The celebrity’s view
Grosvenor recently opened its 15th UK card room at its Bolton casino. There to launch the inaugural poker tournament was snooker professional and celebrity poker player, Jimmy White. Jimmy usually plays at Grosvenor’s Old Vic Casino in London, a venue he describes as one of the best in Europe for live poker with some of the game’s best players regularly in attendance. Having recently returned from playing poker in Ireland, he now divides his time between snooker and poker, with snooker dictating that he sadly misses many of the high profile events.“Poker remains a hobby for me,” he admitted, “but to be asked to promote the game and locations such as this is fantastic.” Mixing with some of the game’s top players, Jimmy notes with admiration the scale of prizes won by the top players. “having known and played with Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott for many years, to see him recently awarded a bright shiny green Hummer is remarkable,” he enthused.
“Poker has gained in stature and importance with the rise of Texas Hold’em. No one is playing any other game right now and that includes me.” Asked if the hobby could become his primary interest, he describes himself as a part-time poker professional. Ranked 70th in the UK and 999th in the world, he comments: “Snooker is going through a rough patch right now with the tobacco sponsors withdrawing support. I don’t know if I’ll ever become a full-time poker player, but with the general public becoming increasingly interested in the game, with television involvement and sponsorship, it is certainly growing in acceptance as a true sport.”
Having opened the 100-seater card room in Grosvenor’s enormous (by UK standards) Bolton casino, Jimmy’s next stop on the poker trail is a competition in Aruba, in the Caribbean. It is ironic that while he laments the slump in snooker, he is riding a wave of poker interest. And though his fans brought snooker cues for him to sign at the casino, they were all there to Playwin Poker. Had the ‘Devilfish’ himself arrived at the event to open the proceedings, would he have received such media attention and public support? Probably not, but in a few years times who knows?
The online operator
“I learned more from the two days I played at the London Open than I did in the three years I have been playing online”. This is a direct quote from one of our WPEX online qualifiers who won a seat at this years London Open tournament. There is no doubt that playing poker online is a great way to learn the game and hone your skills. You can play four or times as many hands in the same time online as you can playing live, so the amount of poker experience you can gain fairly quickly is not insignificant.
However, there is no way any online game can replicate the unique experience of sitting at a table with some of the best players in the world and coming in over the top with a re-raise in an attempt to buy the pot with a poor hand. It is one thing to try and pull a move like this sitting on your couch in you pyjamas, but it is a whole new ball game to try and do it with Doyle Brunson staring you down from across the table. Just like as in every sport, there are games and then there are BIG games. Athletes like Tiger Woods or Andre Agassi seem to elevate their game when they are on the big stage, some fold under the pressure.
In addition to the added pressure that comes with playing in a live tournament, there is another element that exists. This is a fundamental game that can not be replicated online, the ‘poker face’. Whether this is a benefit or a drawback to online poker depends on who you ask. We recently did a survey where we found that the leading reason 25 % of people enjoy playing online is because they do NOT need a ‘poker face’ to play. Whether you like it or not, being able to look your opponent in the eyes and bluff about what you are holding is part of being a great poker player. But, whilst lying may be present in the online game it is a bit like breaking up with your girlfriend via text message. It gets the job done but there is not a lot of honour in it!
Online poker novice
This was a new experience for me. A total online tournament ‘virgin’, I was one of 2,146 players competing for a $1,041,000 prize pool. However, I was quietly and, as it proved naively, confident. After all, the top 225 places paid out actual prize money. How could 1 possibly fail...? After 20 minutes, I am lying in 1426th out of the 2,092 remaining players with $2,092 worth of chips in front of me. I have no idea if this is a good or bad position at this early stage, but there have already been 900 rebuys, each of which has earned PokerStars a $15 administration fee. So I have survived over 50 players but if we include the rebuys, it is almost 1,000. I feel good about the situation... My first playable hand is a pair of Jacks, known as 'pocket' Jacks. Professionals hate this hand, but I have waited almost half an hour for anything. I boldly went in with $100 but then immediately folded on the ‘flop’ when another player heavily backed the appearance of a Queen. After 45 minutes of terrible cards and conservative play, I am 1,7l2th out of 1,954 with $2,230. The situation is not exactly looking healthy. At this same point, 2004 WSOP champion Greg Raymer has $5,275 and is in 545th place. Then, after just short of one hour's play, I achieve win my first hand with a Jack t and a nine ‘suited’ and collect $75. On the next hand, I collect a further $120 with three 8's. This is disappointing. Why aren't the other online poker players being more: reckless? Amazingly, on the very next I hand, a $1,000 win with Ace/King moves: up to 1314th place. I called ‘under the : gun’ (from first decisive position). Was it I the right thing to do...? It turned out it was, on this occasion. My next significant hand was Ace/King on the big blind. I bet the pot at $180 and received yet another terrible flop, my third consecutive waste of time on Ace/King. At the one hour break, I was in 1,538th place out of 1,888 remaining. I had beaten 158 players out of the game. I am sitting on $2,440, which is poor, as the average is $5,237, the chip leader has
$32,025 and my ‘mentor’, Mr Rhyme or, is I modest 608th with $5,635. During this real here are 1235 add-ons. So by adding the 1,814 rebuys to this figure, I calculate that PokerStars have earned $45,735 to add to the $32,190 from initial entry charges. This is definitely very big business indeed. I have also learned that a Queen with a three (tre) is known as a ‘Gay Waiter’ and that a Queen/King looks good but doesn’t play very well, so is known as an Anna Koumikova. At 9.25pm, after one and a half hours' play, I broke through the $3,000 barrier, and at the 10pm break, I was in 1,323rd place out of 1,425 remaining. Greg had muscled his way up to 109th with $18,920 and it looked like he was making his move. I decided over a smoke to step up pace in order to have any chance of staying in much longer. So, on the first hand after the break I went 'all-in' with Ace/King suited and was out on my sorry, amateur backside. For the record, the eventual winner collected $218,652; the highest placed European, a Norwegian, won $129,108 and the leading British player collected $64,554. The great 'Fossilman' ended up 32nd with $3,644 which, I suppose, is not bad for sitting in front of the PC for three hours.
