Shuffle Master in January will unveil its latest table game, Big Raise Hold’em, at Jackson Rancheria Casino in Northern California. Big Raise is a variation of Texas Hold’em, the game of choice for the World Poker Tour, the television series that has brought tournament poker into the pop culture spotlight.
"I’m a big fan of the World Poker Tour," says Roger Snow, table games product manager for Shuffle Master. In fact, Snow says he got the inspiration for Big Raise while watching one of the shows.
"You can’t replicate live poker, especially tournament poker," Snow says. "With Big Raise, I wanted to make a table game that has some of those elements that make poker so exciting. It took a long time to develop, but I’m ecstatic with the results."
Some of the best features of Big Raise Hold’em, according to Snow, are:
”¡ Aggressive betting
”¡ The player wins ties
”¡ The dealer always qualifies
”¡ The bad-beat jackpot (offered at casino’s discretion)
Like the popular specialty table games Three Card Poker and Caribbean Stud, Big Raise Hold’em features head-to-head play against the dealer and an optional bonus bet. The bonus bet wins when the player’s five-card hand is a pair of 8s or higher. The top payout is 500-1 for a royal flush.
To play against the dealer, players must ante. They may also make a blind raise, from 1 to 3 times their ante. This blind raise, or big raise, is optional. After seeing their first two cards, players typically have the option to pull back one of those bets, and if they have a pocket pair, they may go all-in and risk both bets.
"When you have a good hand, like Ace-high or even Queen-high, you should risk the bigger bet," Snow says. "And when you’re stuck with trash like 7-3 offsuit, you risk the smaller bet. You tuck your hole cards under the bet you want to risk, and the dealer will push the other bet back.
"Pocket pairs are great. Whenever you get a pocket pair, you should snap it over and tell the dealer you’re all in."
The dealer then reveals his hole cards and flops three community cards. The dealer and each player use these cards to complete their five-card hands. If the player beats or ties the dealer, he wins even money on whichever bet he left in action””the ante, the big raise, or both.
"I’ll tell you what. You get some big swings in this game," Snow says.
Much of the volatility””and the fun””of Big Raise Hold’em comes from the all-in feature. Not only can players call the dealer all in, but the dealer can do likewise.
"You can definitely get trapped," Snow says. "It doesn’t happen very often, 14.5% of the time to be exact, but the dealer can force you all-in."
Some of the most exciting moments in this game, Snow says, occur when the player is called all-in.
"It feels like a death sentence when it happens, but a lot of the time you get called all-in with a weak hand and you end up catching a lucky draw," he says. "It’s just like real hold’em."
It’s a little more boring””but a good kind of boring””when players call the dealer all-in. Players may only do this when they have pocket pairs, and pocket pairs are huge favorites to beat the dealer.
"Because there are only three community cards, pairs are just about bullet-proof," Snow says."
Snow hopes casinos that install Big Raise will offer a bad-beat jackpot, a common feature in table-stakes poker.
"It’s a pretty easy add-on," he says. "You set it up just like in a poker room””even people at the table who aren’t part of the bad beat get a share. I think it would give this game a huge lift. Imagine walking up to a table game and seeing a $10,000 bad-beat jackpot. That would be pretty cool."
Shuffle Master is the most successful marketer of specialty table games. The company has 1,800 tables in the market, led by Three Card Poker, Let it Ride and Four Card Poker. It also markets the baccarat side bet Dragon Bonus.