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Best of John Grochowski

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Poker Games for Casinos Without Poker Rooms

6 June 2006

Texas Hold'em keeps booming, and casinos keep looking for ways to feed players' appetites for the game. That includes casinos that don't even have poker rooms.

We're starting to see games designed to feed that player appetite without casinos having to invest in outfitting card rooms, training dealers and providing a game that really isn't fast enough to provide the same kind of profit per square foot as a slot machine.

One product designed to address both dealer training and speed of play issues is the PokerPro table, by PokerTek. Instead of using a trained poker dealer and decks of cards, PokerPro uses video screens and a random number generator. Currently available only for Texas Hold'em, plans are in the works to produce programming for other games, such as Omaha and seven-card stud.

PokerPro is just starting to find casino homes. Some smaller casinos that wouldn't otherwise offer poker are willing to give the video version a try, while the giant Hard Rock Seminole casinos in Florida use a couple of PokerPro tables to augment existing 50-table poker rooms. Either way, they offer some intriguing features both for operators and players.

For one thing, they play faster than poker games with a human dealer --- nearly twice as fast. That gives them the potential for profitability that casinos need to see to justify turning floor space over to Hold'em. They can be configured to deal single-table tournaments, an attractive option to offer players. And there's no question of dealer error --- mistakes and disputes are minimized.

Future versions of PokerPro figure to take advantage of the potential of computerized gaming. Side bets on the next card, or virtual play vs. players at other tables for those who can handle two hands at a time are among the possibilities.

PokerPro's not going to immediately revolutionize card rooms. The majority of players are going to choose live dealers where available. But look for PokerPro and its successors to grab an ever-growing niche.

Also growing is the niche for Hold'em-based games in the regular table games pits. The World Poker Tour All-In Hold'em game was approved for play in Nevada in November, with the initial launch at Bellagio, the Mirage and TI --- the casino formerly known as Treasure Island. Owned by Lakes Entertainment, the majority owner of the World Poker Tour, the game is designed to give players the excitement of declaring "all in" in an easy-to-learn game played player vs. dealer instead of player vs. players.

In this case, "all in" means 10 times your ante, the maximum bet after you've seen your cards. Along with the main game vs. the dealer, players also can make side bets on their hole cards or on the final value of their hands.

All-In Hold'em has the advantage of the WPT name --- and that's a big advantage. But it's not the only Hold'em game on the market, nor is the WPT the only big name trying to leverage its brand into floor space and profits beyond the poker room. Progressive Gaming, which distributes the table game Texas Hold'em Bonus Poker, is introducing an enhanced version that carries a World Series of Poker license.

We have seen Texas Hold'em Bonus Poker in this region already at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Ind., and it seems to be growing everywhere it's been introduced. The Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, which started with four tables, now has 10, and the customers keep coming. Play is against the dealer. You must ante, then after you've seen your two hold cards, either fold or bet two units to see the three card flop. After that, no more bets are mandatory --- you can check on the one-card turn and one-card river and still see the hand all the way to the end. You can bet on turn and river, too, if you like what you see.

There are bonus bets in Texas Hold'em Bonus Poker, and the new enhanced version will have a progressive jackpot. That's a natural for Progressive Gaming, which distributes Caribbean Stud Poker and other games with progressive jackpots.

Shufflemaster is Progressive Gaming's main competitor as the distributor of new table games, and it has its own Hold'em game, Ultimate Texas Hold'em. As in the Lakes and Progressive games, play is against the dealer. After ante and blind bets, players can look at their first two cards, and decide whether to check or bet four times their ante. If they don't bet, they have the option of betting twice their ante before the one-card turn, and if they still don't bet, they must either bet equal to their ante or fold before the final-card river.

Also available is a Trips bonus bet, with players betting that their hand will include three of a kind or better.

Ultimate Texas Hold'em has yet to come to the Chicago area, but it does have several Midwestern outposts, including the Motor City casino in Detroit. But you can count on seeing more of all these games in the near future. The Hold'em demand is just too big to ignore.

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, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9).

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