Aces and Faces Video Poker Strategy Guide
Aces and Faces Video Poker is one of the most popular non-wild games out there. It’s known for giving players special payouts for four of a kind hands at the expense of flush and straight draws, and the strategic adjustments that you have to make for this game can be the difference between winning and losing sessions.
An Introduction to Aces and Faces Video Poker Strategy
In the video poker sector, there are tons of players who really enjoy the variety of games that are available, but a disproportionate number of them gather toward a handful of the most popular games. Aces and Faces is one of those, and it is one of the most popular non-wild games behind Jacks or Better.
As a result of this combined with how widely available this title happens to be, overall video poker fans should have a solid base of strategy for the game.
What we want to do here is offer that foundation of basic strategy for this game and show you what the common situations are where you’ll need to deviate from what are considered “standard” non-wild card strategies.
With that aside, this is an action-oriented game because of the atypical pay table and because the payout structure dictates that you have to be more aggressive with certain types of hands instead of making relatively safe plays.
Important Rules and Guidelines
The main thing that sets Aces and Faces Video Poker apart from other non-wild titles is that there is some value from major draw-based hands at the lower end of the pay table that is redistributed to a set of bonus payouts for certain four of a kind wins. That leads to the following pay table:
- Royal Flush (800x) – AKQJT of a matching suit
- Four Aces (80x) – Four aces in the same hand
- Straight Flush (50x) – Five consecutive cards of a matching suit
- Four K/Q/J (40x) – Four of a kind of one of these three cards
- Other Four of a Kind (25x) – Four of a kind in tens through twos
- Full House (8x) – Three of one rank and two of another
- Flush (5x) – Five cards of the same suit
- Straight (4x) – Five cards of consecutive rank
- Three of a Kind (3x) – Three cards of matching rank
- Two of a Kind (2x) – Two cards of matching rank with two more cards of a different matching rank
- Jacks or Better (1x) – Two Js, Qs, Ks or As in the same hand
There are a few specific things about this pay table that are really important from a strategic standpoint, especially when it comes to the idea of deviating from what’s considered “standard” non-wild strategy.
- Notice that the payout for four of a kind in aces is very high to the point of being higher than a straight flush. This means that a single pair of aces will be worth more than usual compared to draws.
- The payout for a flush is on the lower end of what you will find anywhere. This means that flush draws and straight flush draws lose quite a bit of value.
- The value of a straight flush is lower in this game than what you find in most, and that makes a serious impact on a variety of situations.
With these foundations in place, we can jump right into a breakdown of all of the most common situations that you will run into and what to expect from them.
Common Strategic Plays in Aces and Faces
We’re going to look at a few of the most common scenarios here that will give players the most trouble. The idea here is to eliminate these problem areas one at a time so that your strategies lead to higher and higher payouts as you get better.
Straight Flush Draw Scenarios
In most non-wild card games, four to a straight flush is enough to beat out quite a bit. With the adjusted payouts in this game, many will wonder if that remains the case here, especially if it’s compared to a high pair.
For example, consider the hand JsJhTh9h7h.
The normal play is to ditch the high pair and play for the straight flush. However, the value of straight flushes and flushes are both lower than usual in this game. On top of that, the value of a single pair of jacks or higher than usual because of the four of a kind specialty payouts.
From an intuitive standpoint, you may wonder if keeping the jacks is better in this spot, but if you check out the average payouts for the two best ways of playing this hand, then the truth becomes very clear:
- Straight Flush Draw (JT97) – 2.21x
- Pair of Jacks (JJ) – 1.57x
As you can see, all of this temptation to switch things up is a knee-jerk reaction that will actually just kill off your value. This is a pattern that we will see in multiple places in Aces and Faces strategy: The temptation to over-adjust is the biggest thing that can hurt your payout rates in the entire game for the most part.
Single Pairs and Key Draws
There are some hands where you have two viable ways to play in video poker in general, and the best option between the two will depend on the specific pay table you’re dealing with and if there are wild cards available. These are called “key draw” situations, and they involve a single pair and a draw in the same hand, and you have to pick which of the two has the best average payout.
Much like the situation we described above, a lot of thought on Aces and Faces strategic adjustments can have you switching things up entirely too often. As such, here is the basic guideline for how you should handle these spots:
- Four to a royal is better than a high pair.
- A high pair is better than three to a royal.
- Three to a royal is better than four to a flush.
- Four to a flush is better than a low pair.
- A low pair is better than four to an open-ended straight.
If you want to learn one thing in terms of memorizing Aces and Faces video poker strategy, then it’s this set of five principles. This will tell you exactly how to play the bulk of scenarios in this game.
It’s worth noting that there is a common exception to the fifth point with the hand KQJTT with no flush draw available. In most non-wild games, you’ll actually play KQJT instead of TT because of the value of the high pairs. In this game, the exception holds up as well, and no adjustment is needed otherwise.
High Card Hands
Some of the most difficult hands to learn to play are high card hands. In Aces and Faces, this is made even more complicated by the atypical four of a kind payout structure.
It can seem like you just have a few random cards that don’t really give you much of a chance to make any particular type of hand, but it’s really important that you lose the least with these hands to maximize your overall payout rate.
There are three guiding principles to start with:
- If you have no high cards and no draws, then discard five.
- If you have one high card and no draws, keep the high card.
- If you have two high cards and no draws, keep both high cards.
It’s when things go beyond this that they get tricky:
- With three high cards, keep the two that are suited. If there aren’t two that are suited, keep the lowest two of them.
Keeping two high cards gives you better chances of hitting pair-based hands than keeping three high cards. On the point of keeping the lowest two of them, that maximizes your chances of hitting a straight since there are more ways to make a straight with something like QJ than AQ or AJ.
- Fun exception: With a single high card that’s K/Q/J, you should also keep a suited ten if you have it in your hand.
With one high card in your hand that’s not an ace, if you have a ten that goes with it in the same suit, then keeping the ten is better than discarding it because of the chances of making straight flushes, royal flushes, flushes and straights that are added on.
- Fun exception: The cluster of cards KQJ is better to hold than discarding the K and holding onto QJ.
This is the other exception we’ll look at. Normally with three high cards, you keep the lowest two. However, with KQJ, even if they aren’t the same suit, it’s better to keep all three by a small margin.
The strategic implications of the changes in the pay table for Aces and Faces Video Poker are really easy to exaggerate. The changes themselves are a big deal, and they definitely increase the volatility of the game, which means more conservative bankroll management guidelines are in order.
However, there’s not as much that you need to do about switching up how you play the game outside of some of the specific cases and ideas we have pointed out above. There definitely are strategic adjustments to make, but the fact of the matter is that you’re better off being a little cautious in this particular game (which is the exception and not the rule) instead of trying to overcompensate with changing things up from standard strategies.