Automated poker table hits the casinos

Dec 12, 2005 12:59 AM

First there was an all-electronic blackjack table in which an "electronic deck" was "dealt" to players through the video-screen tabletop.

Then came a roulette game in which players sat at terminals and electronically made their plays.

Now there’s a completely automated poker table, devoid of chips, cards and even the dealer!

Manufactured by PokerTek, the new PokerPro table has already found a home in several casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock in Florida and three Winstar casinos in Oklahoma.

At the Seminole Hard Rock, for instance, players get into the game by signing up for the casino’s reward card and charging it with cash.

Instead of putting their name on a waiting list, the player walks over to a kiosk where all the games or tournaments that are being conducted on the automated table are being held. He then finds the game he wants and signs up. When a seat opens, the player’s name, table and seat number are projected onto a screen.

After finding his seat, the player swipes his casino card to transfer money to the table. When the game starts, the player’s hole cards are displayed on a touchscreen in front of his seat and the flop is displayed on a large LCD monitor in the middle of the table.

Players bet, raise, call and fold via the touchscreen. Chips (money) is transferred among players electronically. When the player wants to leave, he logs out and the money is credited to his account.

Lou White, CEO of PokerTek, says that players will see 50 percent to 60 percent more hands on the electronic table than on a conventional table. And they save money by not having to tip the dealers.

Moreover, the table doesn’t make any dealer mistakes or allow for player mistakes. It won’t let players act out of turn and it never misreads the flop or exposes a king on the deal, White says.

White, along with Lyle Berman and two other businessmen, founded PokerTek almost three years ago.

Berman is CEO of Lakes Entertainment, and the co-founder of the World Poker Tour.

"As the World Poker Tour was coming on, we saw what was happening with the poker market and went out and designed and launched this new technology for the poker rooms," White says.

White adds that the poker room, up to now, has been the only area of the casino that hasn’t benefited from modern technology, except for a few card shufflers.

" We wanted to use technology to make that experience better," he says.

So far, the Seminole Hard Rock casino is happy with the new tables.

"PokerPro will increase the profitability of our poker rooms, so we’re thrilled to be installing PokerPro tables in another one of our six poker rooms," said Charlie Lombardo, senior vice president of gaming operations for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. "We believe PokerPro has a future in all poker rooms. Once players try it, many prefer it to manual tables. It’s also a great way to introduce new players to the game."