Aces and Faces Video 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:

  1. Hold
  2. Discard

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.

  1. You should hold any of the following
    pat hands you’re dealt: royal flush, straight flush, 4 of a kind, or a full
    house.
  2. If 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.
  3. Failing these 2 possibilities, you
    should look for any of these pat hands: a flush, a straight, 3 of a kind, or 2
    pairs.
  4. If none of those apply, draw to a
    straight flush if you have 4 cards to such a hand.
  5. If you have a high pair, hold that.
    (Remember that some of the drawing hands above take priority over a high pair,
    though.)
  6. After this, it’s all about ranking the
    drawing hands. The next best drawing hand is 3 cards to a royal flush.
  7. Then 4 cards to a straight.
  8. Then 3 cards to a straight flush.
  9. 2 cards to a royal flush.
  10. Any 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 online casinos, 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.