Aces & Eights Video Poker

The phrase “Aces & Eights” has suddenly sprung up in popular culture over the past couple of decades. We’ve had Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontier, a role-playing game in the style of Dungeons and Dragons – a niche hobby for sure, but is an interesting use of the term, nonetheless.

I’m sure many more of you will be familiar with the 2008 made for television film Aces ‘N’ Eights, which tells the story of the origin of the “Dead Man’s Hand” by combining elements of the Action, Adventure, and Western genres.

The film featured Casper Van Dien of Starship Troopers fame, alongside Bruce Boxleitner – best known for his dual roles as Alan Bradley and Tron in Disney’s smash-hit feature film Tron from 1982. He is also widely recognized for his portrayal of John Sheridan in four seasons of the classic Sci-Fi television series Babylon 5.

Fans of the table game Blackjack will know of Aces & Eights for their strategic importance at the start of a new hand, but all these incidences are likely to be outshone by TNA Wrestling’s Aces & Eights Professional Wrestling Stable, especially if you live in the United States.

If you didn’t catch that 2008 movie, you’ll no doubt be asking – why?! Check out the History section below to learn the story and the legend behind Aces & Eights – it’s quite the tale!

The Video Poker Game

Aces & Eights is one of the earlier variants of Video Poker to be released and is heavily based on the original Jacks or Better. Aces & Eights attempts to liven up the action by adding higher payouts for all combinations of four-of-a-kind, with the highest payouts unsurprisingly being assigned to Four Aces, of Four Eights.

A four-of-a-kind in Sevens also pays out double the prize found in Full-Pay Jacks or Better, and the Straight Flush has been given a boost too. Players will now receive between 250 and 350 coins for this extremely rare hand, depending on the paytable used, rather than the 200 assigned to the combination in Jack or Better.

The Timeline of Video Poker

Considered alone, these changes are small and might not be of much interest to many Video Poker fans. What is interesting, however, is where Aces & Eights fits into the Video Poker timeline.

There are definite similarities between Aces & Eights, Aces & Faces, and Bonus Poker, all three of which were probably developed around the same time by opposing teams. I would guess that Aces & Faces came first, followed by Aces & Eights, with Bonus Poker being created in response.

History

The legend of Aces & Eights was written into history when James Butler Hickok, AKA Wild Bill, was murdered during a poker game in 1876. By strange coincidence, the game was being held in the town of Deadwood,  Dakota.

Hickok was involved in a game against a local drunkard, known as Jack “Crooked Nose” McCall. Wild Bill was a far superior player to McCall and took him for every dime he had. The legend goes that Hickock then gave McCall a little money for food, and wisely advised him not to play again until he could afford to cover his losses. McCall felt that Hickock was taking a condescending tone with him and felt insulted. He left the saloon in a furious rage but took no action against Wild Bill that day.

The next day, however, McCall entered the saloon and saw Hickock once again playing poker. He was livid. On any other day, Hickock would have been sat with his back to a wall – he had become paranoid about being killed, as it wasn’t just McCall that he had cleaned out across the felt – Wild Bill was an excellent player, and defeated almost every challenger who came his way.

Unfortunately for Hickok, on this fateful day in 1876, he had arrived late to the saloon, and none of the players who had already taken his usual seats were willing to swap places with him. McCall took advantage of this rare opportunity and shot Wild Bill in the back of his head with his Colt .45 revolver. As he did so, he allegedly shouted “Damn you! Take that!!”. McCall would later claim that he was avenging his brother’s death, though it is unclear what part – if any – Wild Bill had in the death of McCall’s brother.

The Dead Man’s Hand

If you had just shot a man in the back of the head, what would you do? Modern instinct suggests that running – and quickly – would be the only sensible option, but McCall did not do this. He wasn’t worried at all – there was no law in Deadwood at the time, so he calmly took Hickock‘s place in the game for the remainder of the hand – a strange scenario indeed.

Whether that part is correct or just an embellishment of the legend is debatable, but the story goes that it was McCall who went on to show Wild Bill’s cards – revealing a two pair of black Aces and Eights. The fifth card was not revealed, perhaps because it had no strategic importance at showdown.

