Aces and Eights Video Poker
Following the success of Jacks or Better video poker, casino operators and equipment manufacturers sought to capitalize on the game’s rising popularity with Aces and Eights Video Poker.
Several adaptations and variations have been made to the original Jacks or Better game during the last 35 years. Most were soon consigned to history’s scrapheap, but some variants caught on with the crowd, withstanding the test of time to cultivate legions of loyal players.
Aces and Eights video poker hails from the latter group, emerging as a widely played alternative to the basic Jacks or Better structure. The game is now a staple in the video poker parlors found in every major casino, and online casinos have also readily adopted the Aces and Eight format. Aside from the creative wrinkle added to the payout scheme (described in detail below), a clear link to the annals of America’s Old West era is another likely source of the game’s lasting appeal.
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A Brief Look at the History
The term “aces and eights” holds a special place in poker lore as the “Dead Man’s Hand.” As the story goes, on August 2nd, 1876 a game of five card stud was played within Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon in the Dakota Territory outpost of Deadwood. One player in the game was none other than legendary gunman and gambler “Wild Bill” Hickok, a feared veteran of Civil War combat, Old West shootouts, and duels with fellow gunfighters.
Hickok had been playing five card stud the previous day, bearing witness as a buffalo hunter by the name of Jack “Crooked Nose” McCall lost his bankroll and went belly up. Reportedly, the always ornery Hickok made an offhand remark at McCall’s expense, derisively offering to loan the losing player enough coin to buy breakfast. Some historians have cast doubt on this particular source of motivation, but in any event, McCall returned the following day to exact his revenge.
While Hickok looked down to find a strong two pair hand – consisting of the ace of spades, the ace of clubs, the eight of spades, and the eight of clubs – McCall casually placed his pistol to his rival’s skull and pulled the trigger. Hickok was instantly killed, and forever afterward his final holding of aces and eights would be known as the Dead Man’s Hand.
What to Expect from this Guide
This page is intended to walk players through their first exposure to Aces and Eights. If you’ve never played any form of online video poker, we recommend beginning your tutelage with our Jacks or Better page, which covers the history of video poker, standard rules and gameplay, poker hand rankings, and other essential information. After you’ve brushed up on the basics, head back here to learn all about the exciting option known as Aces and Eights.
How to Play Aces and Eights
As mentioned, Aces and Eights is an offshoot of Jacks or Better, so take a few moments to review video poker’s base game before exploring this variation. You’ll learn about standard coin denominations, how to deposit funds, toggling through pay table options, and how to control the onscreen action.
Just like Jacks or Better, the Aces and Eights variant relies on the tried and true hierarchy of poker hand rankings – with a few crucial changes. For those unfamiliar with how poker hands are formed, or their value relative to one another, consult the list below:
10 J Q K A, all in the same suit.
Any five-card straight, all in the same suit.
Four Aces or Four Eights
Four of the same specific card rank.
Four of the same specific card rank, sevens.
Four of a Kind
All other four of the same card ranks.
Three of a kind AND one pair.
Any five cards all of the same suit.
Any string of five consecutive cards.
Three of a Kind
Three of the same card rank.
Two sets of two cards of the same rank.
One set of two cards of the same rank.
The name of the game is derived from the addition of two hand rankings, as Aces and Eights video poker offers a higher payout for making four of a kind in either As or 8s (along with a slightly smaller but still improved payout for making four 7s).
During a regular Jacks or Better hand, four of a kind in any card rank returns a payout of 25 credits. Aces and Eights video poker, on the other hand, ups the ante considerably. On machines using the standard, player friendly pay table, you’ll receive 50 credits for four 7s and 80 credits for either four As or four 8s (more information on pay table discrepancies can be found in the subsequent section).
Other than the addition of two pay table tiers for these “special” four-of-a-kind hands, Aces and Eights video poker plays identically to Jacks or Better. Five cards are dealt your way, you can elect to hold or discard any or all of those cards, and replacements are distributed accordingly. Every hand features a single drawing round, and payouts are awarded based on various iterations of a standard escalating pay table.
Pay Table Breakdown
Again, following the template set by Jacks or Better, Aces and Eights video poker features a standard pay table. Because this pay table provides the highest rate of return to players, it’s often referred to as “full pay,” just like the 9 / 6 pay table in Jacks or Better.
Check out the paytable below to see the payouts awarded for each of the possible poker hand rankings:
|FULL PAY 25 / 8 / 5|
|1 Coin||2 Coins||3 Coins||4 Coins||5 Coins|
|Four Aces or Eights||80||160||240||320||400|
|Three of a Kind||3||6||9||12||15|
|Jacks or Better||1||2||3||4||5|
This full pay Aces and Eights video poker pay table is known as the 25 / 8 / 5, due to the respective payouts for making four of a kind in the “other” variety, a full house, and a flush. The payout information in the leftmost column covers the minimum bet of one coin (whether it be a nickel, a quarter, a dollar, or otherwise), and the next three columns to the right indicate an additional coin being wagered. The right most column covers a machine’s maximum bet, and by checking out the payout for a royal flush, you’ll notice something different about this pay scale.
Payouts Doubling Until Max Bet
The first four columns on the 25 / 8 / 5 full pay Aces and Eights video poker pay table increase on an incremental basis. In other words, when you double your bet, the payouts double in kind. As such, the expected return percentage found underneath each of these columns remains fixed, at 98.54 percent. For players who prefer to assess probability in terms of house edge, simply subtract the expected return percentage from 100 to find the house edge, which is 1.46 percent in this case (100 – 98.54 = 1.46). In either case, players can expect a return of $98.54 for every $100 they wager over their lifetime (the longest of long runs).
