Aces and Faces Video Poker

Bonus Poker

When you're looking at what makes one video poker variation different from another, you're usually looking at one of two things-wild cards or pay tables.

In the case of Aces and Faces video poker, there are no wild cards. This makes the game most closely related to Jacks or Better. Aces and Faces is even more closely related to Bonus Poker, as the game offers larger payoffs for a 4 of a kind.

The big difference between Aces and Faces and Bonus Poker is the bonus amounts for the rankings of the 4 of a kind. In Bonus Poker, you get bigger payoffs for a 4 of a kind made up of aces, 2s, 3s, or 4s.

But in Aces and Faces, you get bigger payouts for aces, kings, queens, or jacks.

Like most video poker variations, Aces and Faces can best be described as a combination of solitaire, slot machines, and poker.

This page covers the common pay tables for the game and how that affects the overall payback percentage and house edge for the game. We also cover strategy advice for the game and offer some observations about where to find Aces and Faces at online casinos or in traditional casinos.

Aces and Faces isn't one of the more common video poker variations, at least not in land-based casinos, but a game with a good pay table offers a payback percentage of 99.25%. This makes it ever-so-slightly better than Bonus Poker and not quite as good as Jacks or Better.

Aces and Faces Video Poker Basics

This section is aimed largely at video poker novices, as it explains the most basic aspects of how to play both video poker in general and Aces and Faces in particular. We also provide some observations about the major differences between Aces and Faces and other VP variations.

The first thing to understand about Aces and Faces, as it is with all video poker games, is that even though the game LOOKS like a slot machine, it is NOT a slot machine.

Two factors mark the difference, and one of those is a direct result of the other.

The first factor is the probability behind the gameplay. Video poker games are based on the same probabilities you'd find in a card game. Your odds of being dealt an ace are 1 in 13, of being dealt a spade, 1 in 4, and of being dealt the ace of spades (specifically), 1 in 52.

With a slot machine, on the other hand, you're still dealing with symbols that line up on a screen. But slot machine symbols are arbitrary, and you have no way of knowing the probability of getting any individual symbol or combination of symbols.

Both games list the payouts for various combinations of symbols, but without knowing the probability of getting a symbol, you can't compare it to the payout to get an expected return.

As a matter of fact, all the games in the casino except for the slots make both pieces of information. Table games like blackjack, craps, and roulette all deal with known probabilities and payouts.

Here's an Example:

A roulette wheel has 38 numbers on it, so the odds of hitting a specific number are 37 to 1. We know that bet pays off at 35 to 1, so we know that the difference between the odds of winning and the payout odds is the house edge.

Video poker-including Aces and Faces-deals with known probabilities, albeit complicated ones. But you can calculate the probability of getting a certain hand and compare that with the payoff to come up with an overall payback percentage for the game.

The second thing to know is that video poker is a game of skill. Your decisions matter. You're dealt 5 cards, but you get to choose to keep or replace each of those cards. There's only one mathematically optimal decision to make of the 32 different ways to play each hand.

In fact, that's an opportunity to transition into the actual playing of the game.

To start, you insert money into the machine to buy credits. In this respect, video poker is no different from slots, although you have a smaller variety of denomination of video poker games available. You can find penny slots, nickel slots, and even dime slots, but video poker starts with a quarter.

Video poker is most commonly available for quarters, dollars, $5, and $25 denominations. You can find $100 denomination video poker in the high limit slots room at many traditional casinos. The limits generally run lower at online casinos.

Here's an Example:

You sit down at a 25 cent Aces and Faces game. You insert $100, and the screen updates to indicate that you have 400 credits. If it were a $5 machine, you'd only have 20 credits for your $100.

You follow this with a decision about how many coins you want to risk per hand. You can bet any amount from one to five coins per hand. In most video poker games, the payoff is higher on a royal flush if you bet 5 coins. This is called "BET MAX" on the machine.

On most video poker games, a royal flush only pays off at 200 or 250 for 1 if you bet 1, 2, 3, or 4 coins. But in Aces and Faces, the payoff is 500 for 1 if you bet 1 or 2 coins. The payoff goes up if you bet 3 coins, to 2000 total, or 667 for 1. The payoff is 750 for 1 if you bet 4 coins, and you get the full 800 for 1 payoff if you bet 5 coins.

This is an unusual quirk of a pay table that we haven't seen on any other pay table besides Aces and Faces.

But the strategy doesn't change. You always bet max coin, because you always want to get the most for your money when and if you hit the royal flush.

The probability of getting a royal flush doesn't change based on how many coins you bet. It's still about 1 in 40,000. The only thing that changes is the payoff. To maximize your expected return, you ALWAYS bet 5 coins.

If you must play for lower stakes to place the max bet, you should do so.

We'll go into more detail about the implications of the payback percentage, the expected return, and the house edge have to your bankroll in the next section. That should make it even clearer that you should always play for 5 coins per hand.

Once you've chosen how many coins you're playing for, you hit the "DEAL". The computer deals you a 5 card hand on a video monitor.

You have 2 options for each of those 5 cards:

  • 1Hold
  • 2Discard

You hold the cards by touching the touchscreen or pressing the hold button below each card. Once you've completed making your decisions, you press the "DEAL" button again. The computer discards the cards you didn't hold and deals you new cards to replace them.

The computer then compares your final hand with the pay table and pays you off accordingly.

Since you're deciding which cards to hold and which cards to discard, the idea of strategy becomes apparent. A simple example that might make sense to most people follows:

Suppose you're dealt a royal flush. If you discard any of those cards, you're trading a hand that pays 800 for 1 for a hand that pays something less than that. It's impossible to get a new royal flush.

That's obviously bad strategy. Most strategy decisions in video poker are subtler than this, but it makes for an illustrative example.

Payback Percentage and House Edge in the Context of Aces and Faces Video Poker

Later on this page, we'll provide you with some example pay tables for this game, but first we want to explain what the payback percentage and house edge mean.

When writing or talking about table games, most gambling experts discuss "the house edge". That's a theoretical number that describes the average amount of each bet the casino expects the player to lose in the long run. (And when we say long run, we mean over the course of thousands of bets.)

For example, we say that the house has an edge of 5.26% in roulette. This means that the casino's long term expectation is to win $5.26 every time you wager $100. We know this doesn't apply in the short run, though-there is no possible outcome on a single roulette that will result in a $5.26 loss on a $100 bet.

But when you average the cumulative losses of tens of thousands of hands by the total amount wagered, you get close to the statistical average. The more repetitions of the activity you make, the closer the actual results start to get to the statistical expectation.

When writing or talking about gambling machines (slots, video blackjack, video poker, etc.), we talk instead of "payback percentage". That's a similar concept, but it refers to the amount of money YOU expect to win for every $100 you wager. If a slot machine has a 95% payback percentage, you're expected to win $95 every time you bet $100-on average, over time.

If you figured out that a game's payback percentage added to its house edge always equals 100%, you've reached some kind of gambling enlightenment.

But there are further implications. You can use the house edge and the payback percentage to come up with a predicted amount lost based on how much you've gambled. You can even convert it into an hourly loss rate. (If you're an advantage gambler, it might be an hourly win rate.)

The formula for this is straightforward, too. You multiply the average size of your bet by the number of bets, then multiply that product by the house edge.

If you're an average video poker player betting $1.25 per hand, you're placing 600 bets in action per hour. (That seems like a lot, but if you've played VP before, you know it moves fast.) That's $750 in hourly action.

If you're playing Aces and Faces with a 99.25% payback percentage, the house edge is 0.75%. Your expected hourly loss is only $5.63.

But that's a long-term expectation. You won't see that in an hour of play or even 10 hours of play. That's a number you can expect to start seeing after several hundred, maybe several thousands of hours played.

Keep in mind that the payback percentage accounts for the big payoffs on the unusual hands. A royal flush contributes to that number, but you'll only see that hand, on average, once every 40,000 hands. That's over 67 hours of play.

You might bump into that royal flush earlier than that, too. If so, you'll be running ahead of the mathematical expectation for a potentially long time.

The Aces and Faces Video Poker Pay Tables and How They Create the Payback Percentage

The math for calculating the house edge on some games is simple. The example we like to use is roulette. For a single number bet in roulette, you'll win (on average) 1 out of 38 bets. Those bets pay off at 35 to 1. You can calculate your net loss easily.

Suppose you bet $100 on every spin. You'd lose 37 times, for a gross loss of $3700. You'd win $3500 once, making your net loss on the 38 spins $200. Average that $200 over 38 spins, and you get $5.26, which is 5.26% of $100.

That's an average, but you're able to determine that average because you know how much the bet pays off and how likely it is to win.

The math for Aces and Faces video poker is more complicated, because you have several potential winning hands on every bet. The probability of getting each hand multiplied by the payoff for that hand gives you an expected return for that hand. Add all those expected returns together, and you get the overall payback percentage for the game.

  • 54.5% of the time, you'll win nothing. That's an expected value of 0%. (Any percentage multiplied by 0 results in 0.)
  • 21.5% of the time, you'll get a pair of jacks. That pays off at even money, so your expected value is 21.5% for that hand.
  • 13% of the time, you get 2 pairs. That pays off at 2 for 1, which makes the expected value for that hand 26%.

Mathematicians and computer programmers have calculated the expected value of every hand to come up with an overall payback percentage for every pay table.

