Long offered with slot machines, bonusing is becoming popular on table games, and the sky may be the limit

Bonusing has for the past 10 years been the important trend on the slots side of the gaming industry. So it seems almost natural that the table games side wants to get in on the action.

Bonusing and progressive jackpot systems have begun to take off as casino operators seek new ways to dress up traditional table games from blackjack to baccarat and craps – as well as more recent creations – to make them more appealing, fun and profitable.

“By offering bonus upgrades, casinos can keep the games fresh as well as add more excitement to their play,” said Roger Snow, chief executive officer of Las Vegas-based Shuffle Master. “And when players are excited and thus having a good time, they play more and put more money on the felt. This ultimately increases the per-table profit of casinos.”

In some cases, these upgrades take the form of adding betting options to existing games.

“Side bets on table games have been around for a long time. But players are telling us that they want more betting options, so we have brought to market bonusing upgrades for a most popular card games. And we see this trend accelerating in the near future,” Snow noted.

An example of such upgrades is Let It Ride Bonus, based on one of Shuffle Master’s most popular proprietary card games. In addition to trying to make the best five-card poker hand using three dealt cards and two community cards, a Three-Card Bonus side bet has been added that rewards players making this bet if they get a pair or better on the first three cards dealt.

Shuffle Master offers several side bets that can be added onto existing table games.

Bet the Set 21 creates an extra wager on the first two cards dealt on a standard blackjack game, with a pair profiting the player up to 25 times his wager. As a result, a player with a losing blackjack hand can still come away a winner.

The Fortune Bonus added to Fortune Pai Gow creates the opportunity to profit from opponents’ hands. For a $5 wager, a player can place an "Envy" button.  Then if another player at the table gets four of a kind from the seven cards dealt, other players with “Envy” buttons are paid according to the posted pay table. If more than one player gets four of a kind, multiple payouts are made.

The Dragon Bonus side bet for baccarat is made before the dealer reveals any cards, and pay natural winners in the game even money and non-natural winners larger payouts based on their point margin of victory. The Sharp Shooter wager added to a craps game pays out whenever a shooter makes at least three points before a seven-out, with the top award paid if the shooter reaches 10 points and ends the sequence.

Going further, Shuffle Master now offers 11 progressive bonus bets where jackpots build until one player wins it, potentially paying thousands of dollars.

Ultimate Texas Hold’Em Progressive requires players to make four types of bets during the game. Two of these are the Progressive bet, which pays off if the player’s final five-card hand is a Full House or better, and the Envy Bonus, which is paid when another player has a Straight Flush or better.

Fortune Pai Gow Poker Progressive requires a minimum $1 bet in addition to standard pai gow wagers. But because of the steep odds of winning the progressive jackpot (a seven-card straight flush), a win is paid at 8,000 to 1 plus 100-percent of the progressive jackpot.

A different way to reward players is offered by the G3 progressive side bet and bonusing system from DEQ, Levis, Systems. Que., Canada. The system enables players to make varied bets toward progressive jackpots and mystery rewards.

“On regular game tables, chips are physically thrown onto special areas to make side bets, and the handling of chips slows down the action,” said Paul Omohundro, Canada-based DEQ vice president of sales. “With G3, players buy credits from the dealer through the Personal Bet Manager product which they can then wager on several side bets at any amount. They do longer are limited by tossing $1 chips.”

Available side bets are Lucky Player, where you bet you have a good hand; and Lucky Dealer, where you bet the dealer has a good hand. Players also can bet both. And by wagering on these outcomes, players also enroll themselves for the Magic Card mystery bonus, which in random games rewards players for being dealt a certain card or, if the dealer gets the card, all the players are rewarded. Persons wagering on Lucky Player also can received a random reward for being in the seat randomly selected by the system’s computer.

All progressive jackpots are displayed on a 19-inch LCD screen attached to the system. When a player leaves the table and cashes out, he receives his balance in chips.

Table game rewards also are offered by the Table iD system, the integrated one-source solution that enables casinos to accumulate more accurate betting and player information at a lower cost jointly owned by Reno-based IGT and Shuffle Master. Table iD currently offers two bonusing systems: Lucky Seat and Lucky Draw.

Lucky Seat lets casinos set specific times for random drawings to reward player-carded patrons with open ratings by randomly designated one of the seats where they are playing.

Lucky Draw works with Shuffle Master’s Smart Shoe, which includes card recognition technology that improves game security by recording the cards in the order they leave shoe. The bonusing program is triggered by the first two cards out of the shoe at each playing position. Casinos can select which two cards are the trigger, be they a pair of fours, a six and an eight, or any other combination. When the recognition system detects the designated pair, the player is automatically put into a virtual drawing with other players receiving the same pair over a specific time period, with one player randomly selected for a nice bonus.

Visually exciting side bets and bonuses can be added to table games with the Bonus Spins and Wheel of Madness systems offered by Crystal Lake, Ill.-based Paltronics System. Both put prize wheels a table's end.

Bonus Spin offers two different bonuses to the game of blackjack. Before the first card is dealt in each game, players make a side wager of $1 to $10 in a designated area of the felt. Cards are dealt according to the rules of the game. Any player receiving an ace among his first two cards wins even money, while getting cards totaling 21 on the first two cards not only is paid for the blackjack and gets a spin of the wheel. Depending  where the wheel ends up, the player could win 5 to 100 times the original side bet.

Wheel of Madness also requires a side wager, but payoffs occur only for players scoring 21 on the first two cards dealt. After being paid for the blackjack, players spin the wheel for a chance to win 10 to 1,000 times the original bet.

According to Paltronics, both systems can boost table revenues by five percent, while the sight of the wheels not only attracts new players but also ramps up excitement as passerby by cheer for the spinner to win the maximum amount.

TableMAX Gaming, based in Las Vegas, offers side bets and progressive jackpots on its electronic table game systems.

Like other digital table game systems, the TableMAX products offer popular card games with virtual cards and chips on player screens arranged on a curved platform five to a table. But the computer technology within is programmed not just to conduct the regular games by the rules (and make the appropriate payouts for wins), but also to offer side bets and progressive jackpots that add excitement to the games while building a grand prize in a manner similar to slot machines, said TableMAX CEO Stephen Crystal.

In addition to their regular ante, players can on the Progressive Blackjack table make a side bet as to the number of consecutive aces a player may get in a single hand.

But use of TableLink technology through its ePit system can link four tables into a 20-seat carousel, with each seated player able to wager for a progressive jackpot. The system also can link all tables in the casino or at multiple properties in the same jurisdiction.

At present, linkable TableMAX digital table game systems include Texas Hold’em Bonus, Caribbean Stud and Caribbean Draw Poker. But linked tables don’t have to be offering the same game, Crystal said. Persons playing all three games can be contributing to the same progressive jackpot, which is announced on a screen that instantly increases the total every time a player buys into the progressive side bet until somebody wins it.

Crystal said TableMAX tables pay more money back to players than traditional table games, with payouts programmed down to three of a kind, instead of a flush. And its computer-driven technology allows progressive jackpots to rise up to 100 times faster than traditional games, making these digital games more exciting to players, he added.

TableMAX digital table games may be the ideal product in current economic times where casino visits are reported to be nearly steady but players are wagering less per game. To maintain a live table with a dealer, casinos have had to set $5 or $10 minimum bets to cover operating costs. As TableMAX tables require no dealer, casinos can still offer gaming action to the $1 bettor (with 50-cent side and progressive bets), Crystal said.