Q. The straight flush payoffs in video poker really bother me. They are so rare. Shouldn’t you be rewarded for getting something that rare? They pay less than four of a kind in a lot of games.
What would they have to do to make a straight flush pay maybe 1,000 coins instead of 250? Make it pay a quarter of a royal, and more than the 800 on four Aces in Double Bonus or four Aces without the kicker in Double Double Bonus.
A. Whenever I receive questions about four of a kinds paying as much or more than straight flushes, I explain that the goal of the game designer isn’t necessarily to reflect the true odds of the game. It’s to make the game fun and playable to attract players while making a profit for the house.
As a player, I’d rather have big payoffs come on hands that come up more often. In 9-7-5 Double Bonus Poker, for example, you’ll get the 800-coin payoff on four Aces an average of once per 4,567 hands, assuming optimal play, and the 250 on straight flushes once per 8,837 hands.
To me, getting the bigger pay more often is a feature, not a bug.
But to answer your last question, if straight flushes paid 1,000 coins for a five-coin bet instead of 250 and nothing else on the pay table was changed, it would raise the overall return with expert play on 9-7-5 Double Bonus from 99.1 to 101.1 percent; on 9-6 Double Bonus from 99.0 to 101.0; or on 9-6 Jacks or Better from 99.5 to 101.5.
Basically, increasing the straight flush payoff to 1,000 coins adds 2 percent to the overall return.
You could bring the overall return back down by the standard method of tinkering with the full house and flush paybacks. For each unit taken away from one of those hands, the return drops by roughly 1.1 percent.
Alternatively, you could reduce returns on four of a kind. In 9-7-5 Double Bonus, you could take the straight flush pay up to 1,000 coins and get the overall return back down to 99.2 percent by reducing the four-Ace payoff to 600 coins and the four 2, 3 or 4 pay to 300.
But you’d be left with a more volatile game, one with more of its returns dependent on rarer hands. It’s something that could be tried, but my feeling is that players would choose to stick with the games that gave bigger pays on hands that occur more often.
Q. My father-in-law and I shoot craps together, and he was telling me about a game where you never lost on the comeout, that the craps numbers were point numbers instead. Do you know anything about that?
A. The game is called Crapless Craps, or sometimes Never Ever Craps. On the comeout, 7 is a winner as in regular craps, but 2, 3, 11 and 12 are potential point numbers.
None of them are particularly good point numbers. If 2 or 12 is established as the point, the shooter will make it a winner only once per seven trials; 3 or 11 become winners only once per four trials.
The payoffs on pass or come remain even money, so those weak points drive the house edge up from 1.41 percent on regular craps to 5.38 on the crapless variety.
Crapless Craps originated at Vegas Word, on the site that is now Stratosphere in the Las Vegas. It later spread to Grand casinos in Minnesota and Mississippi, but I know of any casino that currently offers it.