A new vision: It’s Blackjack with a bonus

About 18 months ago, I wrote about a game that I had helped to develop with John Feola of New Vision Gaming. It was a variation of video poker called Headstart Hold’em and it was based on Texas Hold’em rather than 5-card Draw.

While that game continues to progress through development and the approval process, we developed a variation that could be brought to the market a bit faster. This variation plays as a Bonus Sidebet to Blackjack.

The game is rather simple. You make a wager. If you’re dealt a blackjack, you win. How much do you win? Now the fun begins! The Dealer activates the Bonus Game, which will be viewed on a monitor at each table provided by California-based iGoLogic (John Lam, CEO 510-252-9388).

The Bonus round will begin with five 2-card pre-determined starter hands. These five 2-card hands will never change. They are "Big Slick" (off-suit A/K), "Royal Couple" (J/Q of Spades), "Diamond Girl" (8/9 of diamonds), "Speed Limit" (Pair of 5’s) and Mr. Lucky (off-suit 2/7).

Unlike the video poker or Keno version, you don’t have to pick the winning hand. You don’t care which of the hands wins, you just want the winning hand to be a big one.

At a minimum, the Player will win $5 units for each $1 wagered. Hit a Royal Flush and you might win 500, 1,000 or even 5,000-1 (depending on the paytable in use). The paytable has a different value for each of the five starter hands for each possible hand rank.

A Straight for Royal Couple might pay 15-1, but if the top hand is Mr. Lucky with a Straight, it might pay 40-1. The Player is paid only for the rank of the winning hand. So, if Big Slick winds up with a Straight, but Speed Limit gets a Four of a Kind, only the Four of a Kind is paid. The top prize is a Diamond Royal, which would have to happen by having all five community cards making up the Royal.

There have been several paytables created for Headstart Hold’em Bonus, ranging from a 5 percent house advantage to 20. What makes this game so unique is its simplicity with regard to the game of Blackjack. The Player merely needs to root for the same hand he always roots for – a blackjack. Once that happens, the bonus game begins and the Player will win anywhere from $5 to $5,000 for a single $1 wager!

For those of you wondering about the math behind the game, a Blackjack will occur about 4.75 percent of the time, or 1 in 21 hands (roughly). With Headstart Hold’em Bonus, the Player who gets a run of Blackjacks should find himself amply rewarded.

The reason I’m writing this particular column this week is because Headstart Hold’em Bonus is scheduled to go live in several casinos around the country this week. In fact, it is already live at Isle of Capri in Kansas City and Harrah’s St. Louis.

While the exact schedule is subject to change, it is slated to open in Kansas City, St. Louis, Las Vegas (Station Casinos) and California (Hopland Sho-ka-wah Casino and Gold Country).

While I admit that I am 100 percent biased, I think the chances of this game’s success is tremendous. It is rare to have a game open in this many casinos at the same time, and I think this is an indication of how well received the game is. If you’re heading to the casinos in the near future, I strongly urge you to check it out.