New video poker at G2E 2010

4 January 2011

IGT has been the king of video poker since … well … ever since there's been video poker. The 2010 Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center was ample demonstration of that. While video poker director John Daley showed off IGT's latest attractions, none of the other established slot manufacturers introduced anything new in video poker.

Several manufacturers included well-established poker games on multigame machines, especially those displaying games intended for bars and restaurants in Illinois, if and when final approval for such games comes.

But aside from IGT, the only manufacturer showing anything novel in video poker was a newbie, Incredible Technologies.

The video poker main event at G2E, of course, is a visit to the IGT booth. Daley pointed to Build a Wheel, a variation on IGT's popular Wheel Poker games. This time, players get to create their own wheels. You're asked to fill in six blank slices on the eight-slice wheel. At the start of play, only two slices on the wheel are filled in with bonus amounts. Each time the player is dealt three of a kind or better, it fills in another slice on the wheel. When all slices are filled, it spins for bonus credits.

Alternatively, all spaces will fill for an immediate bonus spin whenever the player is dealt a full house or better. But with the dealt three of a kind the standard for filling in slices, the spin happens often enough to hold player interest. An extra wager pays for the bonus event, while the base game has standard video poker pay tables. The smart player will shop for the best base-game pay tables, just as on any other video poker game.

IGT steps up the Wheel Poker concept with Spin Fever, featuring three wheels in a community bonus. As you play, you're looking for eligibility and then extra multipliers on each of three wheels — one for flushes, one of full houses and one for four of a kind or better.

"This one is for drawn hands," Daley explained. "Every time you get one of them you get a 1x multiplier added. So the flush is the left wheel, full house is the center wheel, and four of a kind is the right pointer. To be eligible, for the bonus event you have to have at least 1x on one of them."

At G2E, manufacturers set up machines so that they can force bonus events and show off what their games can do — something you can't do when the game goes live for real money. Daley had the game deal a four of a kind on a five-hand set up, and that took the multiplier up to 5 times. A single quad would take the multiplier up one time.

The maximum multiplier? Daley laughed.

"The multiplier can go up to 99. But when it's deployed, it'll go into the bonus round an average of once every five minutes, so it'll be pretty tough to get to 99."

Incredible Technologies, known to recreational game players for its Golden Tee Golf games that have been such a megahit in bars, restaurants and online, just rolled its first slot machines into casinos in 2010. At G2E, it showed a collection of five-card draw video poker games on its new bartop units, and showed something truly out of the ordinary with its Texas Hold'em-based game, Upper Hand Hold'em.

I mentioned to company president and CEO Elaine Hodgson and director of development Larry Hodgson that Hold'em games have had a high failure rate, that they haven't done as well as five-card draw games.

"That's the kind of thing we like to hear," Elaine Hodgson said, "because when we were starting out, people told us no one would play golf games."

And when I played the game, it was definitely a good time.

Upper Hand Hold'em is designed as a penny game, with a 300-coin maximum bet. You're playing Hold'em against up to 10 other hands. There is no artificial intelligence, no bluffing. The cards tell the story of whether you win or lose.

I chose to play against all 10 opponents. After I anted, we were each dealt two cards, with my opponents' cards being face down. Five community cards were dealt face down in the middle of the screen. I could go all in with a raise, all cards would be revealed at once and bets settled. Or I could call with a smaller bet, see the three-card flop, then call again for the one-card turn, and then finally see the last card.

I was paid according to a pay table for each opponent I beat. Beat all 10 with a royal flush, and you can win 120,000 credits, and for maximum bettors there's a progressive side pot on royals and straight flushes.

The action is faster than on most Hold'em games I've seen, and the 10-opponent format is novel and entertaining. Beat just one opponent, and you'll still get some payoff. When you get a really good hand and see the wins mount up as you beat four, five, six and more opponents — that's fun.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2010

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