The hand eventually became known as the” Dead Man’s Hand” at some stage after this, most commonly when discussing stud poker, which was the most common variant at that time. Texas Hold ’em didn’t truly take stud’s crown until late in the 20th century.

Jack McCall’s Luck Runs Out

Again, if you had murdered a well-known person by shooting them in the back of the head, most of us would keep our mouths firmly shut regarding our actions. Not Jack McCall. Despite the lack of law in Deadwood, a group of miners did decide to try McCall at a show trial held in the McDaniel’s Theatre.

McCall may have been friends with one or more of the judges, or he could have paid a bribe – there must be some reason why a man who walked into a Saloon packed with witnesses and shot another man point-blank in the back of the head was found not guilty after less than two hours of deliberations.

Jack was so fond of bragging about his murder of Wild Bill, that the law did eventually catch up with him. After moving to Wyoming, a US Marshall arrested him, and after a false start with a trial that was deemed illegal as It was held not held in a legal territory, McCall was extradited to the capital of Dakota where he was finally retried, found guilty, and hanged for murder in the spring of 1877.

Hand Ranking, Payouts, and the House Edge

As we briefly mentioned earlier, Aces & Eights is a very standard variation of Video Poker. This means that a huge number of players will already be familiar with the ordering and ranking of hands, especially those who have already played Jacks or Better or have experience playing table poker games such as Omaha, Texas Hold’em, or 7 Card Stud.

Below, you’ll find our “cheat sheet” for Aces & Eights, which you can print out and use as a reference when you play online, or even if you are venturing out to the casino -this article was written in 2021 when many casinos have only just begun to welcome patrons once again for the first time in over a year, and we would absolutely recommend you get yourself down to your local casino and show them some support.

You might think these companies are loaded, but paying rent on commercial property with zero income for such a long time is difficult for even the richest companies to manage – many businesses will never open their doors again, with bars and nightclubs being amongst the worst casualties of the worldwide pandemic. Now is definitely the time to show some support for your favorite pastimes.

If you have zero experience playing video poker, we’d recommend opening up our guide to regular Jacks or Better Video Poker reading the section entitled “Hand Rankings & Payouts” and in particular the sub-section “Quick Notes Regarding our List of Hand Rankings” before continuing with this article.

Why do the Odds Look So Big on the Cheat Sheet?

The odds given on our cheat sheet show your chances of scoring a specific hand after drawing. Let’s take a full house for example, which is shown at 86 to 1. You may well be wondering “How can that be?”, considering this combination only pays out 8 coins for each coin bet.

The reason for this is that the odds shown do not take into account any cards you were dealt originally, or the resulting holds you may have chosen to make. If you already have four cards to a full house, your chances of hitting one when you hit deal are obviously much improved from the 86 to 1 shown on our sheet.

It is difficult to work out the best way to display odds when it comes to Video Poker, because of the way the game works. For example, we could instead tell you that your odds of hitting a full house are 694 to 1 before the initial deal. A bit of quick maths reveals that your chances of hitting a full house improve by a factor of 8 because of the ability to hold and discard any cards which don’t help you.

In truth, odds really aren’t that useful when discussing Video Poker until you have seen your original cards, and chosen your holds and discards. Those who play a lot of table poker will likely be able to calculate the odds of them hitting their hand in their head. Video Poker is often played by people who don’t want to get involved in the action at a real poker table, but a little play in that environment – even online – will undoubtedly help you to judge situations in games such as Aces & Eights much more easily.

The House Edge of Aces & Eights

The paytable we have used below is based on the highest paying variation of Aces & Eights, which returns 99.78% with perfect strategy. The worst variation of this game is most likely to be found in land-based casinos and returns 97.72%. This drop of more than 2% is achieved by lowering the payout for regular four-of-a-kinds from 25 to 20, as well as reducing the payout for a full house from 8 coins to 7.

An especially interesting paytable is the one used by Microgaming and several other online gaming providers, which reduces the payout for regular four-of-a-kinds from 25 to 20, but increases the straight flush out from 50 to 70 and keeps the full house at a full 8 coins.