Title : Atronic Winter Collection
Over the last few months Atronic has released another 12 new game titles for the international market including eight on the ergonomic e-motion cabinet and another four Cashline titles. Gypsy Fortune is the latest game to be introduced to the ever-expanding Cash Fever library bringing the beautiful gypsy queen together with the manic Dr Cash Fever in a fortune telling fusion players will love. Retaining the exciting Circle of Card Bonus and the Mystic Moon bonus where spinning reels award credit wins.
The last two game releases on e-motion are the celestial game Heavenly Sevens where three ‘7’ symbols open the pearly gates to the prize wheel, and the cosmopolitan Visit Paris where 4 or more ‘Metro Train’ symbols trigger the ‘Firework Free Games Bonus’ where free games are awarded and wins can rocket! Four new titles have also been released on Cashline including the fairy tale journey of Ella's Slippers where three or more ‘Clock’ symbols trigger the Free Game Bonus allowing players to select from different free game and multiplier combinations.
Continuing the storybook theme is an all time classic with a fun Australian twist in the new game Wonders of Oz featuring the entertaining 'Two Up' Bonus allowing players to gamble their free games for the possibility of winning even more in a heads or tails coin toss. The bonus feature in Joker's High is triggered by 3 Green Joker symbols and offers the chance of gambling 10 of 15 free games in a Red/Black card gamble for the possibility of increasing the win to 45 free games.
Finally, welcome to the colourful world of the Cashline game Comic Strip where the madcap 'Monkey' appearing on reel 1 accompanied by the Comic strip ‘Pub Man’, ‘Witch’ or ‘Cow’ on reel five triggers the Comic Strip feature where three Monkeys jump from reel to reel substituting for extra wins all the way.
My Photo Play -special communication and sports centre for players including their personal Photo Play career, personal data, information about news and events.
Title : EI bandido
Just as the legend of Zorro drew crowds to local cinemas last month, Photo Play launched its closely connected net.game. EI Bandido. “To promote current popular topics through relevant design significantly increases players’ interest,” said funworld’s Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Marco Huter. “In the process, the effect of novelty is amplified by the known motifs and the players are made curious.” During the card game, which was available in November on all linked Photo Play terminals in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Sweden and Turkey, eight Stacks of cards had to be removed. The challenge was that a card can only be removed if it is of the same value or colour as the top card of the field it was to be deposited onto. ‘EI Bandido’ was transmitted free of charge to all Photo Play terminals with the Windows Update (2004 and up).
Extreme Gaming is on a roll as they release Most Daunting, the company’s third new game under the Barcrest Group umbrella. Most Daunting is a hi-tech AWP designed for pubs, LBOs and arcades. Based on Doctors & Nurses – the top-performing game in the current generation of machines, Most Daunting uses the popular ascending prize levels, and includes the 50:50 extra life feature which UK players like so much. Nik Novak, Director of Sales for Barcrest Group, explained: “The launch of Most Daunting is a hat-trick for Extreme Gaming with three successful games released in a row. UK AWP players relish the challenge of this style of game and we’re delighted to see the Extreme brand gaining a strong following among the demanding player base. Launched last month, Most Daunting is housed in the Barcrest Horizon cabinet which benefits from serial communication and flash programme capability.
Astra Games, part of the Novomatic Group of companies, hailed Preview 2006 as a resounding success, with newly launched Section – 16/21 game Reel King stealing the show. Reel King brings some of the most forward thinking and entertaining graphics ever seen on a Section 16 games, mixing the renowned Slotto game play with some hidden, dynamic features. Alan Rogers, Director of Sales and Marketing, believes that Reel King will mirror the success of Party Games Slotto: “Party Games Slotto was an explosive game and we want to ensure that we maintain the progression in terms of game play and presentation, and this is certainly achieved by Reel King. It’s had a similar impact to Party Games Slotto, and with strong initial sales, we believe the game will go from a strength to strength.” Reel King is available for distribution now.
