ACE$ OR BUST
One player’s quest for the elusive ACE$
By John Grochowski
As quests go, the search for four aces that spell out ACE$ isn’t exactly at the top of the epic scale. But to Keith, in Wisconsin, it was Jason and the Golden Fleece, Frodo’s Quest of the Ring and the Doctor Who unification of segments to the Key to Time all rolled into one.
It took 22 years and casinos in five states for Keith to complete his quest.
A cast of thousands? You might say it was a draw of hundreds of thousands of hands before this saga was sung.
But let’s let Keith tell his story, then listen to a couple of other readers who had mini-quests of their own.
“It was a major goal of mine: I got the ACE$ bonus in ACE$ Bonus Poker,” Keith said in kicking off a series of emails. “I’m thrilled, of course, but there’s also a little sadness that something I’ve been after for so long is over.”
Since 1997, Keith has played 8-5 ACE$ Bonus Poker whenever he’s had the chance. The average return is 99.4 percent with expert play, just a tad better than 8-5 Bonus Poker.
“I really didn’t play all that much,” Keith said. “The Native American casinos near my home never had the 8-5 pay table, so I played other games instead. Once in a while, I tried in Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois as well as Wisconsin. But once a year, my wife Mary and I would go to Las Vegas, and there I’d play quite a bit for a couple of days.”
ACE$ Bonus Poker has the same pay table as regular Bonus Poker, but there’s a little something extra. Each ace has a symbol attached – “A” for the ace of spades, “C” for the ace of hearts, “E” for the ace of diamonds and “$” for the ace of clubs.
If you land four aces in order so they spell out “ACE$,” the payoff isn’t the usual 400 coins for a five-coin bet you’d get on Bonus Poker. It’s a 4,000-coin bonanza, as much as you’d get for a royal flush.
There can’t be any gaps. A, followed by an 8 of hearts, then C-E-$ doesn’t do it. The message has to read “ACE$” with nothing in the middle to impede your read. The aces have to come up in proper order as either the first four cards or the last four cards on the screen.
Still, the chance on a big payoff kept Keith going.
“I don’t think I realized just how hard this was going to be,” he said. “I liked 8-5 Bonus Poker, even without the ACE$, and I figured with an extra chance at a $1,000 jackpot (on a quarter machine), why not? I wasn’t going to get a royal flush every session, but maybe I could still win the $1,000.”
What Keith didn’t realize is that getting the aces in the required order is a lot rarer than a royal flush. Given expert play in 8-5 Bonus Poker, royals turn up an average of once per 40,233 hands. With an adapted strategy to account for the potential payoff, ACE$ come up an average of once per 297,222 hands.
ACE$ are more than seven times as rare as royal flushes.
“We went mainly to locals casinos, and some had both 8-5 Bonus and 8-5 ACE$,” Keith said. “It made sense to choose the one with the extra.
“When we’d arrive, Mary would laugh and say, ‘I suppose the quest is on,’ and I’d respond, ‘The quest is the quest.’”
The quest finally ended in February 2019 – “a good time to get out of the Wisconsin cold,” Keith said.
“A 10 of spades was first on the screen, then C-E, then a King of clubs and a Queen of hearts. I nudged Mary and said, ‘Here goes nothing.’ But it wasn’t nothing! It was the A and the $. At last!
“We hugged and both reached for our phones. Even though it was only once a year, it was a kind of mania, and we texted family and friends who knew about it. They probably thought, ‘Maybe now we don’t have to hear about that insane quest anymore.’
“Now I have to think of what to do for an encore. Something that doesn’t take 22 years, I hope.”
When I heard Keith’s story and offered congratulations, I turned to a couple of other readers I knew had long-term goals.
I play mostly penny slots, and have for years. When I started playing, though, the three-reel games were all they had.
One day when I got a mini-jackpot on a penny game, it occurred to me that I’d never won a progressive on a three-reel game, where the top jackpot was all they had instead of all the levels on pennies.
I wasn’t single-minded about it, but I started making sure I played a mini-session on a three-reel slot every time. Sometimes it was quarters, sometimes dollars, but al- ways a short session.
It took almost five years, but I found a dollar Blazing 7s machine. Not everyone has those anymore, but I like it. After just a few minutes, I got the three Blazing triple 7s. That was a little more than $1,100!
I’ve read about back-to-back jackpots, and started thinking about consecutive wins. It got so anytime I won more than $250, I wrote down the results of the next hand.
My big one until recently was a $1,000 royal flush followed by four aces for $200. Finally, Double Double Bonus, I got four aces and a kicker for $500, then drew a royal for $1,000 on the next hand.
I don’t know if you count that as back-to-back jackpots, but I do.