 

Aces & Eights – Hand Rankings, Odds, and Payouts

99.78% A&E Card One Card Two Card Three Card Four Card Five Odds After Draw Payout Per Coin
Royal
Flush
40,000 to 1 If 5 Coins Played:
800

Otherwise:
250
Straight
Flush
9,345 to 1 50
Four

Aces or Eights

2,688 to 1 80
Four Sevens 5,681 to 1 50
Any Other Four of a Kind 550 to 1 25
Full
House
86 to 1 8
Flush 92 to 1 5
Straight 89 to 1 4
Three

of a Kind

13 to 1 3
Two

Pairs

7 to 1 2
Jacks

or Better

5 to 1 1

Mastering the Strategy of Aces & Eights

Browsing the web for the optimal strategy for Aces & Eights, you will find a lot of bad information, even when browsing sources that are usually reliable for this kind of thing. I’m not quite sure why this is – anyone with basic gambling knowledge should be able to look at the paytable above and recognize that the higher Payouts for the various four-of-a-kind combinations should be factored into your decisions.

Despite this, I found several sites listing the basic Jacks or Better strategy as being suitable for playing Aces & Eights. Following such a strategy will result in a drastically lower RTP, so be sure to follow the strategy below which takes the higher paying combinations offered by Aces & Eights into account!

Making the Right Decision when Playing Aces & Eights

As with many forms of Video Poker, if you are dealt a good hand on the initial draw, it is sometimes best to take the win – you have all the time in the world to go for better combinations. If you find yourself staring at a straight flush or royal flush, this should be obvious! The same applies to a Full House as well – sure, you could discard the pair and hope to hit a four of a kind, but the math says the reward is simply not worth the risk.

You should also hold a dealt straight, even if you are one card away from a straight flush. On the other hand, if you are dealt a flush with four royal cards, discard the odd one and pray you will hit your Royal Flush! The odds are worth it in this situation because of the huge payout of 4000 coins for a Royal Flush.

In all other situations, you should follow our decision list below. Compare your hand to our list, starting at the top – when you reach a line that matches your current hand, hold the cards shown and discard the remainder.

You’ll find a couple of examples at the end of this list which you can look at to ensure you are following the strategy correctly.

Decision List

  1. As mentioned above – Any Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Full House, or Four of a Kind
  2. Four cards to a Royal Flush
  3. Three of a Kind
  4. Two Pairs
  5. Four cards to a Straight Flush
  6. Pair of Jacks or Better
  7. Three cards to a Royal Flush
  8. Pair of Aces or Eights
  9. Four cards to a Flush
  10. Any Ten, Jack, Queen, and King
  11. Pair of Deuces through Sevens, Nines, or Tens
  12. Four cards to an Outside Straight
  13. Three cards to a Straight Flush with two cards of a Jack or higher
  14. Any Jack, Queen, King, and Ace
  15. Two suited cards of a Jack and Higher
  16. Three cards to a Straight Flush
  17. Any Jack, Queen, and King
  18. Two suited cards of a Jack or higher, keeping the lowest two if you have an Ace
  19. Any two suited high cards
  20. Any Ace or Eight
  21. Any Jack, Queen, or King
  22. Garbage – Discard Everything.

A Few Notes on the Aces & Eights Strategy

As we briefly mentioned earlier, anyone familiar with the strategy for playing Jacks or Better will immediately recognize the significant differences in the order of decisions in the above strategy for playing Aces & Eights. If you are unfamiliar with any of the terminology used in the above list, please check out the “A Little Terminology” section of our Jacks or Better article, which explains the meaning of terms such as an “Outside Straight”.

Example Hands

If you regard yourself as being a seasoned pro of the Video Poker genre then the above strategy may be all you need to go out and start playing Aces & Eights at close to its maximum possible RTP. For many players, however, strategy lists can be somewhat daunting, as well as a little confusing.

Your hand will often match more than one of the options on the listing, so remember to start from the top and work your way down. Believe it or not, spending a minute or two studying the strategy list before choosing which cards to hold and discard will be beneficial to your evening bankroll!

Remember, casinos are playing the ultra-long game – they don’t care about short-term results, they don’t care whether you win or lose each individual hand. From the casino’s point of view, they just want every player to play as many hands as possible.

Every hand you play exposes your bankroll to the house edge of the game you are playing. Lucky streaks are both possible and sometimes common, but in the end, the house edge will always come back to bite you – it is a mathematical certainty.

