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In the casino world, the term “success” is most definitely a relative term. If you’re Scientific Games and you invent a new table game and wind up with 10 or 12 placements and it peaks there, it is likely to be called a failure.

At $1,000 per month per table you’ve got an annual revenue stream of about $120K. With annual revenues of $2.3B this is a rounding error. Sure, if you’ve got 20 or 30 of these types of games, it will add up, but it is still going to be a small part of your revenue. If, however, you are a small company or an independent developer, you will certainly not claim a table game that gets to 10 or 12 and generates a revenue stream of $120K even if only for a few years is a failure.

With that said, I think I can safely say that although there have been many variations of video poker that have been created in the past several years, none can truly be declared a success. Maybe there is some niche game for a small developer that has a pocket of games somewhere, but for the most part, the last major video poker successful feature was multi-play. Sure, we’ve added Triple Bonus and the like, but these are just paytable variations.

At this week’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E), Grover Gaming will have New Vision Gaming’s Headstart Hold’em on display. The game was created by John Feola (New Vision’s founder) with an assist from me (for proper disclosure). It is based on the game of Texas Hold’em.

Unlike some of the other efforts of the past few years, it makes no attempt to create a video version of Texas Hold’em and put the player into one of the seats. Instead it attempts to capitalize on one the more exciting aspects of being a spectator of the game.

Essentially, the player has to determine after seeing the Flop, which of the 5 virtual players, who start with the same pocket cards every hand, will win the hand. Each of the virtual players have a different paytable based on the strength of their starting hand and the probability of winning the hand overall.

Let’s break this down a little further and introduce the five virtual players.

Big Slick – AK off suit. Great way to start a hand.

Royal Couple – JQ suited (Spades). Lower ranking cards, but suited.

Diamond Girl – 89 suited (Diamonds). Definitely starting behind.

Speed Limit – Pair of 5’s. Low ranking, but a Pair

Mr. Lucky – Off suit 2/7. Doesn’t get any worse than this.

To begin play, you have to bet an equal amount on each of the players as an Ante. A three-card flop will then be displayed from the remaining 42 cards like in regular Texas Hold’em.

The player must decide which of the five virtual players to Raise vs. Fold. If you Raise, you make an additional wager equal to your ante for that player. You may bet on any or all of them. For each player you raise, you make that additional wager. If you fold a player, you make no additional wagers for that player, but if that player wins the hand, you will still not win. All winning wagers pay odds according to the paytable.

After the player has made his decision on which hands to raise or fold, he presses the draw button. The Turn and River Cards will now be displayed. If the player raised the winning hand and that hand’s rank is at least a Three of a Kind (potentially Two Pair depending on the paytable), the player will win the payout shown. The player is also paid even if the player ties for a winning hand. In fact, if he raised multiple hands and those hands tie for the highest ranked hand, he will win for both of the players.

John and I worked on this game several years ago and it took us quite some time to come up with the perfect set of five starter hands to create the dynamics of the final product. Very rarely is a hand a lock after the flop (and if it is, you automatically win!). Likewise, it is rare that a hand is automatically out of it after the Flop.

You may think you’ve got the right hand when 3-spades shows up on the flop and you have a Flush already with Royal Couple, but then the turn and the river show a pair of 5’s and Speed Limit wins with Quads. Every hand has its own twists and turns creating an excitement that simply doesn’t exist with regular video poker.

Bringing a video game to market is much more difficult than a table game. The cost of each terminal is minimally several thousand dollars and can go even higher.

So, getting into the casino means an investment in at least $100,000 of hardware and then you have all the programming costs. A table game can go from concept to casino in 6 months. As John discovered, a video game is a multi-year process at least.

If you’re going to the Global Gaming Expo, I strongly suggest you check out Grover Gaming at booth #1832 and get a Headstart on the newest name in video poker.

Buy his book now!

Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is Contact Elliot at [email protected].

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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