Speaking generally about the games of preference for casino gamblers, there are three categories of players: Those who prefer slots, those who prefer tables, and those who prefer video poker.
Casino operators are always looking for ways to create crossover opportunities among the groups, but it hasn't been easy. Even though slots and video poker are members of the same family (electronic gaming devices), efforts by manufacturers to combine elements of the games have proven to be challenging.
The new wave of electronic touch-screen table games is regarded to have the potential to attract dedicated slot players, but the main focus remains the highly specialized video poker segment as a means to expand the horizons of slot players.
Video poker players are a dedicated lot who really don't want the manufacturers messing around with their game. With an element of skill as the primary attraction, just give them a good selection of games with solid pay tables and they're content.
Slot players, on the other hand, not only like to win money; they want to be entertained with the base games and second screen bonus rounds.
The ideal compromise would seem to be a combination of an established video poker format with a popular element of slot play. International Game Technology (IGT) accomplished just that with Wheel Poker.
Wheel Poker is a union of the best of IGT's slot machine and video poker worlds. The base game is available in Triple Play and Five Play options with seven game families (Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker, etc.) from which to choose.
The distinctive component is the top box "wheel," which resembles the wheel-based theme games for which IGT is famous. Players get the opportunity to activate a wheel spin for bonus credits every time they are dealt or draw to any four-of-a-kind. Each spin rewards the player anywhere from 100 to 2,000 credits.
The game requires a wager of six coins per hand to be eligible for the Wheel Poker bonus. The sixth coin actually funds the bonus aspect of the game, which leaves the standard pay tables unaffected.
The sixth coin required for bonus wheel eligibility can be an expensive betting proposition, especially on multi-hand units.
Statistically speaking, the frequency of getting 4-of-a-kind is once every 423 hands. Therefore, the theoretical additional investment to reach the bonus on a Triple Play machine using the one dollar version of Wheel Poker is $1,269. It swells to $2,115 on a Five Play machine.
Wheel Poker is more attractive to average gamblers in quarter and 50-cent denominations, but the jury is still out on whether or not avid video poker players will buy the concept and if it will serve as a true crossover vehicle for slot players.