Aces & Eights – Example One

                      

Some players might find the solution to this example obvious, but different variations of Video Poker may well value the cards of this hand differently. Some players may decide to try for a straight here by holding the nine, a ten, the Jack and the Queen. Others may decide to just hold the pair of tens and hope to make three of a kind. In Aces & Eights, both of these decisions would be wrong!

Looking down the list, the first item that matches our hand is at position #6 – Three cards to a Royal Flush. We also match position #10 with our pair of tens, but keeping these has less value than going for the Royal Flush. The other suggestion I mentioned, going for an outside straight, sits at position #11 in the list.

The reason this is a worse bet is that you need to hold four cards to try for a straight, whereas just holding the two tens gives you three chances of hitting one of the cards you need.

Holding the ten, Jack and Queen of Spades is not only going for the Royal Flush, you could also hit a Straight Flush beginning with an eight, a regular Flush in Spades, or a pair or more of Jacks or better with the Jack and the Queen. Holding these three cards gives you lots of outs, as well as a shot at a Royal Flush – trust the strategy!

 

Aces & Eights – Example One

                      

 

Here’s another tricky hand, with our first pointer being to keep a careful eye on the suits! It would be nice if Video Poker developers would be kind enough to add a four-color deck option, as is standard on every online poker site, but alas, I’ve yet to see anything like this in a Video Poker game by any manufacturer at this time.

An easy mistake to make would be to think you have three or four cards to a Royal Flush, but of course, you do not – you have two Clubs, and two Spades. Despite this, the solution is at position #9: Any Ten, Jack, Queen, and King. You may not be able to hit a Flush – Royal or otherwise – but you have the possibility of a straight as well as three chances at Jacks or Better.

Notice how many other options appear further down the list which also matches our cards here, demonstrating just how many possibilities there are to make the wrong decision in this spot. Who would have thought something which looks so obvious could be so complicated?

Aces & Eights: Online vs In-Person

Aces & Eights can be found on the Game King machines that are ubiquitous throughout land-based casinos, so finding the game to play definitely will not be a problem if you wish to play in person. Casino operators are free to select whichever RTP they wish though, so don’t be surprised if that means all you can find are Aces & Eights machines paying 97.49% or 97.72%.

The easiest way to spot games with these inferior paytables is by looking at the payouts for a Full House and a Flush, just as Jacks or Better fans will be looking for machines that pay 9/6 for these two particular combinations. The 97.49% paytable pays a terrible 6/5 for a Full House and a Flush respectively, whereas the 97.72% paytable pays 7/5. There are other differences between the two paytables too, but I would stay well away from any game featuring either one of these paytables.

In the online world, Aces & Eights isn’t a hugely common game. Microgaming was the first developer to create a version of the game, coming up with their own unique paytable with an RTP of 98.72%. This is the table discussed earlier in the section “Hand Ranking, Payouts, and the House Edge”, and has since been copied by Real Time Gaming and NetEnt.

There may be other Aces & Eights paytables available online, but developers such as Microgaming and NetEnt usually offer the best Video Poker paytables – Play’N’Go have a version of Jacks or Better with a house edge of a whopping 5%, so it seems unlikely they would produce a version of Aces & Eights that featured a paytable superior to the one offered by Microgaming.

If you are focused on RTP then you will probably want to stick with other Video Poker variants such as Jacks or Better instead – the Full Pay game is relatively easy to find, and offers an RTP of over 99.5%.

FAQ: Your Aces & Eights Frequently Asked Questions, Answered

Can you give a brief guide to actually getting a game going on the Game King machine? People say Video Poker is less intimidating than sitting down to play real table poker, but these machines seem incredibly complicated to me!

While Video Poker is definitely a simple game to play, every variation of it is difficult to master, and you are right to say that the Game King machines have got much more complicated over the years since they were first introduced onto the market.

Start by inserting your paper cash or ticket into the machine – casino games stopped taking coins a long time ago. You’ll then need to select which game you want to play using the touchscreen monitor – Video Poker, Keno, Slots, and Blackjack all have dedicated tabs along the top of the screen on the latest machines. Older machines have these tabs located along the left-hand side instead.

