Whether on felt tables, electronic tables or single-player video games, poker is a game that cuts across casino demographics to take in a large segment of players. With customers’ easy familiarity with poker hands and their rankings, it’s no wonder new poker products always occupy prominent positions on the display floor at the annual Global Gaming Expo.
When this year’s show opens Oct. 2 at the Las Vegas Sands Expo and Convention Center, poker products again will demand their share of the spotlight. In fact, Shuffle Master, Inc., which will debut four new poker-style games on felt tables, a new progressive management system and its next generation poker room shuffler, says poker is a segment that once again is on the rise.
“2012 has been a good year for poker so far,” said Julia Boguslawski, vice president for investor relations and corporate communications at Shuffle Master. “We saw an uptick in poker table growth driven by new openings in the U.S. Additionally, with all of the buzz surrounding the potential legalization of online gaming in the U.S., we’ve seen poker become a hot topic once again.”
Shuffle Master, Galaxy Gaming, Genesis Gaming and DigiDeal all will be debuting new poker products for tables or electronic tables at the show. Meanwhile, WMS Gaming and Incredible Technologies will be looking to claim niches in the video poker market long dominated by International Game Technology.
“It is an exciting time in the poker segment,” said Richard Ditton, co-owner and co-founder, executive vice president and lead developer of MagicTouch Poker for Incredible Technologies. “Several companies are creating innovative products that are attempting to break into the poker market and shake things up through innovative concepts. This competition will ultimately be a benefit to the poker players by providing more entertaining versions of their favorite products while still providing them the great game play they expect.”
At WMS, vice president of game design and strategy Allon Englman said the company is well aware of marketplace popularity of IGT features, but hopes to create trends of its own with the customization features of its new My Poker machines.
“Looking at things that are working in the field, we see things like [IGT’s] Ultimate X, the multi-hand, multi-coin games that offer some type of additional volatility are obviously very, very popular. I’m hoping that customizations will become a trend going forward. Poker players are very finicky, and we want them to be able to set it up just how they want it. We see that as an advantage for us going forward.”
Every company will be looking for an edge with its own spin on poker’s appeal:
INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGY (IGT)The video poker market leader again will have a number of new games, including new Ace-based multipliers and a marriage of poker and keno.
“One of our highlight games will be Ultimate Aces, which is a multi-hand game,” explained John Daley, IGT director of video poker. “Every time an Ace or multiple Aces come up on screen they will create multipliers for any win you may have during that hand.”
Triple Play Keno Draw Poker features Triple Play Poker with an optional side bet on a keno card. The keno card not only has its own wins and pay table, but also creates multipliers for the poker hand. Alternatively, IGT is offering a poker-keno combo with a single poker hand tied to four keno cards.
The multigame machine All-Star Poker 2 collects some of IGT’s most popular newer games, such as Ultimate X, Double Super Times Pay and Triple Spin Poker. It’s on IGT’s AVP platform, and Daley says that accommodates a growing number of facilities that are using the advanced video format on bartops. In addition, for casinos that have server-based gaming, All-Star 2 is sbX compatible.
Also sbX-capable is the multigame Game King 8.2, which incorporates some of the new games that were shown at G2E last year but not yet released, including four-card keno games.
WMS GAMINGMy Poker is in WMS’ new Bluebird xD cabinet, and offers players customization features including card style, position of the cards on the screen, even a sequencing option so the initial deal is displayed in order of card rank or with suits grouped together. That makes it easy for players to tell at a glance if they have a draw for a straight or a flush. It’s expected to make its casino debut late this year at Stations Casinos’ Las Vegas properties.
Players can set up their personalization elements at WMS’ Players Life site, then log in at a casino game and have all their options ready when they play.
“On top of that, we’ve also got the ability to do leader boards, the ability to create statistics so you can see how many royal flushes you have, how many times you’ve got four Aces,” Englman said. “You’ve got leader boards, statistics and trophies. You get a special trophy if you unlock, let’s say four of a kind in every rank, or royal flushes in every suit. It takes that core poker experience and takes it to the next level.”
In addition to My Poker, WMS is introducing Winning Streak Poker, where players keep going up a multiplier ladder as long as they keep winning.
INCREDIBLE TECHNOLOGIES (IT)An upgraded version of the Magic Touch multigame machine will come with an updated operating system that allows for progressives on IT’s full line of video poker and keno games. A new user interface adds information such as player speed and a skill rating.
