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Best of John Grochowski
New Slots from IGT4 February 2003
It was the last day of the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, and I was taking advantage of the thinning crowds to get a good look at new games in the IGT booth. IGT is the world's largest manufacturer of slot machines, always has the biggest, most varied collection at the fall gaming industry show and also draws crowds so big that I can't always get near the games on the first couple of days.
At the booth, I spotted a familiar face. Larry DeMar of Wheeling's Leading Edge design group approached.
"Have you seen our video poker games yet? Can I show you?"
The thought of Leading Edge designing poker games was intriguing. The firm has experience in designing games that include elements of skill. Its Cash King Checkers, marketed by IGT, is gaining a following among Las Vegas locals. IGT also markets Leading Edge's Othello game, based on the popular board game of black and white discs.
Leading Edge's poker games also have been picked up by IGT, and they were the two most intriguing new video poker games at the show.
One is called Multi-Strike Poker, a new approach to multihand games, one in which the player has a chance to win big for a 20-coin bet.
This isn't Triple Play or one of the other multiple-hand games in which the player draws to the same hand multiple times. Here, there are four hands--or at least the potential for four hands. Winners on the second hand pay double those on the first, the third pays four times the first and the fourth pays eight times the first.
The catch is that you have to win the first hand to get the second, win the second to get the third, and win the third to get the fourth.
By random chance, the player sometimes will get a free ride to the next level. On any level, the player has a slightly better than 50 percent chance of advancing. The free ride brings no payoff by itself, just the opportunity for the bigger win on the next level. With that better-than-even chance of moving up the ladder, the odds on the overall game actually are better than they would be on a one-hand game with the same pay table.
The downside of Multi-Strike is that you're betting as much as if you were playing four hands, but half the time you'll actually play only one. With a maximum bet of 20 coins, that means your stake can drain fast in a cold streak.
That's offset by the potential for big gains when you do move up the ladder. On a quarter game, given a maximum bet, a royal flush will be worth the usual $1,000 on hand No. 1, $2,000 on hand No. 2, $4,000 on hand No. 3 and $8,000 on hand No. 4. And it doesn't have to be a huge winner for the top hand to be a bonanza. Even a 3-for-1 payoff on three of a kind--15 coins for a maximum five-coin bet on most machines--becomes a 120-coin winner on the fourth hand.
After testing Multi-Strike, I followed DeMar to Big Split Poker. This isn't a draw poker game. In fact, it's more akin to the table game pai-gow poker than anything else.
In Big Split, the player is dealt eight cards, which must be split into a five-card hand and a three-card hand.
To win, the five-card hand must be on the game's pay table, with a minimum of two pair, of which one must be Jacks or better. The three-card hand acts as a multiplier. If the three-card hand doesn't include at least a pair, the five-card hand just returns what is on its pay table. But a pair in the three-card hand doubles wins in the five-card hand, and the multiplier ranges up to 16 times the return with three of a kind.
Strategy isn't difficult, but players have to be watchful for the best combination of payoff and multiplier. Often, there will be more than one way to set a winning hand. Are you better off with a full house for a bigger payoff up top even though it leaves you with no multiplier, or are you better with three of a kind multiplied by perhaps a straight or flush below?
IGT has been the dominant video poker manufacturer for two decades. Marketing multihand games designed by Action Gaming, such as Triple Play Poker, have helped extend that edge. IGT has a couple of new Action Games with interesting twists. In Free Play Triple Play, winners ranging from two pair through full houses on the initial deal bring the player a free hand in addition to regular paybacks. And in Super Times Pay Poker, random multipliers appear an average of once per 15 hands to increase winnings.
With the casino industry's most popular stable of poker games, some new wrinkles from Action and now a couple of innovative games from Leading Edge, there can be no doubt that IGT remains the video poker king.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski