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Should the payoffs be higher on royal flushes?

Should the payoffs be higher on royal flushes?

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. A short time ago you wrote about players who picked spots to take down place bets on 6 and 8 in craps. There didn’t seem to be any advantage to it, but whatever floats their boat.

It started me thinking about taking down other bets. I’m only an occasional craps player so I’m probably just overlooking something, but you can take down place bets. You can take down hard ways. You can take down don’t pass and don’t come.

Pass and come, you can’t take down. They have to stay up until you win or lose. Why is the line drawn there?

A. Players have an advantage on the comeout roll on pass and come. On the comeout, you win on any of the six ways to make 7 and either of the two ways to make 11, and lose only on the two was to make 3, one way to make 2 and one way to make 12.

So pass and come bettors start with a roll that gives them eight ways to win and only four ways to lose. The house doesn’t get its edge until the shooter establishes a point.

If pass and come bettors were allowed to take down their bets at any time, then smart players would leave their bets up for the comeout and take them down once a point is established. They’d always be playing with a huge advantage and never have any money at risk when the house had the advantage.

Don’t pass and don’t come work the opposite way. The house has a huge comeout advantage, then the edge shifts to bettors once a point is established. Naturally, the house is happy to let you take your bet down when you have the edge.

Other multi-roll bets — hard ways, place bets, Big 6 and Big 8 and lay bets — have no comeout and no shifting of the edge. The same house edge is in effect on every roll, so you can come and go as you please.

Q.Royal flushes come up about once in 40,000 hands or so in video poker, but the payoff is only 800-for-1, and you only get that with a maximum bet. If you bet less, it’s only 250-for-1.

Shouldn’t the payoffs be a lot higher? Maybe payoffs don’t have to be 40,000-1, but it seems like they should be in the tens of thousands. I’ll bet a lot more people would play with a jackpot like that.

A: If you called the game Royal Mania and paid off ONLY on royal flushes then yes, the payoff would have to be a lot higher.

But that’s not how video poker works. You’re paid on a wide variety of hands, usually starting at a pair of Jacks.

A game such as 9-6 Jacks or Better returns 99.5 percent with expert play, but only about 2 percent of that return comes from royal flushes. The vast majority of your return comes from high pairs, two pairs, three of a kind, straights, flushes, full houses, four of a kind and straight flushes.

To pay more on royals without eliminating the house edge entirely and giving players an advantage would require adjusting the rest of the pay table. A combination of turning winning hands into losers and reducing returns on other hands would dramatically change the game.

Concentrating too much of the return into rare hands would turn video poker into an all-or-nothing game. Few players would sit still for a game made extended play rare, generated so few modest winning sessions and ate their bankrolls so fast so often.

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