Video poker gets hotter with new animation

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New animation should add a new dimension to the excitement of the “traditional” video poker games that gamers enjoy and know so well and are so comfortable playing. | FILE PHOTO

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Video poker was the first massively popular coin-operated casino gaming that used video screens and virtual images instead of spinning reels or other mechanical components.

But one thing video poker hasn’t used is the kind of animation we’ve seen since video slots became the hottest growth area of the casino industry.

In one of the new video poker games we’ll be seeing in the coming year, International Game Technology is making the leap with Tap House Poker. Tap House brings and animated twist to familiar five-card draw poker games such as Jacks or Better and Double Double Bonus Poker.

A win on the initial deal takes players into a five-hand bonus that multiplies your winnings by factors chosen randomly. Winners during the bonus could be doubled, tripled or even more.

Finding out how big your multiplier will be is where Tap House Poker takes its detour into the animated realm that has proven so popular with slot players. You’re called on to select one of three animated bartenders, each with individualized dialog and animation. Animated beer mugs fill and reveal the multiplier for each hand, and the bartenders cheer on the players and celebrate bonuses and wins.

There’s a range of multipliers for each winning hand, so that a bonus initiated by four of a kind will bring random selection from a higher range of multipliers than a dealt two pair.

Start with a big win, reach out to the right barkeep for a big bonus, then draw a hand high up the pay table during the bonus event, and you’ll brew up a big winner.

That’s just one of the new takes on video poker we’ll be seeing in the coming year, with others coming from IGT, WMS Gaming and Incredible Techologies. Here are some others.

Ultimate Aces, IGT: In a game with multiple hands a la Triple Play Poker, Aces bring extra rewards. Every time an Ace or multiple Aces come up on screen, they create multipliers that make your winning hands more valuable. The multiplier format has served IGT well in player favorites such as Ultimate X and Super Times Pay.

Triple Play Keno Draw Poker: A fun combination features the three-hand-at-once Triple Play Poker with an optional side bet on a keno card. The keno card not only has its own wins and pay table, but also creates multipliers for the poker hand. Alternatively, IGT is offering a poker-keno combo with a single poker hand tied to four keno cards. For those who can’t decide between poker and keno at a multigame machine, here’s your game.

Triple Play Poker with Match Card: There’s some fun bonusing going on here. At the end of a draw, you get three cards off to the side. If there’s a match between hand and extra card, you get a multiplier. In a demonstration hand, a match with a 6 of clubs multiplied winnings by three. The multipliers can go up to 11x if two of the extra cards are matches. In another demonstration hand, the Match Cards included Kings of diamonds and hearts. The bottom hand was a big winner with four Kings, and since it matched two of the extra cards, the quads were multiplied by 11.

Winning Streak Poker, WMS Gaming: After sitting on the video poker sidelines, WMS returned to the fray last year with its multigame My Poker line. The games chock full of customizable features, including card style, position of the cards on the screen, even a sequencing option so the initial deal is displayed in order of card rank or with suits grouped together. That makes it easy for players to tell at a glance if they have a draw for a straight or a flush.

Winning Streak Poker extends the line with a new approach to multihand games. If you have a winning hand, it’s moved up a level signifying a one-times pay table winner, and you’re dealt a second hand. Win again, and the second hand moves to the 1x slot, while the first moves up to 2x, where additional wins move it to 5x and 10x. You keep playing as long as the winning streak holds up.

Magic Touch Video Poker, Incredible Techologies: Based in Vernon Hills, IT is rolling out an upgraded version of the Magic Touch multigame machine with an updated operating system that allows for progressive jackpots. A new user interface adds information such as player speed and a skill rating. As on its initial video poker games, IT offers the ProTip feature, where you earn tips as you play. Then, when a difficult strategy decision comes up, you can rely on the pro.

The tips are accurate, too. I checked.