A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I’d always heard roulette was a French game, and that the name means “little wheel” in French. My new brother-in-law insists it’s an English game that the French borrowed and renamed.
At my sister’s wedding, that point was the subject of such a long debate, it was comical. It was with the brother of the groom, not the groom himself, by the way.
A. Roulette is a French game, but is believed to have an English ancestor.
There’s not 100 percent agreement among gaming historians, but it’s widely held that the horizontal gaming wheel was invented circa 1720 for an English game called roly poly. It is known that roly poly was banned by the gaming acts of 1739 and 1740. A version of the game called E-O, or even-odd, surfaced in Bath before that was banned by Parliament in 1745.
Slots on a roly poly wheel were either black or white, and there was a “bar black” and “bar white” space. Betting was essentially the same as red or black on modern roulette wheels, with the “bar” spaces giving the proprietor its edge.
The French picked up on the horizontal gaming wheel and added numbers to the spaces. A modern looking roulette wheel complete with 0 and 00 has been traced to Paris in 1796.
Modern roulette is a French game. But in the interest of family harmony, you could give your brother-in-law partial credit for the English origins.
Q. How can there be royal flushes more often in some video poker games than others? I read there are more royals in Jacks or Better than in Double Bonus Poker, and that Deuces Wild was in the middle somewhere for natural royals.
Do they use different decks with different numbers of high cards for more or fewer royals? That’s not really random, is it?
A. Game makers don’t make the difference on how frequently royals occur. Players do.
The virtual decks are the same. Cards are dealt randomly. But players chase royals more aggressively in some games than others.
Since you use Deuces Wild as an example, let’s start with an easy comparison of how this works.
Dealt suited Ace-King-Queen-Jack and an unsuited 2, Deuces Wild players will keep all five cards. That’s a wild royal flush, usually worth 125 coins for a five-coin bet. It’s a better play to keep the wild royal than to discard the 2 in hopes of drawing a natural royal.
In non-wild card games, the 2 does nothing for your hand, so you discard it. An increase in the frequency of royal flushes as compared to Deuces Wild will grow out of your chasing the royal more often.
In Double Bonus Poker, the best-paying versions pay 7-for-1 on flushes instead of the 6-for-1 or 5-for-1 paid on other games. Because of that, we often save partial flushes that take us out of the running for a royal.
Dealt 8-Queen-Ace of hearts, a 7 of spades and a 3 of diamonds in 9-7-5 Double Bonus, the best play is to hold all three hearts. In 9-6 Jacks or Better, with a lower flush return, we’d hold just the King and Queen, leaving open the long shot at a royal.
Such strategy differences lead to different royal frequencies: one per 48,035 hands in 9-7-5 Double Bonus, one per 43,423 hands in 25-15-9-4-4-3 Deuces Wild (nicknamed Illinois or Airport Deuces), and one per 40,391 hands in 9-6 Jacks or Better.
Cards are dealt randomly, but player strategies lead to each game and each pay table having its own frequency of winning hands.