John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I was interested in you column on adjustments in moving away from full-pay Deuces Wild strategy. It did leave me wondering about the term “full-pay.” There are so many versions of every game. Who decides what full-pay is? Does a full-pay game have to pay 100 percent?

A. The term “full-pay” to describe video poker pay tables was coined by the late Lenny Frome, the first video poker guru to bring accurate, playable strategies to the masses. Lenny was a friend, colleague and mentor to me when I was first writing about gaming, and he coined many terms used by players, such as “Illinois Deuces” and “Colorado Deuces.”

Lenny used “full-pay” to describe the highest generally available pay table for a video poker game. Paybacks did not have to be 100 percent to be regarded as full-pay. He used full-pay to describe 9-6 Jacks or Better, paying 99.5 percent with expert play, and 8-5 Bonus Poker, paying 99.2 percent.

Sometimes higher-paying versions of a game would be introduced in limited markets, but the “full-pay” designation stayed with the original.

In the mid-1990s, the Stratosphere in Las Vegas introduced 10-6 and 9-7 Jacks or Better, as well as versions of Double Bonus Poker and Bonus Poker with pay tables enhanced beyond full-pay. Anthony Curtis’ Las Vegas Advisor introduced the term “super full-pay” to refer to such limited distribution games, while 9-6 Jacks or Better, 8-5 Bonus Poker and 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker continued to be known as the full-pay games.

None of the terms such as “full pay,” “short pay,” “super full pay,” “not so ugly Deuces” bor many others originated with game manufacturers or casinos. They originated with writers and players as short-hand to point each other to the better paying games.

Nowadays, I rarely use the term “full-pay” except in Deuces Wild. There are so many different pay tables for each game, and full-pay games are so rarely seen in most jurisdictions, that I find it more useful to identify the games by full house, flush and sometimes straight paybacks: 9-6, 9-5, 8-5 and 7-5 Jacks or Better, 10-7-5, 9-7-5, 9-6-5 and 9-6-4 Double Bonus Poker, and so on.

Q. I know this is an illogical extreme, but pretend I’m playing blackjack and I have a hand with seven Aces. That’s still a soft 17, right? Are there any dealer up cards where I should just stand? I can’t double down, since I have seven cards.

A. You should hit against any dealer up card. As with other soft 17s, you can’t bust with a one-card hit, and in building your seven-Ace soft 17, you haven’t taken any of the 2s, 3s or 4s that would make a strong hand. They’re still available.

Also, 17 is not a hand that can win unless the dealer busts. It can push a dealer 17, but lose to 18-21.

If the dealer has a 6 up in a six-deck game, you’ll average about 13 cents in winnings per dollar wagered if you stand, but you are on the plus side by only about four-tenths of a cent per dollar if you hit. If the dealer has a 10 up, your expectation is negative. Your average loss will be about 20 cents per dollar wagered if you hit, but more than double that, at 42 cents per dollar, if you stand.

All up and down the line, against any dealer up card, your expectation is better if you hit.

Of course, a basic strategy player would never find himself in this situation. He’d have split the Aces in the first place.

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