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Hold'em Comes to Video Poker

8 November 2005

What's the hottest thing in gambling?

Texas Hold'em, of course, with televised events including the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour making the game a pop culture phenomenon that reaches far beyond casinos and card rooms.

So it's only natural that casinos would want to tap into the Hold'em buzz and bring variations on the game to their slot floors.

Major slot manufacturers IGT and WMS Gaming have gone right to the source for their piece of the action, IGT with a license from the World Poker Tour and WMS with a license from the World Series of Poker. At the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, both were ready to shuffle up and deal out new games.

For its spin on Hold'em, IGT turned to Northbrook, Ill.-based Leading Edge, the designers of Multi-Strike Poker. Steven Demar, director of business development for Leading Edge, showed his enthusiasm as he led me over to try out the game at the IGT booth.

"Hold'em is not an easy game to translate to a video game," he said. "The things that are exciting about video poker aren't part of Hold'em, and the things that are exciting about Hold'em aren't usually part of video poker. I think Larry did a really nice job in cracking this one."

Larry is Steven's brother, Leading Edge president Larry Demar. He took the Multi Strike concept in which players win their way up the ladder to hands that are worth two, four and eight times the original, and brought it to Hold'em. With no draw built into table Hold'em, the video game starts by offering the player a choice of two-card hands to start things off. And WPT Hold'em incorporates a "bad beat" jackpot --- any time the player starts with a pair of Jacks or better, and doesn't finish with a winning hand of two pair or better, he wins the bad beat pot and advances to the next higher-level hand.

In addition to the bad beat, a nice bonus feature is built into the game. If your initial two-card hand is good enough, it acts as a multiplier. A suited Queen-Jack doubles your winnings, and the multiplier ranges up to 10 times for a pair of red Aces. Payoffs are made on any hand of two pair or better, and the pay table looks strangely familiar to video poker players --- 10 coins for two pair, 15 for three of a kind, 20 for a straight, 30 for a flush, 45 for a full house. To make that work, all bets have to be made in two-coin increments --- they can't very well have you bet a single coin and pay you 7 and a half coins for three of a kind.

And any time the player is one card from a big-paying hand, the game drives home the World Poker Tour tie-in. Then, the voices of WPT television announcers Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten set the scene and heighten the excitement. When the big hand hits, Mike and Vince take center screen in video for celebration and analysis.

WMS stayed closer to familiar video poker with its World Series of Poker license. In fact, the first WSOP games are standard five-card draw video poker games --- the World Series connection is in name and graphics.

But in the second game, World Series of Poker Final Table, the WSOP connection heats up. It too uses standard five-card draw games such as Jacks or Better or Double Double Bonus Poker, but there's a built in bonus. In addition to your regular video poker hand, you see a two-card hand at the top center of your screen. Any time those two cards are a pair of Jacks or Better, you move on to the Final Table.

At the final table, you start off in 10th place and work your way up by winning hands of Hold'em. You're first given a choice of two-card hands. On your first hand at the final table, one of your choices will be the two-card hand that got you there. Since that's always at least a pair of Jacks, you'll usually choose to start with that. Then the rest of the hand is dealt. If your hand beats an onscreen opponent, you move up to ninth place, and get to play another hand, start with a choice of two fresh two-card hands.

Once you lose, the bonus round is over. The more hands you win, the higher you move up in the standings, and the bigger your bonus. Win nine hands in a row, and you're the World Series champion, earning the biggest bonus.

When I tested the game at the expo, I went to the bonus round twice. The first time, I won two hands and lost the third, for eighth place, while the second time I won four hands before losing, earning the larger sixth-place bonus.

How often will you qualify for the bonus round? There are 1,326 possible two-card combinations in a single deck. Twenty-four combinations will take you to the bonus round. You'll get to the final table about once per 55 hands.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski