A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I don’t understand why 9-6-Jacks or Better is supposed to pay more than 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker. You’re really playing for four of a kind, and those pay so much more on Double Double Bonus. All you can get is 125 coins on Jacks or Better no matter what the four of a kind, and on Double Double Bonus you get at least 250 and can get 2,000.

A. The key is the payoff on two pairs, where Jacks or Better pays 2-for-1 and Double Double Bonus pays only 1-for-1. Bet five credits on JB, and two pairs gets your money back plus five credits in winnings. Bet five credits on DDB, and two pairs just get your money back.

That makes an enormous impact on overall return because two-pair hands are so common. On 9-6 JB, you get two pairs on 12.93 percent of hand and they make up 25.86 percent of your return. You get a greater share of your payback on two pairs than on any other winning hands.

Four of a kind winners come up on only 0.24 percent of JB hands, and make up 5.91 percent of the return.

Switching to 9-6 DDB, two pairs come up on 12.31 percent of hands, slightly less than in JB because optimal drawing strategy is different. They make up 12.31 percent of return — less than half the portion of return you get from two pairs in JB

Four of a kinds come up on 0.24 percent of DDB hands — actually, 0.238 vs. 0.236 in JB. Because quads pay more than in JB, they bring 18.76 percent of your overall return.

Combined, two pairs plus quads bring 31.77 percent of the return in 9-6 Jacks or Better vs. 31.06 percent in 9-6 DDB. DDB’s boost in four of a kind paybacks doesn’t quite make up for what’s lost in lower returns on hands that come as often as two pairs.

Overall, the two games aren’t far apart, with 9-6 JB paying 99.5 percent with expert play vs. 99.0 on 9-6 DDB. Double Double Bonus is more volatile with more of its payback coming from rarer hands, while Jacks or Better tends to extend play with higher returns on more common hands.

Q. My wife thinks I play the slots wrong. We go to the casino together and start out playing machines next to each other, but I’m a lot less patient than she is.

We’ll both put $20 in a penny slot and bet one per line. That seems to be 40 cents most of the time now, but sometimes 30 and sometimes 50. If I lose $10, I’ll move to a different game and try again.

She thinks I’m not giving the machine time to warm up, and if she hits something good after I’ve moved, she’s always sure to tell me about it. Neither of us wins more than the other, and we budget it so we never lose more than $100 between us. She’d just be happier if I stuck it out longer at one game.

A. Neither style of playing is wrong. It’s just that she likes to play one way and you like to play another.

There is no warm-up time on a slot machine. You’re as likely to win — and as likely to lose — early in a session as you are later on. Results are as random as humans can program a computer to be.

I can’t tell you whether your best move is to keep playing next to your wife despite early losses, but I can tell you it makes no difference in the odds of the game.

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