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Best of John Grochowski
New Video Poker at G2E9 January 2004
On the last day of the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, I stood at the IGT booth, playing a few hands of Five Play Multi-Strike Poker, when a fellow gambling writer approached.
"How does this work?" he asked, and I demonstrated.
Many of you are familiar with Multi-Strike Poker, introduced last year and that since has carved out a strong niche at local casinos. In Multi-Strike, the player starts with one hand of a regular video poker game - Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild or just about any other standard IGT game. If the player wins on that hand, or gets a random "free ride," he or she gets a second hand, worth double the payout of the first. A second-hand winner or free ride brings a third hand for quadruple payoffs, and a winner there brings a fourth hand for four-times pay.
Five Play Multi-Strike is just what it sounds like. It takes the Multi-Strike game created by Wheeling-based Leading Edge Design and puts it on the multi-hand format devised by Action Gaming. That works out well, since IGT distributes Leading Edge games and Action's Triple Play Poker, Five Play Poker and other multihand poker games.
Showing my friend how Five Play Multi-Strike works, I pushed the button for a 100-coin maximum bet - not real money; the game was set up for demonstration. On a Jacks or Better game, I held a Jack of clubs, and then the draw was played out five times. On two hands, I paired up the Jack, and on a third I picked up a Jack plus a pair of 6s for two pair. The three winners meant I got three draws on hand No. 2. There, I was dealt a straight - winners on all three. On hand No. 3, I was dealt two 9s. One draw gave me three of a kind. but the other two were losers. That left me one chance on hand No. 4, and it turned into a flush - a big winner at eight-times pay.
How much were the winnings? On hand No. 1, the two-pair hand was worth 10 coins and the pairs of Jacks were each worth five, for a total of 20. On hand No. 2, the three straights all were worth double their normal 20-coin payoff - 40 coins each for a total of 120. The three of a kind on hand No. 3 was worth four times 15 coins, for 60. And the flush on hand No. 4, usually a 30-coin pay, was multiplied by eight to 240 coins. Total return: 440 coins.
"That looks like fun," my colleague said. "Mind if I try?"
He moved to the machine, made the first-hand bet - and lost on all five draws. He tried again and lost again. On his third attempt, one draw gave him a free ride to hand No. 2, he picked up a pair of Kings on No. 3, and lost on No. 4. Three tries, 300 coins wagered and a total return of 20 coins.
I moved back in and was dealt a pair of Queens on No. 1, giving me five winners. On No. 2, I drew a full house on one hand, high pairs on two others and a three of a kind for four winners. No. 3 brought high pairs on three hands, and No. 4 brought a three of a kind and a high pair. Total return: 385 coins.
"I can't believe the cards you're getting and I can't even get to the third hand. Please don't tell anybody about this," he said.
Despite my anonymous friend's struggles, Five Play Multi-Strike is fun, one of the best new games shown at the expo. It evens out some of the extreme volatility of single-hand Multi-Strike. With that 100-coin maximum bet, it's probably going to have to be basically a nickel game, but given decent pay tables, this one's a blast to play.
MORE POKER: The expo brought a few more interesting twists on video poker, including a couple from Waukegan-based WMS Gaming.
Playing off the success of its video slot machine Reel 'Em In, WMS has devised Reel 'Em In Poker, with an extra that's quite a catch.
It's a Kings or better game, rather than Jacks or better, but at random times the player will be given a special "Go Fish" draw. When that appears, the hand will include a stack of seven cards. The player can either keep the top one, or discard it and get the next card in the stack. The option remains to keep or discard, all the way to the bottom of the stack. Imagine the possibilities when the other four cards are four parts of a royal flush, with seven chances to reel in the fifth.
WMS also has introduced an easy-hold option on regular video poker games. When the hand has an obvious hold, such as three of a kind, the player can just hit the easy-hold button instead of separate buttons for all three cards.
IGT goes for a bigger top jackpot on Five Aces Bonus Poker, which adds a 53rd card to the standard deck. The fifth card is an Ace of stars, with the star depicted as half-black, half-red. Draw five Aces with five coins wagered and you win 6,000 coins, a big step above the 4,000 for a royal flush that tops most games.
Aristocrat bids for entry in the video poker market with Card Sharks Poker. Press the CardSharks button to bet seven coins - the usual five-coin max on a single-hand game plus a two-coin bonus bet qualifying you for a random Card Sharks bonus feature. In the bonus round, you can choose a spin of the jackpot wheel or play a "higher or lower" guessing game to decide which of four jackpots you win - the same kind of four-way progressive Aristocrat uses on Hyperlink slot games such as Cash Express.
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.
Best of John Grochowski