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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Will new vIdeo poker game attract slot players?

2 April 2008

Speaking generally about the games of preference for casino gamblers, there are three categories of players: Those who prefer slots, those who prefer tables, and those who prefer video poker.

Casino operators are always looking for ways to create crossover opportunities among the groups, but it hasn't been easy. Even though slots and video poker are members of the same family (electronic gaming devices), efforts by manufacturers to combine elements of the games have proven to be challenging.

The new wave of electronic touch-screen table games is regarded to have the potential to attract dedicated slot players, but the main focus remains the highly specialized video poker segment as a means to expand the horizons of slot players.

Video poker players are a dedicated lot who really don't want the manufacturers messing around with their game. With an element of skill as the primary attraction, just give them a good selection of games with solid pay tables and they're content.

Slot players, on the other hand, not only like to win money; they want to be entertained with the base games and second screen bonus rounds.

The ideal compromise would seem to be a combination of an established video poker format with a popular element of slot play. International Game Technology (IGT) appears to have accomplished just that with Wheel Poker.

Wheel Poker is a union of the best of IGT's slot machine and video poker worlds. The base game is available in Triple Play and Five Play options with seven game families (Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, etc.) from which to choose.

The distinctive component is the top box "wheel," which resembles the wheel-based theme games for which IGT is famous. Players get the opportunity to activate a wheel spin for bonus credits every time they are dealt or draw to any four-of-a-kind. Each spin rewards the player anywhere from 100 to 2,000 credits.

Two one-dollar Wheel Poker games were added to the slot floor at Harrah's Joliet, but they were recently converted to quarter denomination. The game requires a wager of six coins per hand to be eligible for the Wheel Poker bonus. The sixth coin actually funds the bonus aspect of the game, which leaves the standard pay tables unaffected.

Fran Miller, the director of slots at Harrah's Joliet, is examining play on this classic hybrid game closely. Will it appeal to hard core video poker devotees and at the same time win over slot players who are attracted by the slot style bonus wheel?

The sixth coin required for bonus wheel eligibility can be an expensive betting proposition, especially on multi-hand units. That's probably why Miller decided to make them quarter games. The max bet on a dollar Triple Play game is $18 but $4.50 on a quarter game.

Statistically speaking, the frequency of getting 4-of-a-kind is once every 423 hands. Therefore, the theoretical additional investment to reach the bonus on a Triple Play machine using the one dollar version of Wheel Poker is $1,269. It swells to $2,115 on a Five Play machine.

My guess is that Wheel Poker will prove much more attractive to average gamblers in quarter and fifty-cent denominations, but the jury is still out on whether or not avid video poker players will buy the concept and if it will serve as a true crossover vehicle for slot players.

Two Wheel Poker games were recently introduced in the video poker area on the lower level of Horseshoe Hammond. They are multi-denomination units with quarter and fifty-cent play options.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp