PH Casino Guide

Deuces Wild Strategy Tips

In any video poker game, changes in pay tables mean players have to adjust strategies to get the most out of the game.

Deuces Wild is special in that regard. Common changes aren’t confined to payoffs on full houses and flushes, as on many games without wild cards. There are changes all over the pay table, each having an impact on strategy.

What’s a player to do?

One plan of attack is to learn strategy for the best Deuces game with widespread availability, then adjusting if necessary. 

In online casinos and in live casinos throughout much of the United States, “Not So Ugly” Deuces Wild is the game of choice.

You won’t find it in every casino.  In many live casinos, you’ll find their best Deuces version has a greatly reduced pay table. But for those who love Deuces, the NSU game is worth a search, online or off.

The game graphics don’t say “Not So Ugly.” They just say “Deuces Wild.” The NSU tag is a nickname devised by players to signify a game that isn’t quite as lucrative as the original full-pay Deuces game, but gives you a much better shot to win than the first reduced pay games. It’s important to remember:

●    Look for the best-paying version of Deuces Wild you can find. Often, that’s “Not So Ugly” Deuces Wild. 

●    A strategy chart helps you determine the best play to make after your first five cards are dealt.

●    If you must play a game with a different pay table, there are strategy adjustments to make.



Full-pay Deuces seems restricted to a handful of Nevada casinos nowadays. Not even online casinos have picked up the game with its 100.8% theoretical payback with expert play.

Instead, players flock to NSU Deuces, which returns 99.7 percent with expert play. Here is the full pay table:











1-coin bet

2-coin bet

3-coin bet

4-coin bet

5-coin  bet

Royal flush






Four 2s






Royal with 2s






Five of a kind






Straight flush






Four of a kind






Full house


















Three of a kind







As is normal in Deuces Wild games, there is a big secondary jackpot on four 2s, with a 1,000-coin payoff. The big payoff of 4,000 coins for a five-coin wager is on a natural royal flush –  Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 of the same suit with no wild cards.

With expert play, four 2s occur about eight times as often as natural royals at once per 5,356 hands vs. once per 43,456 on the royal.

What is expert strategy? Try this chart:



(Note: Hold all 2s)

1.    4 deuces

1.    WRF (wild royal flush)         
2.    5K                                 
3.    3 deuces

1.    WRF       
2.    5K                              
3.    SF               
4.    4 K                                 
5.    4 WRF                       
6.    4 OSF 
7.    2 deuces

1.    WRF         
2.    5K
3.    SF              
4.    4K                              
5.    4 WRF                       
6.    FH                     
7.    FL               
8.    4 OSF (2 plus 3-4-5 or higher); or 4 ISF, 4 low or higher.           
9.    ST         
10.    4 ISF, 2-3-4-6, 2-3-5-6, or 4 ISF, 3 low or higher, 2 gaps among non-wilds    
11.    3K                                 
12.    4 ISF, Ace low among non-wilds   
13.    3 WRF, no Ace 
14.    3 OSF, 2 plus 6 low or higher   
15.    3 WRF, includes Ace      
16.    3 OSF, 2-4-5, 2-4-6; or 3 ISF. 5 low or higher among non-wilds                                 
17.    Hold only the 2   

NO-DEUCE HANDS                         
1.    RF                                       
2.    4 RF                                
3.    SF                                    
4.    4K                                       
5.    FH                                        
6.    FL                                             
7.    ST                                          
8.    3K                                      
9.    4 SF                              
10.    3 RF                                
11.    4 FL                                      
12.    2 Pair                                            
13.    3 OSF, 5 low or higher            
14.    1 pair                                          
15.    4 OST 4 low or higher                  
16.    3 ISF 3-4-6, 3-5-6; 3ISF 3 low or higher 2 gaps; 3 ISF 3-4-5, 4-5-6, or 4 low or higher, 1 gap 
17.    Suited J-10, Q-10 or Q-J                 
18.    3 SF, A-3-4, A-3-5 or A-4-5            
19.    4 IST, includes A-K-Q-J    
20.    Suited K-10, K-J, K-Q                  
21.    Discard all                                  

video poker


Note that the chart is broken into segments depending on how many 2s are in your starting hand. Holding deuces always improves your average return. There is never a correct time to discard a 2. So the chart is arranged with the assumption your holds will start with however many 2s you are dealt.

The idea is to compare your hand to the strategy chart, then choose the highest-ranking combination in your hand to hold.

If your starting hand is a 2 of any suit along with 6-7-8 of hearts and a 9 of clubs, you can read the hand as a straight with the 2 substituting for a 5 or 10. Or you could read it as a four-card open-ended straight flush with the 2 standing in for a 5 or 9 of hearts.

A look at one-deuce hands on the strategy chart finds the four-card open-ended straight flush listed higher than the straight. So your best play is to keep the 2 and the three consecutive hearts while discarding the 9 of clubs.

Let’s try a few sample hands just to give you an idea of the kinds of things to look for on the chart.



