‘Skill factor’ fueled growth of video poker

June 10, 2002 10:09 PM
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The invention of video poker was a benchmark in gaming history. The product was invented in 1977 by engineers Logan Pease and Bill Wells and marketed by Fortune Coin owner William "Si" Redd. It effectively launched a company that would come to be known as International Game Âí­Technology.

Video poker introduced the element of player skill to gaming machines. Players were given decision-making options that regular slots didn’t offer, and the impact of video poker took the industry by surprise. The machines proved so popular that the original upright machine design was adapted to a bar-top model, which created a powerful new revenue stream for local taverns. The prototype Draw Poker machine led to multiple variations on the theme: Jacks or Better, Jokers Wild, Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild Bonus Poker, Player’s Choice Poker and dozens more.

Video poker stayed pretty consistently popular (some might say "stodgy") until 1998, when an inventor named Ernie Moody pioneered a multi-hand concept he called Triple Play Draw Poker. The new game allowed a player to play three hands at once (on a 15-coin max play) by dealing three rows of five cards. The first two rows are dealt face down, and the bottom row is dealt face up. The player then chooses the cards he/she wants to keep from the bottom hand, and those cards automatically appear in the corresponding spaces in the top two hands. After hitting the Draw button, the player gets three different draws from three different decks. So if a player holds three-of-a-kind from the bottom deck, he/she has three different chances to get four-of-a-kind.

"The game blew the lid off of all of our projections," said Moody, who formed Action Gaming, Inc. to extend the product line. "Triple Play had tremendous play appeal and generated instant acceptance from video poker players all over Nevada. Players liked the fact that when they were dealt a big hand like a Royal Flush, they got paid three times as much as on the older, single-hand video poker games. Many players have told me that after playing Triple Play, they can never go back to playing regular video poker."

Triple Play Draw Poker has since given birth to Five Play, Ten Play, Fifty Play and even Hundred Play Poker (one hundred hands at a time). And Moody continues to develop other poker variations like Flex Play Poker, Millionaire Triple Play Poker, and Chase the Royal.

On the heels of Moody’s successes, IGT in 2001 put together a Video Poker Business Development group to concentrate resources squarely on the video poker product. "The fact that IGT is focusing on video poker is a powerful message for the marketplace," says Mike Fields, director of the group. "Look at what happened for gaming systems, ticket out, game design or wide-area games after IGT put its efforts into those areas. We’re focusing now on something that hasn’t seen a lot of change, energizing a part of the casino floor that has been relatively underserved."