But as you can see, the payout for a royal flush jumps to 4,000 credits when max betting on Aces and Eights video poker. This massive increase in the actual payout versus the odds against making such a hand increases your expected return to 99.78 percent. In other words, by betting the maximum of five coins rather than four, players instantly decrease the house edge against them from 1.46 percent to an incredibly low 0.22 percent (provided they’re playing according to basic strategy, which will be covered in the next section).
With one of the lowest house edges offered by any casino game in the building, 25 / 8 / 5 full pay Aces and Eights video poker at a maximum bet of five coins is an extremely player-friendly affair, giving you an even better chance of success than employing perfect basic strategy in blackjack.
Of course, that minuscule house edge of 0.22 percent is only found in the 25 / 8 / 5 version of the game, which is why that particular pay table is known as full pay. Casino operators love muddying the waters, though, and just as alternative paytables for Jacks and Better created lower expected returns, several offshoots will be commonly encountered by frequent video poker players.
Alternative Pay Tables at Online Casinos
The grid below shows the five alternative paytables found on most Aces and Eights machines in brick and mortar casinos. Online casinos have far greater flexibility, so expect to find even more aces and eights video poker options when exploring the virtual gambling scene. In each case, a maximum bet of five coins is assumed.
The first column covers a version which pays 70 credits for straight flushes and four of a kind in 8s. The # / # / # heading at the top of the final four columns represents the payouts which have been altered from the 25 / 8 / 5 standard.
|Alternative Pay Table|
|70 / 70||25 / 7 / 5||20 / 7 / 5||25 / 6 / 5||20 / 6 / 5|
|Four Aces or Eights||70||80||80||80||80|
|All Other Four of a Kinds||20||25||20||25||20|
|Three of a Kind||3||3||3||3||3|
|Jacks or Better||1||1||1||1||1|
By paying close attention to the expected return percentage found at the bottom of each column, you’ll realize that each of these alternative paytables offers players a slightly worse bet than the next. By playing Aces and Eights video poker on a 20 / 6 / 5 machine, you’ll gift the casino with a significantly higher house edge, to the tune of 3.43 percent as opposed to 0.22 percent.
The 70 / 70 pay table offers a more reasonable rate hike, but you’ll still be facing a house edge of 1.28 percent – or more than a full percentage point more than the 25 / 8 / 5 full pay machines.
Before delving into the basic strategy guidelines for playing Aces and Eights video poker correctly, take a moment to absorb the significance of these pay table discrepancies. The most important thing you can do to better your odds of a successful session is simple and straightforward: seek out 25 / 8 / 5 full pay machines and play them exclusively. By doing so, while also employing the basic strategy dictums covered below, you’ll instantly find yourself up against the most favorable odds in the casino short of counting cards at the blackjack table.
Aces and Eights Strategy
To better understand the strategic considerations which make aces and eights video poker such a challenging pursuit, please refer to the Jacks or Better page and scroll down to the strategy section. There you’ll find a rundown of the close decisions players are routinely faced with during a session on the machines, along with insight into the reasoning behind basic strategy decision making.
Thankfully, the Aces and Eight video poker variant is played optimally using the same basic strategy as Jacks or Better. This means you can use the same hand ranking chart to decide which cards to hold and which cards to discard given all possible combinations.
Aces and Eights Strategy Chart
In order to read the chart below, simply assess your five card hand before the draw, and determine which hand(s) you currently hold. When you happen to hold two or more hands simultaneously, giving rise to the game’s pivotal decision, select whichever hand holds the highest position on the chart.
|Rank||Pre-Draw Hands||Optimal Decision|
|1.||Four of a Kind / Straight Flush / Royal Flush||Hold Pat Hand|
|2.||Four cards to a Royal Flush||Draw one card|
|3.||Three of a Kind / Straight / Flush / Full House||Hold Pat Hand|
|4.||Four cards to a Straight Flush||Draw one card|
|5.||Two Pair||Draw one card|
|6.||One High Card (Jack or Higher)||Draw three cards|
|7.||Three cards to a Royal Flush||Draw two cards|
|8.||Four cards to a flush||Draw one card|
|9.||One low Pair (Tens or lower)||Draw three cards|
|10.||Four cards to open-ended Straight||Draw one card|
|11.||Two suited High Cards (Jack or Higher)||Draw three cards|
|12.||Three cars to a Straight Flush||Draw two cards|
|13.||Two unsuited High Cards*||Draw three cards|
|*With three unsuited high cards, hold lowest two|
|14.||Suited J/10, Q/10, or K/10||Draw three cards|
|15.||One High Card||Draw four cards|
|16.||Five unconnected low cards||Draw five cards|
As an example of this strategy chart in action, consider one of the most commonly encountered conundrums in all of video poker: a hand which contains both a small pair and a draw.
For example, let’s say you’ve been dealt the as your starting hand. With four clubs to work with, you could opt to chase the flush and a payout of five times your wager, or hold the pair of 3s and shoot for three of a kind or a full house. Many players faced with this decision rely on gut instinct alone, keeping their pair and eschewing the chance to chase a flush draw.
But by referring to the basic strategy chart, you’ll see that one low pair is ranked in the 9th position while a flush draw is slightly better in the 8th position. Therefore, the optimal play over the long run, the play that will provide you the highest expected return, is to keep the four flush and hope to complete your draw.
When the cards are adjusted slightly, though, this scenario can be flipped on its head. A starting hand of provides you with a small pair, along with an open-ended straight draw to boot. A single low pair holds the 9th position, but an open ended straight draw sits in the 10th position, making it not quite good enough to chase.
By applying this easily memorized strategy chart as often as possible, playing each hand of Aces and Eights optimally and making correct decisions in close spots, you can enjoy one of the lowest house edges on the casino floor.