The table game landscape has changed quite a bit in the past few years. At the top of the food chain, the name of the company has changed, but the core hasn't. Scientific Games (which purchased Bally Technologies which purchased Shuffle Entertainment) is still the 800 pound gorilla. But there is a new player in the industry now. I don't know where in the rank they fall, but they had the 2nd largest table game display at the Global Gaming Expo two weeks ago. This week, I'll give a brief review of the games of AGS.
Up first is Chase the Flush. With Galaxy Gaming's High Card Flush and Scientific Games' Flushes Gone Wild, it is no surprise that AGS would have an entry into the Flush hand market. High Card Flush has been in the market for a few years and has clearly been successful. In this industry, that naturally brings new variations of the same theme. In this case, AGS used a betting structure similar to Ultimate Texas Hold'em, but the only hands that matter are Flushes. To begin play, the Player makes two equal wagers, the Ante and the X-Tra Bonus. The Player is then dealt 3 cards face down and may bet 3x his Ante or check. Two community cards are revealed and if the Player did not already wager, he may wager 2x his Ante or check. The final two community cards are revealed and if the Player has not already wagered, he must bet 1x or Fold. The Dealer qualifies with a 3-card Flush 9-High. If he does not have at least this high of a hand, the Ante pushes. If the Dealer qualifies and the Player has a higher ranking hand, the Ante and Play wagers pay even money. The X-tra wager will pay if the Player wins with a 4-Card Flush or longer. Of course, there is also a sidebet that pays for Player 4-Card Flushs or longer.
Next up is a more traditional Texas Hold'em style game called River Hold'em. The Player makes an initial Ante wager and receives two cards (as does the Dealer). The Player must now bet 1x their Ante or Fold. Three community cards are then displayed and again the Player must bet 1x their Ante or Fold. The final two community cards and turned over and now the Player may bet 1x or 2x his Ante or Fold. There is no qualifying, so if the Player's hand outranks the Dealer's the wagers will pay even money. There are two sidebets, where the Player may bet that the Player or Dealer hand will be Three of a Kind or higher.
AGS also had on display a blackjack variant. Actually, they had two on display. One was a 'minor' variant called Mega Blackjack. The other one, which I found more intriguing was Toss One 21. In this game, the Player and Dealer each get four cards. The Player MUST discard one and only one card to make his best Blackjack hand. If the Player can't make a hand of 21 or less, he busts and loses his wager. If the Player and Dealer tie on their blackjack hand, then the 4th card is used as a kicker. If the 4th card still leaves a tie, the House wins. If the Player has two tens and an Ace, it is a Blackjack and pays 3 to 2. The sidebet here pays if the Player's initial 4 cards is 21 or less. For the sidebet, the Ace counts as a 1, regardless of how it was used for the base game.
The last of their new table games is called Cali Lowball. I've always found the notion of creating a game where the goal is to get the lowest possible hand to be one that interests me - and it is not as if I haven't tried. The problem is not usually the math, but Player acceptance. Most Players are not accustomed to trying to make low hands and frequently misread the cards especially if they are trying to make a 5-card Low hand from a 7-card Deal. In this case, Players think that a Pair is the kiss of death, but you can always drop one of two from that Pair to keep the 5-card hand a true Low. The other issue is whether to count Straights and/or Flushes. Players see A-2-3-4-5 and assume that is a Straight and a bad hand. But this doesn't have to be the case.
Cali Lowball attempts to solve some of these problems. First of all, there is a total of five cards dealt to each Player to make a 5-card low hand. So, a Pair can be the kiss of death. Straights and Flushes, however, are ignored, so A-2-3-4-5 is as good as it gets. To begin play, the Player makes an Ante and X-Tra Bonus wager (equal sized). The Player is given two cards face down. The Player may now make a Raise wager of 3x or Check. The Dealer will reveal the three community cards. Now, the Player may make a Raise Wager of 1x or Fold. The Dealer will reveal his two cards and compare to each Player's hand. If the Dealer has a Pair of Jacks or higher, the Ante pushes. All other wagers are in play. If the Player's hand outranks (under ranks?) the Dealer's, the Raise wager will pay even money. The X-tra Bonus will pay if the Player's hand is a 10-high or Lower regardless if wins or loses the showdown. This works differently than their Flush game and I think it may confuse Players and Dealers given the wager has the same name.
The last item that was on display by AGS that I'd like to mention is their bonusing system. Many of their games utilized the same basic type of system but with different triggers. This was an additional sidebet. In their blackjack game, it might be a Player Blackjack that would trigger it. In Chase the Flush, it requires a 3-Card Flush in the Player's pocket cards. If the Player makes the sidebet and achieves the required hand, he has the opportunity to spin a digital wheel. The wheel can be set to pay any amounts the casino desires, including prizes. In some cases, there is also an 'Envy' payout, where all the OTHER players who made the sidebet will be paid a lower amount.
Next week, I'll end my review of table games at the G2E with the remainder of the games I saw.