One of the things that can be said about poker players is they are set in their ways. Perhaps it is because of the nature of the game, doing things with a certain repetition as to not give up any information, that causes this staid nature. It can be seen in some poker player’s reactions to what is an eventuality in the world of casino games, the move towards automation.
Check out any gaming convention around the world and see just what is being put out as the “next big thing” in casino gaming. It is automated tables, using video games and/or video production instead of putting physical gaming product (dice, cards, chips, etc.) on the floor. Blackjack games are becoming digitalized, with no cards or chips in sight, and other games like baccarat and roulette are also moving in that direction. While this may have been a recent phenomenon, there’s a company that has been long involved in the process who is looking to take that same step with the automation of poker tables.
Jackpot Digital was founded in 1999 and has been at the forefront of digital gaming. In the past, that has been more about mobile gaming, with a host of games adapted for cellphones and tablets. Instead of just developing the software for these games, Jackpot Digital is now taking the next step in the casino gaming world.
Jackpot Digital made its initial foray into the poker world with a 2015 deal. Jackpot Digital purchased PokerTek, the company responsible for one of the first automated tables in poker rooms around the world. The PokerPro computerized table basically had a video screen in front of each of its 10 seats, with a master screen in the center that showed the board cards. On each player’s terminal, they would receive their hole cards and all the needed information (chip stack, stakes, pot size) and be able to make their play.
But that wasn’t good enough for Jake Kalpakian, the Chief Executive Officer of Jackpot Digital, who set off to create his vision. “Picture players sitting at a table that’s basically a giant iPad,” Kalpakian stated to Poker News Daily in a recent interview. It appears that with Jackpot Digital’s latest creation they have advanced automated poker tables to a new level, perhaps one that players will be willing to accept this time around.
Called Jackpot Blitz, the ten-handed automated poker table is exactly as Kalpakian has envisioned, making the PokerPro table look antiquated in comparison. Instead of the individual screens, the entire table is not only the video screen but also the playing board, with the cards dealt out across the table like they would be in a live setting. Players can riff their virtual chips and squeeze out their cards in much the same manner that they would on a physical setup, and the entirety of the action is automated.
This isn’t the only advancement that Jackpot Digital has made with their Jackpot Blitz table. With downtime at the tables an issue, Jackpot Digital has implemented other casino games that a player can get into until the next hand is dealt. The tables offer a wealth of positives for players – no dealers to tip, maximization of hands dealt, ways to pass the time at the tables…what could ever be the problem?
This is where we get back to how poker players are “set in their ways.” When the PokerTek tables came out, they were well received in some areas, such as cruise ships where carrying extra staff to work a poker table wasn’t financially advantageous to the ship owners. There was an initial rush in the poker rooms of Las Vegas – the Mandalay Bay at one point shifted all its tables to the PokerPro product – but they gradually dropped to the side as players, faced with the option of “live” and “virtual,” opted for the live action.
But the times are rapidly changing. Those that have picked up the game since the turn of the century might be more likely to enjoy the Jackpot Blitz table. One of the major criticisms from the “younger” generation regarding poker is that there are long periods without action. With the Jackpot Blitz tables, these players who need to be constantly stimulated electronically could get what they want.
A recent discussion on a Facebook forum pointed out this dichotomy. When players were asked about their experiences with the older automated tables, the responses ran the gamut. Players either “hated it,” thought that it was “better than nothing” (respondent was on a cruise) or enjoyed the play on the tables, calling it “awesome.”
It does seem that the jury is still out on automated poker tables, but that could very well change with the Jackpot Blitz table. We’ll learn more about the product when we talk with Kalpakian in a future interview.