●    8 of hearts, 8 of spades, 2 of diamonds, 2 of clubs, 2 of spades

Five of a kind is solidly on the “hold all five” side of the line. You’ll get 80 coins for a five-coin bet if you hold all five, but the average payback drops to 72.3 coins if you hold just the 2s and discard the 8s.

●    6 of diamonds, 7 of diamonds, 2 of diamonds, 2 of clubs, 2 of spades

Check the strategy table, and you’ll find no line for “straight flush.” If you have five of a kind or a wild royal, hold them, but with anything else, hold the 2s and discard the rest.  The average return of 72.3 coins when you hold 2-2-2 dwarfs the 50-coin payback on a straight flush. 



●    6 of diamonds, 9 of diamonds, 2 of hearts, 2 of spades, 7 of clubs

In several places on the strategy table you’ll find references to “one gap” or “two gaps.” Here’s an example of how that works.

This is a two-gap hand because there is room for both a 7 and an 8 between the two diamonds. If the higher diamond was an 8, then this would be a one-gap hand with only a spot for a 7 between the 6 and 8.

It makes a difference. With 6 and 9 of diamonds along with two 2s, a straight flush can be completed by drawing one of the two 2s, a 7 of diamonds or an 8 of diamonds. If you had 6 and 8 of diamonds and the 2s, then the straight flush could be completed with either of the remaining 2s; or a 4, 5, 7, 9 or 10 of diamonds, with the two 2s filling the gaps.

There are more ways to complete the straight flush with fewer gaps, and that makes a strategy difference. We’ll hold four cards to a straight flush with one gap between the suited non-wild cards, but not with two gaps. The better play with two gaps is to hold 2-2, with an average return of 15.34 coins per five wagered, rather than 2-2-6-9, with a 15.11-coin average. Switch the 9 to an 8, and we make the opposite play.

●    2 of hearts, 2 of spades, 4 of diamonds, 6 of hearts, 9 of clubs

The Deuces Wild pay table starts at three of a kind, but there’s no need to hold a third card with two deuces. No matter what you draw, you’ll still have at least three of a kind. So if there are no paying hands of four of a kind or better, and no straight flush opportunities, then your best play is to see where the deuces take you.


video poker player



●    2 of clubs, 3 of hearts, 7 of hearts, 10 of hearts, Queen of spades

There are several potential holds to choose from in this hand. Do you hold the 2 with all three hearts for a one-card flush draw? Do you hold the 2 with the 7 and 10, three parts of a straight flush with two gaps on the inside? Do you hold the 2 all by itself?

If you check the strategy chart under one-deuce hands, you’ll see that no three-card inside straight flushes with two inside gaps appear. Nor do four parts of a flush. You’re better off with the potential that a single deuce represents. For the record, the average returns are 5.02 coins when holding just the 2, 4.79 when holding 2-3-7-10, and 4.72 when holding 2-7-10.



●    5 of clubs, 5 of spades, Queen of hearts, Queen of diamonds, 9 of clubs

This is one of the defining hands of NSU Deuces and related games that pay 4-for-1 on both four of a kind and full houses and 3-for-1 on flushes. Because full houses pay as much as  four of a kind, and because a one-card draw will complete a full house more often than a three-card draw completes four of a kind or better, the best play here is to hold both pairs.

It’s not a close call, with a 3.40-coin average return when we hold both pairs, compared to 2.74 when we pick one pair to hold and discard the other three cards.

That’s a strategy departure from other Deuces games. The original, now very rare, full-pay Deuces Wild paid 5-for-1 on quads and only 3-for-1 on full houses and 2-for-1 on flushes, so the original strategy Deuces players learned was to hold just one pair and discard the other.



There are a number of Deuces Wild variations that have the same 4-for-1 pays on quads and full houses and 3-for-1 on flushes . Especially important is a version players call by the nicknames “Illinois” or “Airport” Deuces.

The only differences between the NSU and Illinois pay tables is that Illinois reduces payoffs on five of a kind from 16-for-1 to 15-for-1 and on straight flushes from 10-for-1 to 9-for-1. It returns 98.9 percent with expert play. If you can’t find NSU Deuces, this often is the best Deuces version available.

A few nuances to consider:

●    The reduced payoff on straight flushes means that in one-deuce hands, three of a kind is a stronger start than a four-card straight flush with two gaps between the non-deuce cards.

●    Holding three of a kind moves up on the strategy table ahead of the two-gap, four-card inside straight flushes 2-3-4-5, 2-3-5-6, and all from 2-3-4-5 through 2-9-Queen-King.

●    Two-card King-high royal flush draws also move ahead of three-card, Ace-low straight flush draws.



There are dozens of Deuces Wild pay tables. Some casinos don’t have 4-4-3 games such as NSU and Illinois/Airport. You might face a situation, especially in live casinos, where the best Deuces games pay 4-for-1 on four of a kind, but only 3-for-1 on full houses and 2-for-1 on flushes.
Those are games best avoided – easier to do online where you can shop around with a few finger taps, but stay away from such low-paying games if you can.


*Credit for the cover photo in this article belongs to AP Photo*

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