John Grochowski

John Grochowski

All major video poker games are based on five-card draw poker, to the point it’s a novelty or rarity to find one that’s not.

That sometimes puzzles players such as Marc, a Pennsylvania reader who wrote to ask why stud poker wasn’t better represented.

“Texas Hold’em is the most popular game in poker rooms,” he wrote. “The other big games like seven-card stud, Omaha and Razz, also are stud games. I don’t think I’ve ever seen draw in a card room.

“So why are all the video poker games draw?”

The basic reason is that draw poker has been popular with video poker players and Texas Hold’em video games have not. The multiple betting rounds in poker-room staples slow video poker games down too much for casino tastes. And much of the strategy and intrigue of live poker games lies in gauging your opponents and their hands, which has not translated well to video formats.

That said, there have been several attempts to break video poker out of its standard format.

Double Down Stud: A variation on five-card stud, Double Down Stud had two waves of popularity: one in the mid-1990s, then a comeback in the early 2000s. It wasn’t widespread, but was a staple with a long bank at the Stardust in Las Vegas until the casino closed in 2006.

After making a five-coin bet, you’d see four cards face up and one face down. Then you had the option to fold or make a second five-coin bet to see the fifth card. With the original pay table, which paid 10 coins for your 10-coin total bet on pairs of 6s through 10s and reached 10,000 coins for a royal, Double Down Stud paid 97.8 percent with expert play.

Pick’em Poker: Instead of the usual draw in which you can discard any of your initial five cards, Pick’em calls on you to choose between two stacks of cards.

On the deal, you see four cards. Two of them are the start to your hand. The other two are the top cards of three-card stacks. You choose a stack to complete a hand. To use and easy choice as an example, if you have a pair of Aces and you see an Ace atop one stack and a 10 atop the other, you’re going to choose the Ace stack.

Pick’em has been around for a couple of decades and remains in play today. With its original full pay table, which starts at 10 for a five-coin bet for a pair of 9s or better and increases to 6,000 for a royal, Pick’em returns 99.95 percent with expert play. It had a run as the most popular video poker game in Atlantic City, though its numbers – and usually its pay tables – are reduced today.

Five-Deck Frenzy: Standard video poker games use a single deck of cards. Even multiple-hand games such as Triple Play and Five Play deal the initial hand from a single-deck, then clone the remaining 47 cards into separate draw decks for each hand.

Five-Deck Frenzy shuffled together five virtual decks for a five-card draw game. That made possible bonus payoffs on hands such as four or five of a kind of the same suit. Five Aces of spades was worth a progressive jackpot that started at $200,000 on a 25-cent game.

The odds on winning the progressive were 14,896,150-1, and the payback percentage of 98.3 percent with expert play had to factor that jackpot into the equation. Sessions without a bonus hand were too frequent and too low-paying for most players.

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