Comparing Two Different Games at Dotty’s – Part One of Two

Today I’m going to discuss a play that is of limited interest to most of my readers. It includes, however, a “how did I figure it out” discussion that could be useful to many of you.

Long-time readers of mine know I sometimes play at Dotty’s. Dotty’s has numerous (more than 100) locations in Nevada which are mostly 15-machine locations. It does have a few full-blown casinos with several hundred machines each, and at least one intermediate-sized location (at Sunset and Green Valley Parkway) with about 50 machines in it.

Unusual factors that are important to playing successfully at Dotty’s, in addition to the video poker skills you need at other places, is understanding their slot club, having a large bankroll, and being able and willing to play big enough to generate numerous W-2Gs. The reason you need to generate W-2Gs is that they receive a bonus. Every week, 10% of the W-2Gs issued in the previous seven days receive a 10% bonus. That is, if you’ve hit a $4,000 royal flush, you have a 10% chance of receiving a $400 cash bonus.

How much does this add? In the game I’m looking at today, it adds almost 0.25%. When I’m playing there, I play approximately $200,000 per week (all in one day that week) in order to generate mailers. So, this promotion is worth about $50 per week. Added to their other promotions, this makes a game that is slightly positive into one that is slightly more positive.

I’ve played a number of games there over the years. When I started, I played NSU Deuces Wild. I played $125 a hand in order to activate 50-for-1 straight flushes. This worked fine until I hit four deuces (worth $25,000) or a royal flush (worth $100,000). This had the effect of screwing up my mailers.

I’m not sure of their exact formula, but they appear to base their mailers on your score over the previous 120 days. If I hadn’t hit a big jackpot recently (which would mean I was losing $5,000 a week or so), my weekly mailers would be something like $247, $291, $376, and $439. The numbers were always strange amounts, and they would get larger as the month went on. When I hit a $25,000 jackpot, my mailers would decrease to $7, $11, $19, and $27. The following month they would be $1, $1, $1, and $2. 

When I hit a big jackpot, my strategy then includes staying away from Dotty’s for four months, other than to pick up mailers if they are big enough. At that point, the 120-day rolling average would be reset to zero and I could start earning mailers again. After a number of $25,000 and $100,000 jackpots, Dotty’s removed NSU.

Subsequently I played 9/5 Super Double Bonus at $50 per hand (to activate W-2Gs for the quads in the range of 5s-Ts). When that game disappeared, I played 9/6 Bonus Poker Deluxe for $30 per hand (which was enough to activate all quads into $1,200 jackpots). Enough royals on these games over the years caused their elimination as well. (I tend to think of Dotty’s changes as being all about my jackpots. I do know I’m on their radar. But how much my jackpots were the actual impetus for these changes, I just don’t know.)

The highest-returning base game is now 9/6 Jacks or Better. This requires a $48 bet or more to activate quads into $1,200 or higher jackpots. Dotty’s has machines where you can bet up to 50 coins, for denominations between five cents and five dollars per coin, and get full odds on the royal betting five or more coins. There aren’t many 9/6 Jacks or Better machines, but I can play them at $1, $2, or $5 denominations. 

After my last $40,000 royal flush in early June, while I was waiting for my 120-day hiatus to finish, I re-examined all of the games at several Dotty’s. While I was pretty sure that the 99.54% 9/6 Jacks or Better was the highest returning game, perhaps another game would start out slightly less valuable than 9/6 Jacks or Better but generate more W-2G bonuses. The best candidate for this was 9/4/4 Bonus Deuces Wild. This is a 99.45% game, but generates W-2Gs much more frequently than 9/6 Jacks or Better does.

Wild Royals pay 25-for-1, and will generate a W-2G if you bet $48 or more per hand. Four sixes through kings pay 20-for-1, and to create a W-2G with those, you need to bet $60 or more. Straight flushes pay 9-for-1, and you need to bet $134 or more per hand to create a $1,200 or higher jackpot. Since I’d be playing 50-coin machines at the $1, $2, or $5 denomination, the maximum bet on a $2 machine is $100. On a $5 game, however, I could bet 27 coins for a $135 total bet. 

