ULTIMATE VIDEO POKER
Exciting new versions of Ultimate X are coming soon
By John Grochowski
Regular readers will know that video poker has long been a passion of mine. When my wife and I made our first Las Vegas trip together more than 25 years ago, it was a video poker-playing trek on the Strip that made it memorable.
That trek started me on a path to wanting to know more and more about video poker, including all the new versions that would follow in years to come.
I’ll have more about those new versions, with the latest and greatest games from IGT in a minute. But first, a small detour through the ghosts of casino trips past.
Starting from Bally’s, we made stops at the old Bourbon Street casino, the Barbary Coast, Flamingo Hilton as it was called then, O’Shea’s, the Holiday Casino that has morphed into Harrah’s and the Sands, which long reigned on the current site of the Venetian.
All the way, we played quarter video poker. We both drew four of a kind a few times, and Marcy had a straight flush. When we returned to Bally’s and counted the quarters in our big plastic cups – and yes, we really carried buckets of coins up the Strip – we had $60 more than when we started.
For low-rollers to invest a few $20 bills, play for hours and win $60, well, it was an exciting day.
I’ve been a fan of video poker ever since, always eager to try the latest and greatest games. When Action Gaming through IGT introduced the first multi-hand game, Triple Play Poker, it tripled my pleasure. And when Leading Edge Design, also through IGT, introduced Multi-Strike Poker with its potential of four hands, it quadrupled my fun. One trip that brought mostly small losses was rescued on Day 4 by a straight flush on level 4 with an 8x multiplier.
Ultimate X Poker is another favorite, and I’m not alone there. It’s a popular favorite as the leader in that segment of multi-hand games that requires an extra bet to get a bonus feature.
Just as you’d expect, IGT wants to build on that success. Among the new games to expect in the coming months Ultimate X Bonus Streak and Ultimate X Spin Poker, which both play off the Ultimate X formula of awarding multipliers after winning hands. Along with Flip and Play Poker, the Ultimate X games are highlights among new videopoker games from IGT.
And when it comes to new video poker highlights, IGT is the place to look. Scientific Games has some nice recent video poker offerings through its acquisition of WMS Gaming and some classic video poker games through Bally Technologies. Aristocrat Technologies holds Casino Data Systems’ video poker games from the 1990s. Incredible Technologies got creative several years ago with its Magic Touch video poker games. But the machines that have really resonated with players are from IGT, which makes roughly 95 percent of the video poker games you see in casinos.
I received a guided tour through IGT’s new games from Trevor Lynch, product manager for video poker. Ultimate X Bonus Streak is available in Triple Play, Five Play and Ten Play formats. Each has a 10 credit per hand maximum bet – five credits for basic play plus five credits to buy the bonus feature.
As in Ultimate X, winning hands bring multiplier for subsequent hands. There are exceptions: The smallest-paying hands, Jacks or Better and two pairs, do not bring multipliers on Bonus Streak.
Here’s the part players will love. You don’t just get a multiplier for the next hand. You get a streak of multipliers. On non-wild card games, three of a kind, flushes and straights bring multipliers on the next three hands. If it’s a full house or better, you get a five-hand streak.
Not only that, the multiplier increases for each hand on the streak. When you have the maximum streak, multipliers are 2x, 3x, 4x, 8x and 12x – that is, payoffs on a winning hand are doubled on the next play, tripled on the one after and so on.
If you have a winner during the streak, it increases payoffs for the remainder of the streak to 12x.
“This is really ingenious by our math department,” Lynch said of the multiplier increase. “They say it’s the hardest problem that they’ve worked on in several years.”
Lynch thinks Bonus Streak, like original Ultimate X, will have its biggest appeal at low coin denominations.
“We feel Ten Play nickels is the sweet spot,” he said. “Of course if people want to set it up higher, that’s up to them.”
Ultimate X Spin Poker is just what it says. It puts the Ultimate X multipliers on a Spin Poker format, where the cards are on spinning reels.
“This is chocolate and peanut butter,” Lynch said, seeing a delicious combination. “Spin Poker has been a great brand for us Ultimate X has been a great brand for us. If you think of it as nine lines, think of it like nine-play. 90 credit maximum bet, and you’re awarded multipliers.”
Flip and Play Poker, available in single-hand as well as multi-hand formats, creates extra winners.
“It’s basically like a nudge feature in a slot machine,” Lynch said. “If I’m one card away from a winning hand on the deal, it will nudge my card up or down one rank to make that winning hand.”
With a Jack and two Queens as the starting hand, the Jack flipped with a split flip display, as if the card was hinged in the middle and each half flipped to reveal a third Queen. Players have the option of rejecting the flip if it gets in the way of a desired draw.
“It’s my favorite game of the show, Lynch said, “because you get so many great starting hands.”