Electronic Poker Tables

Electronic Poker Tables
By Loki Luchs of Predictem Poker

Over the course of the last 10 years, there have been tremendous changes to the game of poker due to technology. First we had the internet boom; this made it possible for anyone with a computer, a phone, and a credit card to find any kind of game 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This was followed by poker programs with the hole-card cameras which made poker a television phenomena! Even now, the game is still undergoing technological advances with the latest concept in casino card rooms: Poker-Tek’s electronic poker tables!

As skeptical as many players are about new advances in technology (myself heading the long line of nay-sayers), I finally broke down and gave it a shot. The Excaliber is the first of the Vegas casinos to embrace this technology, so I spent about a week’s worth of sessions trying it out. The technology itself is fairly impressive. The table itself is circular with a community view screen in the middle of the table. Each individual player has their own view screen for betting options and hole cards.

Players add or withdraw money from an account they set up at the cashier’s desk. Once an account has been made, all wins and losses come from that account. If you want to reload at a table at any time, you simply hit the re-buy option on the main menu. Once at the table, a player logs himself into the computer with his player card and password. The player receives his virtual cards, but can only look at them when the screen is covered and pressed, thereby making it virtually impossible for any other player to look at your hand. (I was very pessimistic about how well this would work, but was later impressed when I saw that if you’re even 6 inches to the side of the view screen, it’s impossible to see what the screen reads.)


When it is your turn to act, you are prompted by the screen to check or bet. Using your player’s card, you tap out the action or the amount that you want to bet by clicking the number of “chips” you want to bet. Players’ actions must be confirmed twice before they are actually binding, which is VERY nice, considering the millions of dollars that are lost every year due to misclicks online. Another nice thing is that in front of every player is the exact amount of money they have, so you are never surprised by hidden chips. The range of games that these machines have is limitless; they can be programmed to play any size or structure of poker. The Excaliber usually has a .50/1.00 no limit, a 1/2 dollar no limit, 2/4 limit, 5/10 limit, etc. They also have an on-going sit and go tournament table, which appeared to be very popular while I was there.

Some of the things that I enjoyed about these tables were that the limit games were ridiculously easy and that the table itself was very easy for new-comers. They had a wide range of personal preferences that you could choose from on the profile page (always chop, always muck, show one card, don’t straddle, always straddle, and the sucker’s favorite, the rabbit hunt option for only $.50!) so it keeps the game at a pretty fast pace. Without having an actual dealer there to shuffle actual cards, we were regularly getting in 50+ hands an hour. For a hard core player, this increases your edge because you’ll have more opportunities to catch your fishy opponents. Another major advantage that the table offers is that many of the opponents seem to forget that you can see them while they are accessing their screens! I only saw a few players ever make any effort to hide their tells! The tells are slightly different than in normal play however. For instance, you can tell by where a player’s eyes are looking on his screen how strong his hand is. Also, the normal biting of the lip and mouth tells are standard. I felt kind of like an internet player who could actually see through the computer screen.

The downside to this technology is that I didn’t find that the no limit games were as loose or as easy as I expected them to be. When players are playing on the internet, they tend to make dumb mistakes that they would never do in real life. This is partly due to the fact that they don’t have to face their opponents’ ridicule when they make a stupid play. The table is much smaller physically and I felt as though the other players were MORE aware of the opponent pressure than they are in a normal game! The no-limit games were all very tough for their buy-ins, so until the solid players leave, get tired, or get drunk, I don’t see as big of a potential profit at the table. Another issue I had was that at a normal table, the house rake is lower. $1 for every ten dollars that goes into the pot, up to $4, is standard. At the Poker-Tek tables, the computer takes out a quarter for every 2.50 in the pot. For example, in an eighteen dollar pot, you loose $1.75, instead of $1. While that doesn’t seem like much of a difference, the overall amount at the table drains at a much more visible rate.

Finally, as strange as it may sound, I miss the dealer interaction. A large part of my profit comes from dealers who keep the other players distracted. Talking about sports, telling jokes, and flirting all keep my opponents busy with more than one thing. Without the dealer, players have less to distract them; without a ring leader, my whole circus act is less effective.

While the over-all technology is impressive, I doubt I will log many hours on the electronic tables. If I’m worried about my overall hands per hour, I find it easier to log online than to drive to a casino. Still, this technology may be the inevitable step for most major casinos; it lowers their overhead in dealer’s pay while increasing their rake profit. I would advise players to familiarize themselves with it if a card room near them offers it.