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Interactivity has become a prime goal for manufacturers of electronic games as they search for ways to keep players involved, and keep them in their seats. But the original interactive electronic casino game is video poker.
Video poker players love the feeling they're in control. They make decisions on every hand, and their strategies affect the outcome. That's interactive.
When that feeling of control is disrupted, it can be startling. That's how it was for a reader who wrote to me, asking about a game he'd played. It looked like a strong play, with a 9-6 Jacks or Better pay table. But there was an added feature he wanted to ask about.
"Something happened I never saw before," he wrote. "I had a losing hand, but then some kind of magic character --- a leprechaun, I think --- came on the screen and changed my cards to a full house. I got the full house payout. I didn't get the name of the game. Have you seen it? Does it change your strategy at all?"
That was all the information in his original note, so I wrote back to ask if, by any chance, he had seen a bingo logo on the machine glass.
"Yes, there was one, now that you mention it," he replied.
With that information, we pieced it together. He had been playing a Class II game in a Native American casino.
Most slots and video poker games in tribal casinos are designated Class III. Those games have random number generators and work the same way as the electronic gaming devices in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and pretty much anywhere else there are commercial casinos in the United States.
The Class II games are used in tribal casinos where either Class III games are not approved for play, or where there are restrictions on the number of Class III games. No matter what the game looks like --- video poker, three-reel slot game, five-reel video slot --- the game you're really playing is electronic bingo.
If you look in that bingo logo on the machine glass, you'll see it being filled up with numbers as your cards are dealt or the reels spin. Those numbers build bingo patterns, and it's the bingo patterns that correspond to wins or losses.
Those bingo numbers are drawn by a central server, not by a random number generator in the individual machine. In Class II wagering, you're competing with other players for a share of the money that's put into the games, and everyone's results come through the same server.
What about the cards, or the reel symbols, or the bonus events on video slots? They are user-friendly interfaces, there to make gameplay interesting and fun.
No matter what decisions you make in the course of play, you're going to get the payoff determined by your bingo numbers. The fellow who wrote to me about his Class II video poker experience didn't recall just what had happened on the hand in question, but I can lay out one possibility. Perhaps in a hand containing two 6s and two 8s, he decided to keep only the 6s and tossed the other three cards. His draw included an 8 that would have completed a full house had he kept both pairs, but instead he had a hand that looked like a loser.
Uh-oh. The bingo numbers already had determined that he'd get a full house payoff. So the leprechaun or genie or wizard appeared to give him his reward.
On a Class II video poker game, strategy makes no difference. It's all in the bingo draw.
Another reader wrote to ask about Class II slot-type games. He knew what he was playing. He just wanted some information about how they worked.
"Since you're playing against other players, does that mean you can't play unless there is someone else at the bank of machines?" he asked. "If I want to play, do I have to wait until someone else wants to play that same game?"
You don't have to wait. The server in casinos with Class II games can link games with different player interfaces --- the slot reels and bonus screens. The same bingo draw can easily be applied to games with different themes and graphics.
But once you're playing, it's the bingo numbers that really matter, and they determine what winds up on the spinning reels, or what bonus you get in a second-screen pick'em event.
That doesn't necessarily mean lower-paying games. Class II machines can be programmed to yield payback percentages as high as those on machines with random number generators. It's the path to the paybacks that has to be different, with an emphasis on chance over choice.
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 email@example.com.