IGT debuts Big Split

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My wife and I just completed a ten day trip to Las Vegas. The
purpose of the trip was two-fold. The first was the obvious vacation. The second
was as a scouting trip, checking out the new games playing in Las Vegas, both
electronic and table.

We had an enjoyable vacation despite the cold weather. (It
actually SNOWED while we were there!) We also had the opportunity to take a look
at some new games first hand, so I guess the trip was successful on both fronts.

Several new entries piqued my interest. I haven’t had a
chance to analyze them fully, but keep an eye here over the next several weeks
for more detailed analysis of each.

Big Split Poker was one of the games that attracted my
interest. My wife and I found it quite enjoyable. As I have yet to analyze it
mathematically, I can only discuss the basics of the game at this time and judge
the game by how we did while playing, which would leave me to believe that it’s
a least reasonably competitive with the paytable we were playing.

The game is rather simple. You’re dealt eight cards. You
have to pick five cards to make a five-card hand, and the remaining three cards
become a three-card hand. The five-card hand has to consist of at least two
pair, with one pair being Jacks or Better. If it’s not possible to do this
with the eight cards, the machine will tell you Game Over.

In order to play the game fully, at least one coin must be
wagered on each paytable. Thus, to be all in, you’d have to wager 10
coins to get the benefit of full pay. There are two paytables. The first is for
the five-card hand. It pays as follows:

Big Split 5 Card Hand Paytable


Royal Flush


Straight Flush


Four of a Kind


Full House






Three of a Kind


Two Pairs (J’s and 2’s or


The paytable on the three-card hand acts as a MULTIPLIER:

Big Split 3 Card Hand Paytable


Three of a Kind 
14 times

Straight Flush
12 times
4 times
4 times
2 times

 Assuming you don’t see the dreaded Game Over, the
fun begins. At first, the game seems as simple as finding your best five-card
hand and see what else is left. After a few minutes, you realize it’s a bit
more complex than that.

Thus, it’s important to try and come up with the best
possible combination where possible. Many hands can only be played one way.
There are, however, a considerable number of hands that can be played multiple
ways. In some cases, you are better off playing a lesser five-card hand in order
to increase the value of the three-card hand. Let’s look at an example: 

J¨ Jª4§ 4©

6¨ 6© 6§ 2¨

If dealt the eight cards above, the first reaction would
probably be to make the 5-card hand a Full House (6’s and 4’s or 6’s and J’s).
The Full House would pay 4. You’d be left with a pair in the 3-card hand,
which would multiply your payout by 2, giving you a total of 8. With a little
practice, however, you’ll quickly learn that you’d be better off playing the
five-card hand as Two Pairs (J’s and 4’s) for 1 coin, and leaving the 6’s
for the 3-Card Hand. The Three of a Kind will multiply your five-hand payout by
14 giving a total payout of 14. With max coins in, this is a payout of 70
instead of a payout of 40 going with the Full House.

Big Split can also be filled with a lot of frustrating near
misses. Look at the following cards: 

4¨4§ 5© 5ª


At first glance, you probably quickly see the 3-card Straight
Flush and at the same time the Two Pairs that remain. As you start selecting
cards for the 5-card hand, the machine ”˜rudely’ tells you that you don’t
have a paying 5-card hand! Unfortunately, Two Pairs (4’s and 5’s) is not a
qualifying 5-card hand. You stare at the cards for a while when you realize you
have to use the J’s in the 5-card hand in order to have a qualifying Two
Pairs. All hope is not lost, however. But, you must be careful. If you go with J’s
and 4’s for your Two Pair, you’ll get 1 coin back on the 5-card hand, and
with 1 pair (5’s) for the 3-card hand, this will be doubled to 2. IF, however,
you go with the J’s and 5’s for the 5-card hand, and go with the 4-Q-K of
diamonds in the 3-card hand, you’ll get back 4 coins. On a max-coin basis,
this is 10 coins vs. 20 coins.

The only real strategy in Big Split Poker is playing each
8-card hand dealt to you in an optimum fashion. After a little practice, you
begin to recognize the patterns of cards and how to play each to optimize your
payback. Unlike regular video poker, however, playing a hand wrong will cost you
immediately in absolute terms (you’ll get paid 40 coins instead of 70) instead
of POSSIBLY costing you depending on the draw over the long run (assuming you
don’t throw away winning hands in regular video poker!)

One of the keys to maximizing your time playing Big Split is
to NOT RUSH. The game allows you to change your mind as many times as you’d
like and to take as much time as you’d like. With practice, you’ll get
faster, but until then, there’s nothing wrong with the trial and error method.
When you get what you feel is your optimal hand and have exhausted all other
possibilities, THEN hit the ”˜Submit’ button to finalize your decision.

Big Split Poker is a registered trademark of IGT. According
to IGT, the game can currently be found in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, NYNY,
Terrible’s and The Orleans. It will be available for wider distribution at the
end of January.


Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and
analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of
Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas
(recently updated for 2003!) and Winning Strategies for Video Poker,
which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular
versions of Video Poker, and the just released Expert Strategy for Three Card
. Check out Compu-Flyers website at https://www.vpheaven.com for their
full product catalog, or drop Elliot an e-mail at [email protected]




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