Title : Total Control Roulette
The Total Control Roulette (TCR) range of products from XN provides the casino environment with an exciting new lease of life for one of the most popular table games. TCR offers remote electronic terminasl that may be located virtually anywhere. With the ability to provide roulette in new environments such as the lounge, bar and hotel rooms, only one live wheel is required to satisfy multiple players, making staffing and labour issues considerably more efficient. Taking feeds from a surface mounted or in-rim reader the Total Control Roulette back office system records all bets for 6 months for easy resolution of disputes.
Casino Slots- Progressives
Title : Blazin’ 7s Hot Shot
Bally Gaming and Systems has introduced a brand new way to bonus that the company believes will heat up slot play like nothing before. Bally was multiplied the pulse-quickening excitement of secondary video slot progressive bonusing by a factor of five and that means five times the gaming thrill for players. Hot Shot Progressives is an entirely new concept in video slots that features five of Bally Gaming’s most popular reel-spinning titles embedded in the reels of this dramatic new game.Each reel from left to right features a miniature version of a classic Bally slot – Blazing 7s, Diamond Line 777s, Triple 777s Double Jackpot, Triple 777s Triple Jackpot and Triple Blazing 7s Seven times Pay. When a player enters the bonus round, they actually ‘play’ these mini-versions of the full-sized originals for a theoretical chance to win up five progressive jackpots on the same game.
Five times the action. Five times the excitement. Five times the fun. And that means many times more profits for slot operations.
Title : Beach Party
UK-based Novomatic subsidiary, Astra Games, together with its new partner MGA, has launched ‘Beach Party,’ its new double TFT monitor video slot with optional reel-to-screen for the Spanish market. This is the first ever Astra product for Spain and with homologation in all of the five permitted video slot regions expected imminently, the company sees that video is definitely the way forward in the Spanish market. ‘Beach Party’ is the first Astra product for any market to be built on the Novomatic PC platform and his housed in the Casino-styled ‘Skyline’ cabinet. With its one-piece front door, constructed from structural foam that delivers all the attributes of metal but with the weight, it is in every way a ‘first’ for the industry. This cabinet is also fully upgradeable, providing longevity to operators. “The four key assets of this launch are the platform, the cabinet, the game design and MGA,” stated Astra’s Neil Chinn. “MGa is Spain’s largest operator of premium gaming arcades and together we have come up with a concept that is stylish, interesting and very different.”
Title : Hot Shot
Maygay has launched its latest AWP, Hot Shot, for pubs, LBOs and arcades. Hot Shot is a five-pay line game with the addition of a new pre-game gamble, which doubles the value of initial wins and activates the top features automatically. This makes it an exciting prospect for players looking to risk a bit more for a better playing experience. There’s good news for operators too. The pre-game gamble gives a faster game thereby increasing use during busy periods and leading to a strong cashpoint box performance. Around 50 per cent of games are played with the pre-game gamble so it can have quite an effect on the bottom line. Barcrest Group Director of Sales, Barry Knowles, explained: “Hot Shot is likely to be a favorite withcore players, as they can improve their chance of getting bigger wines and be sure of getting a crack at the feature.”
Title : PAC-Man 500
PAC-Man 500 is a Section 16, multi-stake (from 10p to £ 2) video-based gaming machine. The 10p stake activates one win line for a maximum £ 25 win, 30p for three lines and £ 75, 50p for £ 125, £ 1 for £ 250 and £ 2 for the £ 500 maximum win. Wins are awarded on all active win lines. Wild symbols substitute for all other symbols. When three, four or five Pac Man feature symbols are on an active win line, the secondary feature is activated. This will award a total prize ranging from £ 2 to £ 25. All credits can be collected at any time. During the Pac Man feature the reels are replaced by five columns of mixed ‘Icon’ fruits and flashing purple ghosts. On the bottom of the column is the Pac Man character chomping away. The icons move down to Pac Man, which when eaten display the win value. When the purple ghost returns to a normal colour the feature is over.
Title : System 2006
System 2006 has been described by Austria's funworld as a milestone in Photo Play’s history. Appearance as well as basic functions to the Photo Play system have been completely changed. In doing so, funworld hopes to gain new players on the one side, as well as make procedures easier for tournament players on the other. It believes that both form the basis for excellent revenue in the long-term. “We have landed a great success,” is how funworld’s technical director, Thomas Conrad., describes the new system. Marketing and Sales Officer, Marco Huter, is also convinced that System 2006 is no ordinary update, but rather a complete transformation of Photo Play: “All the essential elements that secure long-term earnings were scrutinized, clearly specified and put into effect. User friendliness was tested by an independent testing institute for 'Usability Engineering,” explained Mr. Huter. Whereby the study’s results were integrated into the final version of the software.