TAKING THE MYSTERY OUT OF PLAYING NSU DEUCES WILD
By Henry Tamburin
“NSU” is the abbreviation for “not so ugly.” The late video poker writer Skip Hughes used the acronym NSU to describe an unusual deuces wild game that he first saw in a casino (circa. 2000) where the per coin payout for five-of-a-kind was increased to 16 for 1 and the straight flush to 10 for 1 (see Table 1 for the NSU Pay Schedule). The expected return (or ER) for NSU is 99.73%, which is actually not ugly at all. When you add in the benefits from a casino’s players club (i.e., cashback, bounce back, free play, etc.), it’s easy to get an overall return at or above 100%. NSU is also available in most gaming jurisdictions in low and high denominations, and you’ll also find it on multi-line machines. It’s one of the best video poker games that you can play; however, in order to achieve the 99.73% return, you must play every hand perfectly. The latter is not as daunting as it first seems. In fact, I’m going to be reviewing the playing strategy for NSU with sample hands to help you master the strategy.
If you’ve never played NSU, here’s some basics.
- The game is played with a 52-card deck, and the four deuces (2s) are wild cards, meaning they can replace any card to complete a winning hand.
- You should always play max coins to benefit from the bonus payout on the royal flush and the corresponding 99.73% return for perfect play (if you play less than max coins, the return drops significantly).
- The highest paying hand is a natural royal flush that pays 4000 coins for max coins. What makes NSU exciting is that four deuces pays a mini-jackpot of 1000 coins (which you’ll get roughly once every 5,000 hands). In addition, if you get a royal flush that contains one or more deuces (known as a “wild royal”), you’ll win 125 coins.
- Very important strategy point to keep in mind: You should always hold all deuces in NSU.
- The minimum paying hand is three-of-a-kind. There aren’t, therefore, any “high cards” in NSU (meaning, you might hold, say, two unsuited high cards if you were playing a Jacks-or-Better or Bonus Poker if that was your best hold, but with NSU that would be a big mistake). The bottom line is the playing strategy for NSU is much different from other non-wild card games.
The following playing strategy for NSU is presented in five blocks of strategy, with each block containing the strategy based on the number of deuces that you have in your hand (this makes learning the strategy easier). The five blocks of strategy are:
Hands with Four Deuces
Hands with Three Deuces
Hands with Two Deuces
Hands with One Deuce and
Hands with No Deuces
Note: I’ll use the letter W for a wild card (meaning a deuce), T for a ten-value card, and A for ace. For each block of strategy decisions, start at the top and go down until you come to the hand that you have. The hand closest to the top is the preferred strategy. (This is known as “Top Down Strategy,” where hands are ranked from highest to lowest expected return.)
Hands with Four Deuces
If you are lucky enough to be dealt a hand with four deuces, the strategy is straightforward:
Hold the Four Deuces
Hands with Three Deuces
You should hold only these hands:
If you have neither of the above, then
Hold the three deuces
The above hand contains a wild royal flush containing three deuces (this hand has a higher rank than four aces). Following the first line in the above strategy, you would hold the wild royal flush.
The above hand contains a paying straight flush. Usually, you would hold a dealt five-card straight flush but not when it contains three deuces. If you look at the first two lines of strategy for hands that contain three deuces, nowhere does it state to hold a paying straight flush. Therefore, the correct play is to hold the three deuces and draw two cards.
Hands with Two Deuces
Hold four-of-a-kind or higher paying hands
Hold four-card royal flush
Hold four-card straight flush with no gap from WW45 to WW9T
Hold four-card straight flush with one gap from WW57 to WW9J
If you have none of the above hands, then
Hold the two deuces
The above hand contains a paying straight flush (W-W-5-7-6). According to line one of the strategy for Hands with Two Deuces, you would hold this hand.
This hand contains a paying flush, a four-card straight flush (W-W-9-10), and a four-card royal flush (W-W-10-Ace). The four-card wild royal flush appears in the second line of the strategy for Two Deuces. The four-card straight flush with no gap (W-W-9-10) appears in the third line. Nowhere does the strategy say to hold a paying flush (the latter is lower than the “four-of-a-kind or higher paying hands” in line 1 of the strategy). Remember, if you have a choice of cards to hold, you should always hold the hand that is closest to the top of each block of strategy; therefore, the correct play for this hand is to hold the four-card wild royal flush (W-W-T-A) over the four-card straight flush (W-W-9-T).
You might be tempted to hold the four-card straight flush with one gap (W-W-3-5). However, that would be a mistake. Notice that the fourth line of the strategy for “Hands with Two Deuces” states to hold four-card straight flushes with one gap from W-W-5-7 to W-W-9-J. The above hand has the gap between the 3 and 5; therefore, you shouldn’t hold it. The correct play is to hold the two deuces and draw three cards. (Here’s another hand that usually stumps players. You should never hold the four-card straight flush W-W-4-6 in NSU. Looking at the above strategy for hands with two deuces, do you see why?)
Next month, I’ll cover the NSU strategy for hands that contain one deuce, and hands without any deuces.
Pay Schedule for NSU Deuces Wild
|Hand||One Coin||5 Coins|
|Natural Royal Flush||250||4000|
|Wild Royal Flush||25||125|
Note: The key to the NSU pay schedule is the 16 and 10 per coin payout for the 5-of-a-kind and straight flush respectively. Always play the maximum of five coins when you play NSU to benefit from the 4000-coin bonus payout for a natural royal flush.
Tip of the Month
You won’t find the term “NSU” on a video poker machine because that name wasn’t coined by a video poker manufacturer. What you will see on the machine is “Deuces Wild.” You’ve got to touch the “Deuces Wild” icon, look at the pay schedule on the screen, and compare it to the pay schedule in Table 1 to be sure it matches. If it does, you know that you are playing NSU with a 99.73% ER. You can also go to the database on www.vpfree2.com to find which casinos in the U.S. offer NSU (for Las Vegas area casinos, you can also check the Best Video Poker page on www.lasvegasadvisor.com).
Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He hosts the smartgaming.com website and is the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter (for a free three-month subscription, visit www.bjinsider.com/free). For a FREE copy of his Casino Gambling Catalog that contains training products for video poker players, call toll free 1-888-353-3234, or visit the web store on smartgaming.com.
Not So Ugly After All about NSU DEUCES WILD.