For many poker players there is just nothing like playing in a live game. You are interacting directly with the players you are against, the dealer is sitting right in front of you, and you have the feel of the cards between your fingers and the felt under your palms. One company, however, is trying to change the way live poker is played, and card rooms everywhere seem to be jumping on the wagon.
PokerTek is a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ (PTEK). They are based in Matthews, North Carolina, near Charlotte, and have developed electronic poker tables and software that can be used in place of live dealers. Their two main products are called PokerPro and PokerPro Heads-Up. These PokerPro systems are used in casinos, card rooms, and even cruise ships in the United States and throughout the rest of the world. They also have a product called Heads-Up Challenge that is used in places such as bars and restaurants for entertainment only.
There are a lot of benefits to both the players and card room operators using the PokerPro system. For the operators , it’s all about the revenue. The PokerTek website claims that they can increase revenue at a Texas Hold’em table by up to 50% and an Omaha table can see revenues increase by 100%. That’s obviously a huge draw for card room managers looking to increase cash flow during a time when fewer players seem to be visiting. There’s also the guarantee of 100% accuracy, reducing disputes among players and dealers, and reduced staff requirements. Tables may also be reconfigured for a number of different games and styles (no-limit, pot-limit, split-limit, Kill Pots, Stud, Omaha, etc.). Also, PokerPro tables can reduce the run time of multi-table tournaments by 30%, a benefit for both the house and the players alike.
Speaking of players, many of them seem to like it too. Card rooms are able to offer more of the lower stakes tables because there are fewer expenses involved. Also, the games go faster, so more hands are dealt per hour and best of all for the players, no need to tip the dealer. Additionally, card rooms are now able to offer heads-up tables (since it is now cost-effective for them). It can also be less intimidating for players who may have played online but are new to the live games.
PokerPro tables are now popping up all across the country. They can be found from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut to the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City to the Excalibur in Las Vegas to the Valley View Casino in San Diego. Coast to coast with many more tables in cities all along the way. They are also found in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, as well as on cruise lines such as Norwegian.
Some live players have complained that the electronic tables are in a sense taking away part of the game by making it less personal and less interactive. However, it would seem highly unlikely that electronic tables would replace live dealer tables completely. It may be true, though, that these tables might bring more people to poker who may otherwise not have given it a shot. Anything that helps bring more players to the felt, virtual or not, is good for the game and what’s good for the game is good for us, the players.