Why Don’t Straight Flushes Pay More?
Straight flushes, which consist of five consecutive cards in the same suit, are tough to get. In Jacks or Better (also called Draw Poker), straight flushes happen every 9,000 hands or so and are paid 250 coins. Compare that to 4-of-a-kinds, which happen every 430 hands or so and are paid 125 coins. In that game, straight flushes are paid twice as much, but are 22 times as hard to get. It doesn’t seem fair.
People who end up with a straight flush and “only” receive 250 coins often feel they should receive more. Okay. Let’s hypothesize a “Straight Flush Jacks” game that pays 750 for a straight flush and reduces the pay for 4-of-a-kind to 100. This game returns very close to the same amount as the earlier mix, but the return on straight flushes is more in line with how difficult it is to earn.
Would this be a better game?
I don’t know. It would certainly be different and would require a different strategy. On a hand such as 5♥ 6♥ 7♥ 7♣ K♦, the correct play would be 567 rather than the usual 77. On a hand such as Q♠ J♥ T♥ 5♣ 3♠, the correct play is JT rather than the normal QJ. And from K♦ Q♦ T♦ K♣ 5♣, now you hold the 3-card royal (which becomes a K-high straight flush as often as it becomes a royal) in preference to the pair of kings. In fact, appropriate play would increase the frequency of straight flushes from 1-in-9,000 hands to 1-in-7,000.
Would I like to see such a game appear on casino floors?
As a player, I’m going after the game with the highest return. If a game with a higher return for the straight flush and lower return for a 4-of-a-kind ends up paying more, then I’ll learn it and play it. If the net return on this game is lower than that for existing games, I’ll avoid it. As a writer, I like new games because they give me something to analyze and discuss. The more I can write about new things without repeating myself, the longer I can be successful at this gig. Even if I end up rejecting a game, it’s worth a column or two explaining why.
Would casinos be interested in putting such a game on their floors?
Maybe. A casino is looking for games that are popular enough so that players play them and difficult enough so that the games are profitable for the casinos. If this game were included as part of a multi-game platform (such as IGT’s “Game King) so the casino could add the game quickly and inexpensively, I’m sure many slot directors would take a chance on it. If it had to be a standalone game, fewer slot directors would take a chance because it costs several hundred dollars to make each switch and unless they were convinced the game would be more lucrative, why go through that expense? Even online casinos have to absorb expenses to add new games.
Of course, when players ask for the straight flush to pay more, they aren’t really talking about something else being reduced. They want an extra 500 coins for the straight flush with everything else remaining as it was before. Dream on! Anyone who seriously believes this will happen must be convinced that it’s Christmas every day!
So why spend an entire column discussing a game that will never happen?
There are two main reasons that are obvious to advanced players but not-so-obvious to beginning players:
1. Every change in the pay schedule changes correct strategy. Players who seriously want to win enter the schedule changes into a computer program to discover whether the game returns enough and, if it does, how to play it.
2. It’s not that hard to figure out what a casino will do when you look at it appropriately. Casinos are not charities, nor are they awful places trying to gouge people. Casinos attempt to offer games that will be popular with the players and profitable for themselves. If they can do this, they’ll be successful. If they can’t, they won’t. I find it easier for me to thrive within a casino environment when I understand what motivates the other side.
Also read part 2 of this article: “Who Would Have Better Results?”
Bob Dancer is the premier video poker writer and teacher in the world. He has created a number of how-to-win products available at bobdancer.com. He co-hosts a weekly radio show called Gambling with an Edge, which is also archived on his website. (The show is also available on iTunes.)