Using WinPoker, this is the way I calculated earning a 10% bonus on 10% of the W-2Gs:

BONUS DEUCES WILD $60 through $130 a hand
Hand Name Payout Frequency % Prob. Occurs Every % of Ret.
ROYAL FLUSH 404000 62.42388 0.00% 41634.06 194.07%
4 DEUCES w ACE 202000 71.97637 0.00% 36108.52 111.88%
4 DEUCES 101000 407.0393 0.02% 6385.035 316.36%
WILD ROYAL 12625 5427.092 0.21% 478.8863 527.27%
5 ACES 40400 866.6997 0.03% 2998.686 269.45%
5 3, 4, or5 20200 2028.383 0.08% 1281.297 315.31%
5 6-K 10100 5405.513 0.21% 480.7981 420.13%
STRAIGHT FLUSH 4500 10323.32 0.40% 251.7562 357.49%
FOUR OF A KIND 2000 163797 6.30% 15.86695 2520.96%
FULL HOUSE 2000 68871.95 2.65% 37.73612 1059.99%
FLUSH 1500 59168.39 2.28% 43.92481 682.99%
STRAIGHT 500 104534.5 4.02% 24.86222 402.22%
3 OF A KIND 500 724636.7 27.88% 3.58657 2788.18%
NOTHING 0 1453359 55.92% 1.788244 0.00%
Total Return 9966.30%
Variance 335075.3
BONUS DEUCES WILD $135 or more a hand
Hand Name Payout Frequency % Prob. Occurs Every % of Ret.
ROYAL FLUSH 404000 62.36889 0.00% 41670.77 193.90%
4 DEUCES w ACE 202000 71.97923 0.00% 36107.08 111.89%
4 DEUCES 101000 407.0738 0.02% 6384.493 316.39%
WILD ROYAL 12625 5425.246 0.21% 479.0492 527.09%
5 ACES 40400 866.7188 0.03% 2998.62 269.46%
5 3, 4, or5 20200 2028.412 0.08% 1281.278 315.31%
5 6-K 10100 5405.813 0.21% 480.7713 420.16%
STRAIGHT FLUSH 4545 10376.8 0.40% 250.4588 362.93%
FOUR OF A KIND 2000 163850.9 6.30% 15.86174 2521.79%
FULL HOUSE 2000 68889.46 2.65% 37.72653 1060.26%
FLUSH 1500 58750 2.26% 44.23762 678.16%
STRAIGHT 500 104847.8 4.03% 24.78794 403.42%
3 OF A KIND 500 724883.3 27.89% 3.585349 2789.13%
NOTHING 0 1453094 55.91% 1.78857 0.00%
Total Return 9969.89%
Variance 335007.6

So long as I’m comfortable betting that large, I could have playing 9/6 Jacks or Better and received W-2Gs for full houses, which also return nine-for-one. But very few of the Dotty’s venues have 9/6 Jacks or Better on $5 machines and most of them have 9/4/4 Bonus Deuces Wild for that denomination. 

Notice that the “occurs every” amounts in the two charts have slightly different numbers for the hands. This means the correct strategy for the game is different depending on the denomination you play at Dotty’s! This game already has a number of extremely complicated strategy decisions. I decided to ignore these differences. This may surprise some of my readers (I do have a reputation of trying to master every last penalty card situation in every game, after all), but frankly, Deuces Wild variations are so complicated to play perfectly that I let some of these things slide. I do play at the 99.99% accuracy level, but 100% accuracy in these games is not worth the extra effort to me.

I decided to play $150 a hand. Since the machine will accept $3,000 at once, $150 per hand goes in evenly and makes record-keeping easier. Bonus Deuces has a higher variance than Jacks or Better, and I didn’t have a feel for how much money I could go through in one session, so I took $25,000 in cash with me on my first foray playing this game.

So, using the terminology of Annie Duke that I’ve shared with you in my two previous blogs, this column has been about my decision-making process. This was not a thought experiment. My intention was definitely to go out and play this game at Dotty’s. Next week, I’ll share what actually happened. That is, when my decisions and my luck intersected.