“Our philosophy has been to provide more information to engage players during base play, rather than bonus games that take them out of the flow of the game,” Ditton said. “Powered by our patent-pending ProTip perfect play engine, our latest Magic Touch Poker displays various metrics including how many hands per hour the player is playing, number of hands they have played perfectly in a row, what the correct play was in the last hand, last hand played and a fun number called ‘player score.’ This score in essence rates the level of play-skill and speed-but has nothing to do with payback of the game. Now players can compare scores with others for bragging rights. All of these features are operator adjustable.”
DIGIDEALPik-It Poker, a success for DigiDeal in an electronic format, will debut as a felt table game. It’s a two-tiered game that involves both play against the dealer and a bonus bet against a pay table. After seeing their five cards, players make a choice of whether to play a five-card game or a three-card game with their best three.
In taking it to felt tables, DigiDeal needed a shuffler. So at G2E, it also will introduce the DigiShuffle.
“We devised our own poker room shuffler, along with our partner,” said senior vice president of game development Dave Krise. “The intellectual property is protected really well. It is a single-deck shuffler that we needed for our own game, but it also is available to anyone who needs a shuffler that works better, quicker at less cost.”
GALAXY GAMINGIn Two Way Hold’em, players not only can win when their hand beats the dealer, the dealer’s hand can win for them. There are two bonus bets, the Two Way bet and the Trips Plus bet. Trips Plus pays off on any three of a kind or better, while Two Way pays off with a straight or better in either the player’s hand or the dealer’s.
“We’re unveiling several brand new, innovative table games, and they won’t just be side bets,” vice president of sales Ron Marks said. “We’ve joined forces with some of the best minds in the industry to bring several stand-alone, premium table games to this year’s event.”
“We have also added a number of exciting upgrades to MegaShare and our Bonus Jackpot System table game platform,” Marks added. “Included are some excellent ‘Back Office’ reporting features and a highly effective Event Notification System which allows operators to easily reconcile jackpot payouts, while continuing to run their table game operations without interruption.”
GENESIS GAMING SOLUTIONSAt Genesis, products in the G2E spotlight include the Bravo Poker poker room management system; the Bravo Pit table game management and player tracking system; and Bravo Poker Live, a mobile device app that allows players to access up-to-the-minute live play, waiting list, tournament, and promotional activity at participating poker rooms.
Randy Knust, president of Genesis Gaming Solutions, explained that Bravo Poker incorporates on-table tracking units and allows for accurate monitoring, tracking and managing of the entire poker room. “It enables poker room supervisors to monitor and manage most poker room functions, such as player tracking, lobby tracking, game setup and maintenance, waiting list functions, room statistics, player history, dealer speed, kiosk utilization, promotion tracking and complete tournament management,” he said.
With the Bravo Poker Live app, “casinos can instantly publicize poker room tournament schedules and current promotions directly to players through their BRAVO Poker system,” Knust said.
Players can use the Favorites feature to see what’s going on at their favorite poker room or access info on casino or card rooms within a player-definable radius by using GPS location technology or by entering a zip code.
SHUFFLE MASTERFour new poker-based table games are being added to the Shuffle Master collection. Face Up Stud Poker features heads-up play against the dealer, an optional Trips bet and a progressive bet. What’s unusual is that players get to see all the dealer’s cards before deciding to play or fold, and when they win, they win more when the dealer’s hand is stronger.
Raise It Up Stud Poker is a six-card poker game where the player combines his own three cards with three community cards, a la Let It Ride. Three Card Mulligan is a take on Three Card Poker in which players have an option to replace their initial hand. And 6 Card Fortune Pai Gow Poker is a variation on the seven-card Fortune Pai Gow game involving a five-card high hand and a one-card low hand.
Also new is the DeckMate 2 shuffler. Boguslawski said shuffles are twice as fast as with the DeckMate, while on-board optical card recognition enhances game security, along with other enhanced features.
Shuffle Master also is debuting its Game Manager 2 progressive management system. “The enhancements in this next-generation software are a network-based system that allows for multi-level jackpots and fully configurable multiple reserve pools,” Boguslawski said. “Players are able to compete for multiple real-time incrementing meters with just one wager on all of our poker-derivative specialty games like Three Card Poker, Fortune Pai Gow Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, etc. Previously, players would only be eligible for one real-time incrementing jackpot per round.”