Putting Bills Into a Machine

Using a W for wild card to indicate a deuce, assume you are dealt W W Q♦ J♦ T♦ on a Triple Play version of Deuces Wild. This is not a tough play. You hold all five cards for a wild royal flush. (Other terms for the same hand are royal flush with deuce and dirty royal.) Usually this pays 100 or 125 coins, depending on the pay schedule, and in the specific version you’re playing it returns 100 coins.

But wait! Technically this could be a straight flush, couldn’t it? After all, the two deuces could represent the 8♦ 9♦, couldn’t they? There are several versions of deuces wild, but assume in the version you’re playing, 5-coin straight flushes return 50 coins.

One of the general principles of video poker is that each hand is valued at its highest payout, so since 100 coins is greater than 50 coins, clearly this is a wild royal flush and not a straight flush.

But wait again! Assume you’re playing Ultimate X Gold when you’re playing this hand. According to the Wizard of Odds website, this game returns 98.3% in the Triple Play or Five Play versions and 98.1% in the Ten Play versions. 

This is too tight for intelligent, disciplined gamblers to sit down and play long sessions, but sometimes it’s a good play. Several hands, namely the flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, five of a kind, wild royal flush, and four deuces, come with multipliers that keep building until they are hit, or reach the maximum value allowed for that pay schedule category. Most start at 1x, but the wild royal flush in this game starts at 2x. The top end of the multipliers varies from 4x to 10x. These multipliers do not go up evenly. Straight flushes, for example, go from 1x to 3x to 5x to 7x to 9x to 10x. 

Other Ultimate X Gold games have similar multipliers that grow when triggered by certain dealt hands. Each pay schedule of each game has its own strategy.

Surely when enough of the multipliers are high enough, this is a game with positive EV. Sometimes very positive EV. There is considerable speculation on the Internet as to when a particular pay schedule is positive. While I do play this game sometimes when I see a combination of multipliers that I believe is too good to pass up, I’m not an expert at this. And that’s not what today’s article is about.

Assume, however, that when we are dealt W W Q♦ J♦ T♦, the wild royal has a multiplier of 2x (worth 200 per line), and the straight flush has a multiplier of 10x per line (worth 500 per line). There may or may not be other multipliers higher than 1x currently active on the game, but they are not part of this discussion. 

Does the rule that W W Q♦ J♦ T♦ is always a wild royal flush and never a straight flush still apply? Doesn’t being forced to accept ‘only’ 200 coins per line seem unfair when an argument could be made that it should be 500 coins per line?

It turns out I received this same basic question twice in a matter of days, only the second was comparing a straight flush (with a 1x multiplier) with a flush (with a 10x multiplier). Both players wanted to know to whom they should complain in order to be paid the higher amount.

The answer is that multipliers do not affect the definition of hands. W W Q♦ J♦ T♦ was determined to be a wild royal flush decades before Ultimate X Gold was invented. Just because a new game has multipliers that occasionally make straight flushes worth more than wild royal flushes doesn’t change the definition of hands.

Both players who contacted me were quite upset at being forced to accept the lesser payout. Too bad. Each combination of five cards has one and only one payout. But, as Patty Loveless sang in a country western song from the mid-1990s, you can feel bad if it will make you feel better.


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