PokerPro: It Just Might Be the Table of the Future - Wednesday 7th of December 2005

Fully Automatic Table Removes Dealer, Chips, and Cards From Live Equation

According to Lou White, there are about 6,000 poker tables used by casinos in this world. All but 21 of them look nearly identical, down to the dealers dressed in a bow ties, using cards and with piles of chips in front of the players. It’s exactly how poker’s been played live for the last 150 years or so.

As the chief executive officer at PokerTek, White would like that to change.

White’s company makes the PokerPro, the world’s first completely automated poker table. It removes the dealer, chips, and cards from the game. It also removes tipping the dealer and speeds up the game, two things certain grinders may desire.

“For the semi-professional and professional player, dealer tips add up to a lot of money over time,? White says.

The only thing it doesn’t remove from a live game is the opposition.

Into the Game

At the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida, which has three of the 21 PokerPro tables in existence, players join the action on the electronic tables by first signing up for the casinos reward card. Once they get the card and charge it with cash, they can get into a game.

Instead of getting one of the poker room managers to put their name on a list, players walk over to a kiosk where all the games or tournaments that are being run on the PokerPro tables are listed. The players find the games they want and signs up. When a seat opens up, a players name, table, and seat number are projected onto a screen.

When the player finds the table, he encounters a seat in front of a touchscreen that welcomes the player to the game by name.

Although PokerTek builds the tables, the company is mainly a software development company. It employs 30 in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has about 30 patents pending that have to do with the ProPoker table.

“The table itself is something we had to design as a platform to deliver our product,? White says.

Once the player has a seat, he swipes his casino card in a slot to transfer money from the account to the table. When game play starts, his hole cards are displayed on the screen, and a flop is shown on a 40-inch LCD monitor that’s sunk in the middle of the table.

Players bet, raise, call, and fold through the touchscreen. Money is shuffled among the players electronically. When it’s time to leave, the player logs out and the money is credited to his account.

It’s kind of like Internet poker, but live.

“In a nutshell, what it really does, it takes everything that’s great about Internet poker: it’s fast and it doesn’t make any mistakes,? White says. “But the great thing about playing in a brick and mortar casino is you’re out of the house.?

Speedy and Mistake-Free

White claims that players will see 50 to 60 percent more hands at a PokerPro table than at a regular table. Hard Rock Casino pit boss Mike Sexton, who shares his name with the famous poker announcer, says play is definitely faster on the PokerPro tables.

“Some people swear by them,? Sexton says. “They get more hands out per hour; that’s the bottom line.?

The table also doesn’t make dealer mistakes or allow player mistakes. It won’t let people act out of turn and it never misreads the flop or exposes a king on the deal, for example.

The three PokerPro tables are getting a lot of use running the casino’s $65 single table tournaments and lower-stakes hold’em. People who play at the higher limits seem to want to play with a dealer, Sexton says.

“There’s definitely a curiosity to them,? Sexton says. “Some people really like them, and some people like to play with a dealer.?

White, along with Lyle Berman and two other businessmen, founded PokerTek almost three years ago. Poker people might recognize Berman’s name because he’s the executive chairman of World Poker Tour Enterprises (WPTE). He’s been with WPTE since its inception in 2002.

“As the World Poker Tour was coming on the air, we saw what was happening with the poker market and we went out and designed and launched this new technology for the poker rooms,? White says.

He notes that the poker room is just about the only place in the casino that hasn’t benefited from technology. Except for automatic shufflers, poker has been played the same way since the days of Mississippi riverboats.

“We wanted to use technology to make that experience better,? White says.

The tables can be found at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa Bay. The chain of three Winstar Casinos in Oklahoma also sports the tables.

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