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New Wrinkles on Poker

18 January 2005

The poker explosion has built-in problems for casinos. Running a poker room is labor intensive. The games themselves have no house edge - the casinos make their money by taking a percentage of each pot, but there's no predicting how large the pots are going to be. Texas Hold'em, Omaha, seven-card stud and the like have several points at which dealing stops for rounds of betting, limiting the number of hands per hour. Poker players take their time making decisions, further slowing play.

Poker, particularly Texas Hold'em, is hot enough right now and bringing in enough younger players that casinos will live with the built-in problems. But what many casino operators would really like to do is take some of that poker interest and transfer it to games with a reliable mathematical edge to the house, where they can expect a steady hundred hands or so an hour.

At the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center, several game developers were trying to give casino operators that kind of game. Let's look at three that are waiting for their share of the pot:

CHAMPION POKER, by Gaming Entertainment Inc. If any new game developer should know poker, it's Ya Awada, the man behind Gaming Entertainment. Not only is he a poker player, he won the seven-card stud championship at this year's World Series of Poker. Next time ESPN reruns that event, look for the fellow calling himself Joe Awada.

Several of Awada's games have made their way onto casino floors, including 3-5-7 Poker. With Champion Poker, he tries to give players a taste of Texas Hold'Em with a relatively low house edge, while at the same time building in enough speed of play to make the game profitable for the casino.

Champion Poker speeds play by dealing just two initial two-card hands - a player hand and a dealer hand. There's an element of baccarat here in that players may bet on either "player" or "dealer." In addition to the two-card starter hands, five common cards are dealt face down, leading to a three-card flop, along with a turn and a river card, just as in Texas Hold'em.

Players start by making a "blind" bet before seeing any cards. After the two-card hands are exposed, players may either fold or raise by placing a bet equal to the blind. Then the dealer exposes the flop, turn and river cards to decide the hand.

Along with the Hold'em play, there is a mandatory five-card bonus bet. This is decided by combining whichever two-card hand the player has bet on with the three-card flop. Bets are paid off according to a pay table that starts with a pair of 7s.

It's the bonus bet that gives the house its edge - 1.4 percent if the bet is on player or 1.2 percent if the bet is on dealer.

Big Raise Hold'em, ShuffleMaster Inc. It's only natural that ShuffleMaster would be in on the Hold'em rush. The company is a leading marketer of table games, with Let It Ride, Three Card Poker and many more.

Like many of the poker-based games that have risen to popularity in recent years, Big Raise Hold'em features both a bonus bet and play against the dealer.

Against the dealer, the player starts by making an ante, and has the option of also making a Big Raise bet that can be one, two or three times the ante. Each player is dealt two hole cards, and the dealer receives three cards, two face down and one face up - it's the dealer's extra card that gives the house the edge. Three community cards are dealt face down.

If the dealer's face-up card is a King or an Ace, the player must go all in, risking both the ante and Big Raise bets. Against other face-up cards, the player may choose to risk either ante or Big Raise by tucking the hold cards under the chosen wager. If the player has a pair, he can turn the cards face up, tell the dealer he's all in, and put both bets in action. The community cards are then revealed to decide the hand.

The bonus bet has its own betting spot. Several pay tables are available - the one shown at the expo started at 1-1 on a pair of 8s and topped out at 50-1 for a royal flush. The house edge varies depending on the pay table in use.

Texas Shootout, by Galaxy Gaming. This one is played with six decks instead of the single deck used at poker tables, and play seems a bit more like Omaha than Texas Hold'em, but it's the same idea.

As in Omaha, players each are dealt four cards, as is the dealer. Players must choose which two cards to play and discard the other two, or may divide the cards, make an additional wager and play two two-card hands. The dealer chooses which two cards to keep according to a "house way" strategy.

Five cards, called the flop, are then dealt face up in the center of the table. The player's best five-card hand wins if it beats the dealer. The dealer wins ties, giving the house its edge - about 3 percent, given skillful play.

There's also a Shootout Bonus wager. In the version on display, the bonus bet payoffs ranged from 1-1 on a straight to 5,000-1 on a royal flush. There's also an envy bonus - if you've made the bonus bet and someone else wins with a big hand, you get a bonus that tops out at $1,000 for a suited five of a kind.

New Wrinkles on Poker is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Related Links
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:

> 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