Here's the full pay Aces and Faces video poker pay table for your review:

Hand/Coins 1 Coin 2 Coins 3 Coins 4 Coins 5 Coins
Royal flush 500 1000 2000 3000 4000
Straight flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a kind (aces) 80 160 240 320 400
4 of a kind (faces) 40 80 120 160 200
4 of a kind (any other) 25 50 75 100 125
Full house 8 16 24 32 40
Flush 5 10 15 20 25
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a kind 3 6 9 12 15
2 pairs 2 4 6 8 10
High pair 1 2 3 4 5

This is the "full pay" Aces and Faces pay table. That means it's the best possible payback percentage you'll commonly find for the game. The payback percentage for a game with this pay table is 99.25%. We like to play video poker games with a potential payback percentage of 99% or higher, especially when we can get special rebate percentages by using our slots club card.

If you're familiar with the pay table for Bonus Poker, you'll notice that the payoffs for 4 of a kind are similar, but instead of getting bigger payoffs for a 4 of a kind made up of 2s, 3s, or 4s, you get bigger payoffs for 4 of a kinds made up of jacks, queens, or kings. (We refer to those on the chart as "faces", as they're the only cards in the deck with faces on them.)

As Aces and Faces video poker is closely related to Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker, it uses similar shorthand terms for its pay table variants. This full pay version of an Aces and Faces game is also called an 8/5 Aces and Faces game. That's because the payoff for the full house and the flush are 8 and 5 respectively.

The easiest way for a video poker manufacturer to adjust the payback percentage for this game is to adjust the payoffs for those 2 hands down.

For example, a 7/5 Aces and Faces game only pays off at 7 for 1 when you get a full house. This reduces the potential payback percentage to 98.1%.

This might not seem like much of a change, but let's look at what that does to your hourly expected loss rate.

Here's an Example:

If you're playing for a dollar per hand, you're putting $600 per hour into action. With a 99.25% payback percentage, your predicted loss per hour is $4.50.

But if you're playing with the inferior pay table, you're expected to lose 1.9% of that action. That amounts to a loss of $11.40, which is more than twice as much.

There's even a 6/5 version of Aces and Faces where the payback percentage drops to 97%.

Aces and Faces Video Poker Strategy

Keep in mind that the payback percentages quoted above also assume that you're making the optimal play on each hand. Most people who rely on simple common sense or who are familiar with traditional poker are making less than optimal decisions most of the time. In that case, they're probably losing between 2% and 5% from the projected payback percentages quoted.

But video poker strategy, like blackjack strategy, can be handled in a chart form. The big difference, of course, is that there's no dealer hand to compete with in video poker. This arguably makes video poker strategy easier to learn.

Below, we offer an Aces and Faces basic strategy chart. It's written as a hierarchy of hands. You should start at the top, and when you get down to a hand that matches what you have, hold those cards and draw to anything not listed.

  • 1You should hold any of the following pat hands you're dealt: royal flush, straight flush, 4 of a kind, or a full house.
  • 2If you have a 4 card draw to a royal flush, you should draw to that, even if it means breaking up an otherwise pat hand.
  • 3Failing these 2 possibilities, you should look for any of these pat hands: a flush, a straight, 3 of a kind, or 2 pairs.
  • 4If none of those apply, draw to a straight flush if you have 4 cards to such a hand.
  • 5If you have a high pair, hold that. (Remember that some of the drawing hands above take priority over a high pair, though.)
  • 6After this, it's all about ranking the drawing hands. The next best drawing hand is 3 cards to a royal flush.
  • 7Then 4 cards to a straight.
  • 8Then 3 cards to a straight flush.
  • 92 cards to a royal flush.
  • 10Any single high card.

We should point out, too, that is a much-simplified video poker strategy chart. But it should get you within 1% of the optimal payback percentage for the game. If you're looking for a strategy chart that's close to perfect, we recommend using Michael Shackleford's video poker strategy generator.

Aces and Faces isn't rare, but it's not as common as many other video poker games, so you're less likely to find a good strategy card in the hotel gift shop. We recommend printing this chart or memorizing it.

If you're good at Bonus Poker, you'll probably also do well at Aces and Faces. The strategies aren't much different.

Where to Find Casinos Offering Aces and Faces (Online or Off)

You can find Aces and Faces at many casinos online, but it's not as common in traditional casinos. If you're really interested in finding the game in a land-based casino, go for the larger properties in Las Vegas. They're more likely to carry the game.

If you're an American looking for an online version of Aces and Faces, look for casinos powered by Rival. Realtime Gaming casinos don't carry Aces and Faces.

Conclusion

Aces and Faces is just a variant of Bonus Poker which rewards differently-ranked 4 of a kind hands-specifically those with aces and face cards. The strategies are similar, as are the payback percentages, but there are some distinct differences.

Both games are just variations of Jacks or Better, which should be considered a prerequisite for learning Bonus Poker or Aces and Faces.

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