Players find edge with
Deuces Wild

Feb 24, 2004 2:00 AM

Deuces Wild is a game that everyone ought to like, but this writer has a bit of a grudge against the game. Well, not so much against the game itself, because my wife is a wiz at Deuces Wild, but against the feeling of unfulfillment it has created for me.

Several years, ago, it became apparent to me (and my trusty old computer) that the game could be beaten, i.e., expert strategy in recognizing the hands and discarding properly would produce a positive edge for the player. I had proven that, over the long run, the full-pay machines that were featured all over Las Vegas, did pay out more than they took in.

When I broke this "hot news" to an acquaintance who knows just about everyone in the gaming media business, he was excited about it and thought the TV networks would be clamoring for interviews on such an "unbelievable" and controversial story.

Nothing like he envisioned ever happened ”” and very likely never will happen. Despite having others confirm the finding and despite having published the supporting figures and the winning strategy, the world didn’t even miss a beat when the "hot news" was out. Just one massive non-event!

So at the risk of boring my readers, let’s look close at the game of Deuces Wild. The very available full-pay schedule it:

Three-of-a-Kind 1 for 1 Straight Flush 9 for 1
Flush or Straight 2 for 1 Five-of-a-Kind 15 for 1
Full House 3 for 1 Deuce Royal 25 for 1
Four-of-a-Kind 5 for 1* Four Deuces 200 for 1
Royal Flush 800 for 1 (five coins played)

(*This is to caution you that a reduction of even one unit on quads will cost the player a shocking 6 percent, since quads occur about every 16 hands in Deuces Wild.)

Expert strategy is relatively easy to learn, since the fifty playable pre-draw hands can be sub-divided according to the number of deuces in them. With expert strategy, the game gives the player a positive edge of about 0.7 percent. This cannot make a living wage for anyone, but it sure can make it pleasant for those who play heavily.

The game has some drawbacks, which even good players fail to recognize. It is very volatile, with long losing streaks very common, so patience is an important virtue for serious players. This volatility can be a godsend at times, as one player told me a long time ago, back in the days when I thought only Jacks or Better (at 99.6 percent) was the best game in town, I had been watching this young lady play a darn good game of Deuces and I asked her where she had learned how. Secretly, I was hoping she would refer to my writings, but no ”” she said that when you play 50 or 60 bucks a night, you soon learn how to play.

When I asked why she didn’t play Jacks Up, she gave me a very good reason. She liked Deuces because that 200 for 1 on four Deuces came up a lot more frequently than a royal (in Jacks Up) and it often got her home a winner after an otherwise losing session. That’s the best explanation of the need for volatility in any game that anyone has ever put forth, and it came from someone who surely knows whereof she spoke.

As a matter of record, that mini-jackpot came up right after she spoke, giving her $250 and in less than five minutes, her companion got one on the next machine. I’m pretty sure she does not need my books to teach her anything. If Johnny Carson ever featured video poker on his program, she would probably ho-hum the whole show.

Incidentally, in Deuces Wild, that four deuce hand shows up in every 5,000 hands on average, whereas a royal flush pops up in every 40,000 hands in Jacks or Better. It is even more scarce in Deuces Wild because we hold every deuce we get, causing it to show up in about every 46,000 hands.