A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. A question on your column on Super Double Bonus Poker. You explain that if you have three face cards and another pair, and full houses pay 8-for-1 or less, the average return is a little more than 41 coins if you hold the three faces. Standing pat on full houses pays 40 coins with 8-for-1 payoffs, 35 at 7-for-1 or 30 with 6-for-1.

I can see where the strategy by math would be to break up the full house and go for the 600-coin pay on four of a kind faces. Still, you fail to improve the hand and are stuck with three of a kind a lot more often than not, so it’s hard to pull the trigger.

It’s especially hard if you’re playing multiple hands, like Triple Play, Five Play or Ten Play. If I’m on Ten Play with 8-for-1 payoffs on full houses, then standing pat on a full house brings me a guaranteed 400 coins. Do I really want to risk that for the chance that one of those hands might turn into a 600-coin pay, but I might drop all the way down to 150? I’m putting 250 coins at risk there.

A. Close-call decisions are always up to you and dependent on your bankroll and goals.

There is no way to tell before you see the draw what it will bring. I once drew a fourth Queen on three of my Five Play hands, giving me an 1,830-coin bonanza instead of the 200 I’d have won by standing pat on a full house.

If you’re serious about getting the most out of the video poker games you play and are sufficiently bankrolled, then making a play that gives you a 41-coin average pay instead of 40 is automatic.

But that requires accepting that sometimes, even most of the time, your payoff is going to drop to 15 coins per hand.

If angling for a penny per hand average gain doesn’t do it to you, if the thought of dropping from a guaranteed 40-cent per hand win to a mere 15 makes your stomach queasy, if the state of your day’s gambling bankroll means standing pat will make a big difference, then stand pat.

When the best mathematical play is in conflict with your goals and needs, then you have to make a judgment call.

Q. Do you think you make more bets per hour on new slot machines where you stop betting during bonuses or old slot machines where you pulled handles?

A. Today’s games play much faster than the games of the early 1990s and earlier. Back then, players dropped coins in slots for each play, pulled a handle, and coins would drop into a tray on any winning spin before you played again.

There were several turning points that speeded play. One came when games started collecting winnings on a credit meter instead of dropping them on each win. Once you’d collected credits on the meter, you could push a button to bet credits from the meter instead of dropping coins into a slot for each play. That, too, speeded play.

Once games incorporated bill validators and you could start by sliding paper money in a reader and play with credits from the beginning, it was off to the races.

Even with bonus events accounted for, you can play about three times as many spins per hour on modern video slots than on the three-reel games of the early ’90s. Fastest of all are the handful of three-reel games with no bonus events but with bill validators. They’re lightning-fast compared to their predecessors.

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