IGT debuts Big Split

Jan 20, 2004 2:08 AM

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

Hand  Payout*

Royal Flush


Straight Flush


Four of a Kind


Full House






Three of a Kind


Two Pairs (J’s and 2’s or better)


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

Big Split 3 Card Hand Paytable

Hand Multiplier
Three of a Kind  14 times
Straight Flush 12 times
Flush 4 times
Straight 4 times
Pair 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 Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at http://www.vpheaven.com for their full product catalog, or drop Elliot an e-mail at [email protected]