That leaves the challenge of giving the people what they want, while also keeping games fresh and new.
“In general, I don’t believe that poker players are looking for a new unique experience,” said Richard Ditton, co-founder and executive vice president at Incredible Technologies, a relative newcomer to the video poker market with its Magic Touch Collection. “On our games we have added features to the standard set that they are already familiar with.”
And at WMS Gaming, which has introduced some unique player-customizing features in its new My Poker line, Phil Gelber, vice president product development, game development management said, “We are beginning to look at multi-hand, multi-coin concepts, but we’ll keep it straight for poker player who don’t much like to change game strategies.”
The approach game developers have hit on to keep video poker fresh: the same games, pay tables and strategies, but with new tweaks and bonuses to appeal to players who want to reach beyond single-hand, five-coin wagers on Double Double Bonus Poker on every trip to the casino.
Each manufacturer that competes in the video poker space has its own approach. SPIELO International uses standard games as a starting point, but adds bonus events such as the second-screen “pond-hopper” event in its 53-card Bullfroggin’ Poker. Incredible Technologies has the games video poker players are used to, but offers a “Pro Tip” feature in which players can earn tips on strategy to be used when they encounter difficult decisions. WMS allows players to customize their screens on its My Poker.
But it is International Game Technology (IGT), a company founded on video poker before its rise to prominence as a slot manufacturer, which remains the primary force in video poker. It continues its dominant position with its lineup of original favorites, has worked with outside developers on multiple-hand games such as Action Gaming’s Triple Play Poker and Leading Edge Design’s Multi-Strike Poker, and continues to develop games such as Super Times Pay and Ultimate X Poker that give players a chance to multiply winnings with optional extra bets. <br><br>
“IGT has added a number of new features over the years to keep video poker new and exciting,” said John Daley, IGT’s director of video poker. “Think Super Times Pay with the random multiplier, Ultimate X with each win creating a multiplier for the next hand. We have also combined video poker with player-favorite features such as the Wheel and now have six different video poker games with wheel bonuses including Wheel Poker, Wheel Poker Deluxe, Quick Quads Wheel Poker, Wheel Poker Progressive, Build A Wheel Poker and Spin Fever Poker.”<br><br>
In the next generation of games, IGT is reaching out to new players with some non-traditional features.<br><br>
“IGT is developing a number of new games that are not necessarily typical or traditional looking for video poker, many with exciting slot-type bonuses and features,” Daley said. “Some of these titles include Tap House Poker, Moving On Up Poker, Cash King Poker, and Multi Win Poker. These new games should appeal to both existing video poker players as well as generate new players.”<br><br>
Tap House Poker brings an animated twist to video poker that’ll look familiar to slot players. A win in on the initial deal takes players into a five-hand bonus that includes multipliers chosen randomly per hand. There’s a range of multipliers for each winning hand, so that a bonus initiated by four of a kind will bring random selection from a higher range of multipliers than a dealt two pair.<br><br>
The game also allows players to select from three animated bartenders, each with individualized dialog and animation. Animated beer mugs fill and reveal the multiplier for each hand, and the bartenders cheer on the players and celebrate bonuses and wins. <br><br>
Cash King includes a suite of poker and keno games, and each poker game has its own special feature. In Maniac Poker, five cards are dealt. After a win, the player can collect or let it ride for the next hand, with a new pay table based on the win amount. Another game, Lucky Hand Poker, has a feature that triggers win multipliers by spinning one or two multiplier wheels. Multi-Play Draw Poker is a two-hand game. If both win, a multiplier determined by the higher-ranking hand is applied to the lower hand.
Incredible Technologies is hoping to claim a niche within the video poker niche with its Magic Touch games. The latest version is on an upgraded game platform that allows for progressive jackpots. Part of the recent focus has been on video poker games in the multigame units that started to roll out in Illinois bars and restaurants in 2012.
“On the Illinois VLT we have added the Pro-Tip feature that gives the player help in playing the game,” Ditton said. “Also as a standard feature we include meters that show their hands per minute and a player score. The player score is calculated based on their speed and accuracy of play.”
That Illinois rollout required adjustments to standard video poker games on the IT units. Most video poker games have a top jackpot on a royal flush of 4,000 credits for a five-credit wager. That’s $1,000 on a 25-cent game, but in Illinois bars and restaurants, there’s a legal maximum payout of $500.
“Our largest effort in the poker realm has been the conversation of our poker suite to the Illinois VLT market,” Ditton said. “Since Illinois only allows a maximum of $500, most companies have just capped the payout at $500 even for a max bet royal flush. Instead we created an entirely new set of pay tables that pay $500 for a royal flush for a bet of four.”
In addition to the Illinois outlets, Incredible currently has games installed at Palazzo in Las Vegas and Atlantis in Reno.