Often there will be multiple pages of games, and Aces & Eights is unlikely to be found on the first page. You can usually swipe left and right to access the additional pages of games. After this, be sure to pay attention when selecting your bet amount! In Video Poker you always need to play the maximum possible number of coins, which means choosing quarters and playing at $1.25 rather than playing one coin at a dollar. If you wish to bet $5 per hand, set the denomination to $1 – never choose the $5 denomination and set the machine to one coin.

From here on out, you shouldn’t have too many problems – hit deal and you will receive your five cards. Follow our strategy to decide which cards to keep and which to discard, then hit the deal button again to reveal your final hand. The machine will automatically highlight a row of the paytable if you have hit a winning combination, so don’t worry about missing out on any wins by forgetting to hit collect!

What other types of Video Poker games would you suggest playing over Aces & Eights? Your review doesn’t seem too positive about the game.

It’s not that Aces & Eights is a bad game, it’s just not different enough from Jacks or Better to be worth losing 1% of RTP over. Game King machines now feature games such as Double Double Bonus Poker (my personal favorite) as well as Deuces & Joker Poker, Tens or Better, and Bonus Deuces Wild. All of these games tend to have better RTPs in land-based casinos and are much more interesting to boot.

As ever, the online versions of all the Video Poker variants I’ve just named usually have higher RTPs than their land-based counterparts, too. You can even still find Full Pay Deuces Wild online, which has an RTP of over 100%. Another crazy online game is All Aces Video Poker, which offers a return of just a little over 100% as well.

What makes Video Poker different from Table Poker?

The most obvious difference is that Video Poker is played between you and the machine, rather than against several other players. This makes Video Poker a much more relaxing game than, for example, No-Limit Texas Hold’em, where you can end up being faced with a choice of whether to risk your entire bankroll – or not – every other hand.

In Video Poker, all you care about is ending up with at least the lowest possible hand that will pay you some money back – often a pair of Jacks or Better. Video Poker does have several more similarities to Five Card Draw – the game it was originally based on – but this is rarely played nowadays. Other than sharing the same fundamental ranking system, there really aren’t many similarities between modern table poker and Video Poker at all.

I have a friend who claims he is making a living playing Video Poker. Is this even possible? Should I laugh at him and call him a liar, or beg him for his technique?!

It is possible – there are Video Poker games with a payout percentage above 100%. Finding such a game isn’t the problem – especially online – but making the correct decisions all day long to hopefully finish in profit that day is going to be draining, hard work; Not to mention demoralizing on the days you suffer huge losses.

If your friend truly is making a living from Video Poker, he must be rich already – having the bankroll to be able to withstand the variance of the game, and at a high enough bet level to make the profits sufficient to “make a living” requires some serious investment. I suspect he’s probably lying, but why not try to get his technique out of him anyway!

I have a limited bankroll to visit the casino – should I play Video Poker or Slots?

At almost every casino, all of the Video Poker variants will offer higher RTPs than the slot machines. As you’ve learned from reading this article, you need to learn many strategies to play Video Poker effectively – slots, meanwhile, rely entirely on luck. Once you hit spin there is nothing you can do but wait for the result.

The skill element of Video Poker makes it a far more interesting game to play, in addition to offering a higher RTP. Still, some slots can offer insane prizes and be a lot of fun – I’d split your money 70/30 for Video Poker and Slots respectively.

What is Multi-Hand Video Poker? I have seen games offering 4-play, 10-play, 25-play and even 100-play Video Poker. Should I play these games?

In a multi-hand game, you are given five cards as normal but after you have chosen your holds and discards the machine will perform the equivalent of “running it twice” in table poker by giving you multiple sets of new cards.

You’ll need a much bigger bankroll to play this kind of machine, as every additional hand multiplies the cost of each round you play. In a multi-hand game, you are primarily hoping to receive a monster on the initial draw – if you hit a three-of-a-kind on a 100-play machine, for example, you have 100 chances to make your four of a kind. In a game such as Aces & Eights, this could be very profitable indeed.

Multi-hand games are a lot of fun, and while the RTP of the game remains the same regardless of the number of hands played, the variance does not – on a 100-play game you can lose your wager dozens of times in no time at all. I stick to 4-play games at the most, myself – anything more is just too risky and expensive.

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