Not so Ugly Deuces


            Last week I reviewed some relatively common positive paytables.  Positive meaning paytables with a payback of over 100% meaning the Player should win in the long run.  In that column I spoke of a Deuces Wild paytable that meets this qualification.  There are actually more Deuces Wild paytables over 100% than any other variant of video poker.  No one knows the reason for this for sure, but I can only guess it goes back to the early days of video poker before a complete mathematical analysis was run on the game.  I have always surmised that when these original paytables were created that they developers took their 'best guess' as to how Players would play hands instead of fully recognizing that there is only one proper way to play the hand.            

            There is SOME possibility that they did fully recognize this and simply didn't believe that very many Players would actually use the right strategy.  Thus, to avoid them having their bankrolls depleted so fast that they would stop playing, they set up the paybacks so high so that with the expected human error, it would pay in a range deemed acceptable.  Clearly, they never counted on Lenny Frome bringing the strategy to the masses.  Of course, if this is what the developers thought, one would have to question why some of the earlier versions of jacks or better didn't do the same thing.  Perhaps they perceived that the strategy for Deuces Wild was harder to learn than jacks or better.  I think that most Players who have learned them both would tend to disagree.


            While the average Deuces Wild strategy table appears to be longer than that of jacks or better.  Closer inspection would show that this isn't really the case.  While there may be a variety of ways to present the strategy, I think it is best to present it by the number of Deuces in the pre-Draw hand.  This results in numerous duplicates on our strategy table.  You can have a Royal Flush with 3, 2, 1 or no Deuces, so this appears 4 times.  If you have 4 Deuces, you also have a Royal Flush, but you'd prefer to play it as 4 Deuces which is usually the highest paying hand.  The same thing happens with a Five of a Kind which can occur with Deuces numbering 1 to 3. 


            When you break down the hands by the number of Deuces you find that how to play hands with 2 or more Deuces is fairly obvious.  You either have a pat hand worth playing or you have 4 parts of a very strong hand or you play just the Deuces.  With a single Deuce, it gets a bit more complex, but not much so.  Most of the hands are fairly obvious.  If you have Four of a Kind with a single Deuce, you're keeping it.  We don't even play 4-Card Straights or Flushes in the case of full-pay Deuces Wild.  With a payout of only 2, we're better off keeping the single Deuce and taking our chances.


            When we get down to initial Deal hands with no Deuces is where we begin to see a strategy table that resembles jacks or better.  But there are only 20 entries and the first several are the pat hands, which again are fairly obvious.  Deuces Wild begins paying at Three of a Kind so the concept of High Cards goes out the window.  This greatly reduces the complexity of our strategy table.  All 4-Card Straights are created equal because we have no chance to land a High Pair (or at least not one that provides value).  The same is true for 4-Card Straight Flushes and 3-Card Straight Flushes.  We don't have to juggle a 4-Card Straight with a High Card vs. a 3-Card Inside Straight Flush with 0 High Cards.  The result is a strategy table that is far less complex to master.


            The issue with Deuces Wild is not learning the strategy.  It is dealing with the game itself.  It is far more streaky than jacks or better.  Get your Deuces and you'll do fine.  Deuces go cold on you and you're in trouble.  With just a single Deuce, your expected value is over 1.  Without it, it isn't so pretty.  The non-winner rate is about the same as jacks or better, but you'll find yourself playing your hand as a Razgu far more often.  Players don't tend to like doing this which leads to playing outrageous hands hoping to land something big - despite long odds.  All of this just lowers the realistic payback you're going to get.  Maybe the original developers foresaw all this.  Or maybe they just got lucky.  Either way, these positive paytables are a great opportunity for the Expert Player to take advantage of the lesser play of everyone else.