I just spent several interesting hours playing Omaha and hold’em poker in a friend’s basement. But there were no other human players in the room. I was playing with the two prototype models of my new poker slot machines, which are called Cappelletti’s Omaha Poker Challenge and the Holdem Poker Challenge. So here is a preview of coming distractions. These machines evolved from the “Omaha Solitaire” game described in my Sept. 8, 1989, Card Player article. Both machines function similarly and essentially allow the player to compete against five random computer “opponents”; the Omaha machine deals four card hands, and the hold’em machine deals two card hands.
As you approach the machine you will see my ugly picture puffing on a big cigar. You start the game by putting one dollar (other units will be available) into the machine. In the Omaha version a four card hand is then displayed upon the screen. If you do not like this first hand, you have the free option of rejecting it and getting a new four card hand (Kenny Rogers will like this feature). If you wish to raise with either the first hand or the forced second hand, you may do so and put in a second dollar. After so indicating your before-the-flop options, three board cards (the “flop”) are displayed. From this point on you have the usual poker options:
Fold – end this hand, conceding money already invested.
Call – enter another dollar & see the next card.
Raise – enter two more dollars & see next card.
If you elect to fold, the game ends, and you lose the one (or two if raised before the flop) dollar invested, and the machine is ready for another game. If you call or raise, the fourth board (”turn”) card is displayed. You now have the same options as after the flop, namely, fold, call, or raise. If you now call or raise, the fifth (last) card is displayed. You again have the options of folding (conceding previous bets), calling (entering another dollar) or raising (entering two dollars).
If you either call or raise after the fifth (last) card, then there is the showdown between you and the five other computer “players”, whose randomly dealt four-card hands have been hidden thus far. If any of the five random hands, now displayed, make a better Omaha poker hand than your hand (in Omaha use exactly two cards from the four-card hands and three from the five-card board), then you lose (whatever money you bet). If you have the best hand, you win twice the amount you have invested (and also get your invested money back). If you tie one or more of the five opponents, you win the amount you bet (and get your bet money back).
If you press the “all-in” button before entering any coin, the machine will then complete the hand (without further betting), and whatever money you bet will be either lost, paid double (win), or paid single (tie), as above. Note that this all-in feature may be used on any hand as an alternative to folding, and thus provides additional options which would probably not be tolerated in real play.
When the above games were being simulated to estimate the house “hold”, it became clear that a precise evaluation of either game was impossible, since all potential strategies have not yet been conceived. Against very weak players the “hold” will be somewhere around ten percent or more, depending mostly on how a player procedes after the flop (of course the single most important strategy is to fold a lot of hands after the flop). Against skilled players, the hold will be (at most) a skinny few percents (we hope), thus, expect a waiting line to play.
It seems likely that these machines will become very popular, since they are a lot more fun to play than conventional poker slots. After we get a better feel for the “hold”, these machines will probably be banked together with a royal flush jackpot. Hopefully you will start seeing the production versions of these machines in your favorite casino sometime this Fall.