THE NEW BREED OF VIDEO POKER VARIATIONS

In the previous section we talked about the ‘basic’ video poker variations. For many years, new versions of the ‘old classic’ came around slowly for a number of reasons. Players had been taught to mistrust newer versions of old games. ‘Sharp’ players didn’t like having to learn the strategies and pay tables for new games. Recreational players were convinced that any newer game was automatically ‘player unfriendly’ and gave the house a greater edge (this is sometimes true, but not always). And it wasn’t like casinos and game manufacturers were overly anxious to install new games with the more traditional models still raking in profits.

The limitations of technology also made ‘experimenting’ with new variations risky. Until the past decade or so, machines could only support one game variation. That means that one machine would offer ‘Jacks or Better’, another ‘Deuces Wild’ and so forth. To bring in a new rule set meant using a dedicated machine for that game. It also meant using valuable floor space that could be devoted to a game that was known to be profitable and popular. If a game didn’t work out, it would have to be physically removed from the casino floor and replaced—a time consuming, labor intensive process.

Things are different now. Machines that offer only one type of game are the exception rather than the rule. Video poker machines offer dozens of variations, rules and denominations. Some combine video poker, slots and keno at the same machine. Adding a new game requires just a little bit of programming—if it catches on it can be featured more prominently but if not the investment involved in changing it around is minimal.

The customer base has also changed. ‘Sharp’ players will play any game that offers a good return on investment. Recreational players, meanwhile, simply aren’t as savvy as they were twenty years ago. With video poker competing with elaborate slot machines featuring familiar movie and television themes there’s a necessity to add more ‘bells and whistles’ to the traditional games. More ‘action’, more ‘mini-jackpots’, etc. bring a more slot machine-like experience to video poker. But don’t automatically dismiss these games as some are very player friendly.

One of the more recent types of variation makes video poker even more ‘slot like’. Machines are now offering jackpot bonuses and other payout enhancement features for an additional bet. In other words, you’re paying 10 coins per hand max bet instead of the usual 5 coins max bet. More often than not, the ‘feature’ isn’t worth the extra expenditure and thus disadvantageous to your long term profitability.

NEWER VIDEO POKER VARIATIONS

With over 60 different types of video poker machines on Las Vegas casino floors it’s not possible to list them all. These are some of the more popular variations:

ULTIMATE X POKER: An extra bet activates the ‘Ultimate X’ feature. Every winning hand is awarded a bonus multiplier on the next hand. The multiplier is assigned based on a chart available on the ‘pays’ screen—certain winning hands get certain multipliers. For example, a winning hand might award a ‘3X’ multiplier for the next hand. Any payout on the next hand is multiplied accordingly. For example:

Hand #1: J J 10 10 5

Two pair—awards 3X multipliers

Hand #2: Q Q Q 4 3 X3

Three of a kind awards 15 multiplied by three for a total of 45

DREAM CARD POKER: Similar to Ultimate X poker in that an additional bet is required. That bet activates the ‘Dream Card’ feature—if the ‘Dream Card’ is dealt at random it automatically becomes whatever card is necessary to complete the dealt hand. For example, if a player is dealt a hand with three sixes and a ‘Dream Card’ the special feature card will become a 6 to complete the four of a kind. There are also ‘Dream Card’ versions of Deuces and Jokers Wild where the ‘dream card’ typically becomes the wild card.

QUICK QUADS: Another additional bet game, which adds a unique four of a kind bonus on winning three of a kind hands. It works like this—if a player is dealt a three of a kind with the ‘Quick Quads’ feature enabled he’s paid off as usual. Then after the hand the two ‘extra cards’ are added together. If the sum of the ‘extra cards’ equals the value of the ‘three of a kind’ card he’s awarded a four of a kind bonus. Only cards 2 through 10 are eligible: For example:

Hand #1: 3 5 K K K = hand not eligible (3 Kings)

Hand #2: 5 5 5 4 6 = losing hand (3 5’s 4 + 6 = 10)

Hand #3: 7 7 7 4 3 = winning hand (3 7’s 4 +3 = 7)

RANDOM REWARDS: An additional coin bet (6 instead of 5) activates the ‘Random Rewards’ feature. Instead of the usual payout for flush, full house, straight flush and four of a kind player receives a ‘random reward’ jackpot that changes each hand.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, these variations are essentially ‘bonus’ games on top of the traditional format of video poker. In our next section, we’ll look at some variations that changes the way the game is played.