When I play video poker, I usually search for no-frills games with the best pay table.
I do love multi-hand games with bonus multipliers, though, so I'm eager to try Super Times Pay Super Stacks, one of the latest games to come out of International Game Technology's partnership with Action Gaming.
Games with multipliers usually have lower base pay tables than their no-frills cousins. Full-pay games that also have the extras are rare treats, and when I find one I know how my gaming day is going to be spent.
More often, when the multiplier urge hits and I want to see if fate will bring a big hand and a big multiplier together despite a lower pay table, I'll scale back to nickel denominations and see what happens.
Most players inclined to play for multipliers have tried the original Super Times Pay. A sixth coin per hand is required to activate a feature that brings multipliers at random times. Payoffs on winning hands can be multiplied from two to 10 times.
The new wrinkle on Super Times Pay Super Stacks is that you not only can win multipliers, you can get extra hands, too.
Super Stacks is available in Triple Play, Five Play and Ten Play versions. You get a starting hand, decide which cards to hold, and then your hand and the remaining deck are cloned so you get three, five or 10 different draws.
Activating the feature requires an extra bet of five coins per hand. On Triple Play without the bonus feature, the maximum bet is 15 coins. With Super Stacks, you're betting 30. Similarly, on Five Play you'd bet 50 instead of 25 coins and on Ten Play 100 instead of 50.
There's a powerful incentive to make the extra wager. At random times with an average of once per 11 hands, you will receive stacks of extra hands with a multiplier.
The average multiplier is 4.06, with a maximum of 10. Sometimes winnings will be multiplied by two, sometimes by 10 and sometimes numbers in between, but the average is about four.
The average number of extra hands depends on the number of hands at the start. If you're playing Super Stacks Triple Play, you'll average six extra hands with a maximum of nine; on Five Play that grows to a 10-hand average with a 16-hand max; and on Ten Play the extra-hand average is 20 with a max of 30.
With that many hands and with a multiplier, the potential is there for enormous wins. The tradeoff is that losing hands cost twice as much money as usual, and the extra bet turns some winners into overall losers. In Double Double Bonus Triple Play, for example, a straight plus two losing hands brings 20 coins in return -- a winner if you're betting 15 coins but a loser if you're betting 30.
At wizardofodds.com, Michael Shackelford has calculated payback percentages for games on the Super Stacks format. If you can find 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, the average return without the feature is 98.98 percent, but with Super Stacks it grows to 99.79 percent.
Top-line pay tables often aren't available in multiplier games, but even lower-paying games are helped by Super Stacks. If you play 7-5 Bonus Poker, it's usually a 98.01-percent return game, but that rises to 98.82 percent with Super Stacks.