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by: John G VP.
Manufacturer flush with new video poker games Along with looking at all the slot machines and new table games at the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center, I set aside a little time each year to look at new video poker games. That's one of the fun parts of the convention, for when I play for fun and relaxation, video poker is right at the top of my list.
Most of the new games, of course, were at the IGT booth. More than 90 percent of video poker machines in use in U.S. casinos are made by IGT. And this year, I got a guided tour by IGT video poker product manager John Daley. We'd met in East Peoria, over dinner with Par-A-Dice Casino slot director Tammy Couchman, and when he spotted me at the expo, he invited me on the grand tour.

Naturally, many of the new products play off Action Gaming's multiple-hand games that have sparked a revolution in video poker. Action designed games such as Triple Play Poker, Ten Play Poker and Spin Poker, which IGT manufactures and distributes.

One creative new version is Bonus Hand Triple Play. Players win one bonus hand for each hand played when a full house, flush, straight, three-of-a-kind or two pair turn up on the initial deal. Free hands are played with regular hands on the next game.

So if you wager 15 coins -- five coins per hand for three hands -- and are dealt a flush, on the next hand your 15-coin wager will bring you six hands, each with a five-coin bet.

Not only that the free hands can win more free hands. No more than six bonus hands can be played at a time, but if you have more than that, you can bank them and play more freebies on the next hand. A maximum of 100 bonus hands can be carried forward, but bonuses continue on each deal at the maximum six at a time until all the extras have been played.

Another that I really liked was Max Out Poker. If the 15-coin maximum bet on Triple Play -- or the 100-coin max on Hundred Play Poker -- is too rich for your blood, this might be your ticket to multi-hand video poker action.

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Max Out is a four-hand game but carries only a five-coin maximum bet. You can wager the same five-coin max as in most video poker games on the bottom hand on the screen, but each of three smaller hands on top takes only a one-coin additional wager.

The pay tables are different on the top hands. Daley punched up a Double Double Bonus Poker game, with a standard pay table on the five-coin game. On the top three hands, the pay table started at three of a kind -- Jacks or better pairs and two-pair hands were losers. The tradeoff: Four Aces with a 2, 3 or 4 as the fifth card paid the same 2,000 coins as they would with a five-coin bet on regular Double Double Bonus.

A 2,000-coin jackpot for a one-coin bet -- that'll make some players' eyes light up.

Many a winning session in video poker is built around four-of-a-kind hands. That's the attraction of Going for Fours. Any time the player starts a hand with three of a kind, he or she has the option of making an additional bet for another draw.

The Kenny Rogers theme has been popular on the slots, and now IGT brings the pop-country singer to video poker. The games are standard IGT games with Western trappings. Draw four of a kind and "The Gambler" himself intones, "Four of a kind is hard to bet," as a horse whinnies and gallops away.

The marriage of slots and video poker continues with Spin Poker Deluxe. The original Spin Poker put video poker hands on five spinning reels with nine pay lines, a la video slots. The Deluxe version has 20 pay lines, like many
low-denomination slots.

And IGT ties everything together with All-Star Poker. This one should be popular with casino operators looking to give customers plenty of variety. All-Star Poker can put nine game families on the same machine, with several game options under each family. A casino could offer Spin Poker, Triple Play Poker, Five Play, Ten Play and five more game families, and under each family offer Jacks or Better, Double Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild and more.

IGT isn?t the only video poker manufacturer, of course. WMS Gaming is resurrecting one of my old favorites, Multi-Pay Poker. There were programming problems in its previous life and Multi-Pay disappeared from casino floors. Now it's back, with WMS? new enhanced graphics.

Multi-Pay pays the player on every winning combination in a given hand. With a full house, you'll get paid on the full house, three of a kind, two pair and, if the hand includes Jacks or better, the high pair.

The game's presence brought back warm memories. Once, when I was demonstrating the game to my brother and father in Las Vegas, I drew a royal flush, and got paid on the royal, straight flush, flush and straight. About half an hour after I was paid, a slot supervisor came out to ask why I was paid such on odd amount for a royal on a non-progressive game. She was added to the class with my dad and brother -- I had to teach her how a game on her own floor worked.

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