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Ask the Slot Expert: Why do you play Deuces Wild?

2 December 2020

Question: You mention playing Deuces Wild almost exclusively. I, and your readers, would find it very interesting why you chose that particular game. Maybe in a future column you could touch on that.

At the Indian casino here I play Triple Double almost exclusively. Play once a week for six hours. Two Royals in the last month, which is rare, as I know.

Answer: I never played Deuces Wild when I lived in New Jersey and went to Atlantic City. The video poker selection in Atlantic City was pretty bad before I moved to Las Vegas five years ago and it hasn't improved since then.

I almost never played Deuces Wild as a Las Vegas visitor. Despite possibly being in casinos that had full-pay Deuces Wild, I never looked for that paytable (or NSU Deuces) because I had concentrated on 9/6 Jacks, which wasn't difficult to find years ago.

I say that I almost never played Deuces Wild as a tourist because I know that I played at least one time. It was on one of the many trips I made in the summer of 2015 when I was coming out to look at houses and then arranging renovations on the house I bought. My cousin, who moved to Las Vegas a long time ago, was kind enough to drive me around on my trips so I wouldn't have to rent a car. One time when we went to a casino, we were playing nickel video poker side by side.

She jumps from paytable to paytable. She doesn't know any mathematically derived strategies. She plays by hunch, so it's easier for her to switch paytables. I usually stick with Jacks or Better because I know the strategy for 9/6 Jacks and that strategy is close to those of lesser-paying Jacks or Better paytables. I don't like not knowing which combination of cards is the best to hold.

She had settled on Deuces Wild. She said that she prefers playing paytables with wild cards. I decided to give Deuces Wild a try. I remember being dealt a hand with two deuces -- three of a kind -- and being proud of myself for figuring out that there was no reason to hold a card in addition to the deuces because I was going to have at least a three-of-kind after the draw. (There was nothing good to hold in the other three cards.)

So I played Deuces Wild at least once, but it wasn't my goto game.

Deuces Wild wasn't on my radar even after I moved. I was content playing Bonus Poker for a few hours a day a few times a week at Suncoast and earning enough points on Mondays for a movie ticket and a steakhouse voucher (albeit for an entree from a special menu).

My recollection of my path from being an occasional Bonus Poker player to advantage player is fuzzy. I know I started going to other Boyd casinos because you could sometimes play a kiosk game promotion at each casino. In addition, Boyd used to cap the number of points it would multiply on a points multiplier day so I would play the max at Sam's Town, Gold Coast and Suncoast. (By the way, I discovered that casinos really don't like it when you play exactly the max at multiple properties.)

I played 9/6 Jacks at Sam's Town, even though it has some positive expectation paytables. The machines with the positive expectation paytables max out at quarters and they're all set to deal very s-l-o-w-l-y (they even have signs on them saying that they can't be sped up), so those machines weren't as attractive as 9/6 Jacks on a multiplier day to me. Besides, I didn't know the strategies for the positive paytables.

I always try to park in the same area at a casino. That way I don't have to search for my car in the parking lot. My usual area was full on one visit to Sam's Town, so I had to park a few aisles over. I neglected to note the new location, so I couldn't find my car when I went to where I thought I had parked. I had to use the trunk button on my key fob to open my trunk to I could find my car.

At some point, I did the math and figured out that NSU Deuces was a breakeven game with the points Boyd awarded at the time and it had a slightly higher long-term profit than 9/6 Jacks on a multiple points day. I originally had no plans to qualify for an Emerald card (the expected loss was too high playing Bonus Poker), but now that I had earned quite a few points playing at breakeven or with a slight advantage, the Emerald card was within reach.

Leap day, 2016. It was a multiple points day in honor of leap day. Emerald was within reach if I maxed out at Sam's Town, Gold Coast and Suncoast. It would take all day. If I didn't achieve Emerald that day, some of my tier points were going to expire and I'd be farther away from Emerald.

I saved Suncoast for last because it was close to home. It was a wise choice because I was really tired. I played 10-play quarter Bonus Poker (the best paytable they had in multi-hand) to earn the few points I needed as quickly as possible. As I was watching my point total slowly increase, I realized why it was taking me so long to earn points.

I would usually adjust the deal speed to slow or medium. The fast speed made me anxious. The slower deal speeds gave me some time to think about the cards as they were dealt. The slower speeds also increased the amount of time it took me to earn points.

I set the machine to the fastest speed and made Emerald before I got so tired that I nodded off.

I've since gotten used to the fast deal speed and always set a machine on fast. One machine I sometimes play even has a turbo-fast speed. The dealt cards are displayed all at once -- Bam! -- and the drawn cards are displayed all at once -- Bam! -- and your credits are awarded all at once -- Bam!. That ought to be an option on all machines.

Maybe around this time or a little after, I started running into Jean Scott and her husband Brad at Gold Coast for the Young at Heart promotion on Wednesdays. I was still fairly new at NSU. I used to put my strategy card on the machine so I could quickly glance at it if I wasn't sure about a hand. She said that I should put the card away and only take it out when I needed it. I shouldn't advertise the fact that I was trying to be an advantage player.

Jean told me that NSU Deuces had become their game of choice. Full-Pay Deuces Wild machines had become few and far between, and the ones that were still on slot floors were low denomination and the casino had taken other measures to limit the amount of money you could earn from them.

Most of the casinos they frequented had NSU, so that became their goto game. She said that she liked Deuces Wild over Jacks or Better or the various Bonus variations because of its high long-term payback and you could hit four deuces and save a really terrible session, but only a royal could save some bad 9/6 Jacks sessions.

NSU Deuces Wild was offered at almost all of the casinos I visited pre-Covid and it is offered at the two casinos I continue to visit in the Covid era. NSU has a small long-term profit on a multiple points day. Otherwise it's breakeven or close to it. That's why I play it.

Congratulations on your royals. It's always nice when the premium hands come more often than expected.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 

Will we see a Thanksgiving spike in a couple of weeks?

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots