G2E 2007, part 7: What's new from Shufflemaster

15 January 2008

For years, the two largest U.S. distributors of new table games have been Progressive Gaming Inc., with games such as Caribbean Stud Poker including progressive jackpots, and Shufflemaster Corp., with a collection of mostly poker-based games.

Earlier this year, Shufflemaster bought the table games portion of PGI's business, and that has brought new opportunity to the company. In the past, side bets on games such as Let It Ride Bonus had offered flat jackpots, with no progressive meters. PGI held held patents on progressive table game systems and Shufflemaster was forced to steer clear.

Now, Progressive jackpot games are in the Shufflemaster tent, and Shufflemaster is able to expand the progressive concept to its own games.

Among the new games on display at November's Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas was Let It Ride Progressive, with two optional side bets. One is a three-card bonus bet, which pays off any time your first three cards include a pair or better.

The big potential payday, though, comes with the bet on the progressive jackpot. As on any other progressive, a percentage of the wagers is added to the jackpot until someone wins it all. The big bonanza comes on a royal flush. That wins everything on the progressive meter. A straight flush wins 10 percent of the jackpot, while smaller awards range from 9-1 on three of a kind through 300-1 on four of a kind.

Casinos can choose to offer a "High Jackpot" version of Let It Ride Progressive. The full-jackpot payoff then is made for an "ordered" royal, meaning the player's first three cards include an Ace, King and Queen of the same suit, with the Jack and 10 coming in the community cards that finish a hand of Let It Ride. Other royals win 10 percent of the pot. Ordered royals will be rare enough that the jackpots should climb sky high.

Three Card Poker players can also look for a little something to spice up their game. In Ultimate Three Card Poker, Shufflemaster adds a "blind" bet with payoffs of up to 100-1 for a mini-royal of Ace, King and Queen of the same suit. To start play, you have to make both ante and blind bets, and have the option of also betting on Pair Plus. Just as in regular Three Card Poker, Pair Plus pays off on a pair or better, though the pay table is goes a step beyond the 40-1 return on a three-card straight flush that is the topper in the original game. In Ultimate Three Card Poker, the Pair Plus player also gets a 50-1 payoff on a mini-royal.

In the ante-play portion, you ante and make the blind bet, then look at your three cards. You can fold, or you can stay by making a play bet. If your hand includes a pair or better, you may bet up to three times your ante. Beat the dealer, and ante and play bets are paid at even money. The blind bet is paid according to a pay table --- 100-1 on a mini-royal, 20-1 on a straight flush, 10-1 on three of a kind, 2-1 on a straight and even money on flush.

House edge on the new "blind" portion of the game is 1.7 percent, and as new deals on table games go, that's not bad at all.

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Away from the tables, I got a chance to renew old friendships when Elliott Frome found me exploring a slot manufacturer's booth. Elliott is the son of the late Lenny Frome, the original video poker guru and one of my first friends among gaming writers when I started this column in 1994. Over at the next booth, Elliott's mom Rhoda was waiting to say hello, the first time I'd seen her in many years.

Elliott also wanted to make sure I saw New Vision Gaming's entry into the video poker market. Head Start Hold'em is inspired by Texas Hold'em, with two-card starting hands followed by three card flops. After those five cards, players have the opportunity to raise their bets before the turn and river cards are revealed.

You're wagering on five hands, each with its own fixed starting point and a character representing the hand. There's "Big Slick," in cowboy hat, dark glasses and mustache, starting with Ace of spades and Queen of hearts. The Royal Couple start with Queen-Jack of spades; Diamond Girl has 8-9 of diamonds; Speed Limit, with a checkered flag behind, is a pair of 5s; and Lucky, a green-hatted leprechaun, starts with 2 of clubs and 7 of hearts --- you'll need a lot of luck to win with that start.

There's a different pay table for each character, representing the likelihood of winning with their hand. It's a fun change of pace, one New Vision has also applied to keno. Instead of betting on keno numbers and combinations, you can mark your card for the HeadStart characters. Casinos that might want to liven their keno play with a hot Hold'em display might want to check this one out.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2007

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.