New Table Games at G2E 2005

6 December 2005

Each year at the Global Gaming Expo, the lion's share of my time is spent checking out coming attractions in slot machines. Still, it was table play that sparked my interest in gaming in the first place, so I enjoy taking time away from the bright lights, bells and whistles of the new slots to check out some new table games. I know I'll always find something new and creative when I visit Ya Awada at his Gaming Entertainment Inc. booth. Awada's 3-5-7 Poker has carved out a niche at casinos across the United States, and his Champion Poker, introduced last year, is one of the best takes on Hold'em I've seen since table games designers started trying to capitalize on the Hold'em boom. Gaming Entertainment also markets Play Four Poker, a game designed by Larry Kekempanos and Jim Kenny that made its debut at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond nearly three years ago. This time around I was intrigued by Awada's 2-Way Monte. As in many new table games, you start play by making an ante. You then receive six cards, while the dealer is dealt four. After you look at your cards, you may either fold and forfeit your ante, or you may make a wager that is one, two or three times the ante. If you're playing, you must then divide your cards into two three-card hands and place the higher-ranked hand in the space marked "Hi Hand" and the other in the "Lo Hand" space. In order for the player to win even money payoffs on both ante and bet, BOTH the high hand and low hand must beat the best three-card hand the dealer can make out of his four cards. There's an ante bonus built into the game, as well as an optional side bet. If your low hand is a flush or better --- keeping in mind that the high hand must then be a higher flush or better --- you'll get a bonus payoff regardless of whether you beat the dealer. The biggest bonus comes on those rare occasions both high and low hands are straight flushes. When that happens, you'll win 100 times your ante. On the side bet, you win whenever your low hand is a pair or better. The house edge is just over 2 percent, on the low side for newer table games. That's an important part of the package for any game that's going to last. Two-Way Monte, like Awada's other games, is easy to play, easy to deal, has a clean, easy-to-understand table layout and has a reasonable house edge that won't burn out the players but will earn a profit for the house.

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Gaming Concepts Inc., which last year introduced the blackjack game Easy As 1-2-3, climbed aboard the hold'em express this time with Flatline Hold'Em. Flatline incorporates familiar elements of Hold'Em, with a button that passes around the table to indicate who posts the small blind and big blind, a flop, a turn, and a river card, each followed by rounds of betting. The difference is that the community cards are dealt in a cross, with a horizontal "flat" hand and a vertical "line" hand. The river card --- the last card dealt --- is at the intersection and becomes part of both the flat and the line hands. At showdown time, players use their own two cards plus the flat cards to make one five-card hand, and their two cards plus the line cards to make another. The flat winner and line winner split the pot. If you win both hands, you take the entire pot. Any doubts I had about ease of play were quickly put to rest. By the second hand, Flatline Hold'Em seemed second nature to me.

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Table games giant ShuffleMaster also climbed on the Hold'em bandwagon with a game called Ultimate Texas Hold'em. Play starts with both an ante and a Super Bonus bet. The player then gets two cards face down, and can either check, or raise by betting four times the ante. Next, the dealer turns three community cards face up. Players who checked the first time may either check again, or bet twice the ante. Those who raised the first time around can bet no more. After two more community cards are turned up, players who have not yet bet can either bet an amount equal to the ante, or fold. The dealer then turns his own cards face up. If he does not have at least a pair of Aces, he doesn't qualify. Winning hands are paid even money on both bet and ante if the dealer qualifies, and on just the bet on non-qualifying dealer hands. Super Bonus bets pay off according to a pay table that starts at a straight. I walked away with mixed feelings on this one. The house edge is less than 1 percent for a player who knows when to bet, but there's so much going on with qualifiers and who bets at which time that it won't be the easiest game in the house to deal. It's going to take a trained poker dealer to keep everything straight.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2005

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