a 25-minute time span, I was dealt four-to-the-royal three times. That rarely happens to me, if ever, when I’m just out playing — let alone on such a high progressive. But what was strange about each of the deals was that each one was a dealt flush, and two of them allowed me to go for the royal or the straight flush — should I opt out of holding the flush. And who wouldn’t? I don’t care about percentages either way. Who wouldn’t?

The first hold got me nothing but a headache. The second yielded a flush. The third gave me a lousy straight and a high pair. A total of $50 for $45 bet. And all I needed was that one crummy card for a quarter million, and three chances at that!

That, my friends, is why this thing isn’t hit on a regular basis. I’ve had four dealt royals since 1990. Is it possible a fifth could have come here? Yes. Is it likely? No. Was it worth the effort? Obviously, because I left the machine with a profit of $1,105. And why do we play video poker ladies and gentleman? Yes, to win money!

Later, the next day over at Green Valley Ranch, I sat next to a local lady who was dealt four-to-the-royal on consecutive hands. She was happy to yap to me when the first one showed up, and I guess she wanted me to see her hit the royal. When she didn’t, several unexpected curse words fired out of her mouth. I tried to go along with her emotion.

But just then another similar hand was dealt. Her volume of vocal excitement went up many decibels, she lit a cigarette for no discernible reason, and she took a sip of beer. I watched as she hit. It’s enough to say here that the resulting straight mocked her enough to shout words I haven’t heard in years.

It was also enough to get me to cash out and go elsewhere. I, however, was fully understandable of her frustration with the little computer in front of her. I couldn’t help wonder how she would have reacted to what I went through the day before. But then again, she may go through disappointment many times a week. I don’t.