A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I had a night where the straights and flushes just weren’t coming in 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker. I know sometimes they do. A few times ago, I made the flush the first five times I had one-card draws.

This last time got me thinking, though. How bad is it to hold a high card instead of four parts of a flush? You have to win more often, no? How close is that to offsetting the bigger payoffs on flushes?

A. Not close at all. Drawing one card to four parts of a flush brings a much higher average return than drawing four cards to a single Jack or better.

Let’s say your initial hand is 5, 6, 8 and 10 of hearts along with a Jack of clubs. If you hold the four hearts and discard the Jack, you have 47 possible draws. Nine of them bring the fifth heart. Each flush pays 30 coins for a five-coin bet, giving you an average return of 5.74 coins per trial.

What if you hold the Jack and discard the four hearts?

Then there are 178,365 possible draws, with 45,456 bringing a pair of Jacks or better (five coins paid per five wagered); 8,874 bringing two pairs (five coin payoff); 4,102 three of a kinds (15 coins); 668 straights (20); 491 flushes (30); 288 full houses (45); 48 four of a kinds, 5 through Kings (250); three four of a kinds, 2s, 3s or 4s (400) and one four of a kind, Aces (800).

Your average return is 2.21 coins per trial, nowhere near the 5.74 if you hold the four hearts.

You do win more often by holding the lone Jack. All those possibilities bring 59,935 winners in those 178,365 trials. So if you hold the Jack and discard the rest, you win on 33.6 percent of hands. If you hold the hearts and discard the Jack, you win on 9 of 47 trials, 19.1 percent.

So yes, you do win more often by keeping the high card, but you win more money by drawing for the flush.

The same holds true for players who don’t have access to the 9-6 game and play 8-5 Double Double Bonus instead. With the lower flush return, the average return for holding the four hearts drops to 4.79 coins per five wagered, but that’s still more than double the 2.19 for holding the Jack by itself.

Q. I’m an old slot player (emphasis on old!) and I’m always amazed at how fast those video games come and go. I’m happy on my old Double Diamonds that I’ve been playing for I don’t know how many years, but my daughter and I play together and she always wants to play the video. A game that was her favorite last month is nowhere to be found the next.

Why is it that the video games come and go so fast?

A. A big portion of the attraction of video slots is their entertainment factor. All have some kind of bonus event, and many have multiple bonuses on the same machine. The games incorporate animation, video, sound effects – whatever it takes to attract you and keep you playing.

After a while, players have seen all the bonuses and animation multiple times, and the effectiveness of the entertainment in keeping you playing begins to fade.

On three-reel slots, a larger share of the attraction is in wins and losses. Fewer players choose them than video slots, but for those who remain loyal to three-reel games, the win/loss math of the games is an attraction that lasts.

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