Dealer-less poker tables? Electronic alternative is faster — and you don’t need to tip

A Vancouver company has developed what could be a game-changer: poker tables with virtual cards — and lots of action

A Vancouver company has developed what could be a game-changer: poker tables with virtual cards — and lots of action. The tables can also be programmed to offer other electronic table games, horse or sports wagering to poker players who have folded for that particular hand.

"Picture players sitting at a table that's basically one giant iPad," says Jake Kalpakian, CEO of Jackpot Digital. "And it's faster game play, which generates more money." (Dealers don't have to count out chips or shuffle cards, for example.) Jackpot Digital already has a contract with Carnival Cruise Line and will install the machines in U.S. poker rooms later this year, although none yet in South Florida.

Good Texas Hold 'em players fold as much as 90 percent of their starting hands, which makes for a lot of down time. Walk into any poker room and you'll see players fiddling with their phones, snacking, or even reading a book. In any poker room at a site that offers horse racing, you'll probably see some players studying the daily charts.

The Jackpot Digital table game, called Jackpot Blitz, takes cash or tickets (like slot machines), and users can click away from the poker game when they're not in a hand.

The big challenge I see is that players are used to touching cards. And there's a certain distrust among old-school players of anything electronic. But that's countered by what I think is a big plus: with no live dealer, there's no need to tip after each winning hand. That $1 or more on each win stays in my chip stack, instead of bleeding into the dealer's box.

Kalpakian stops short of predicting that most existing live poker games will be replaced by electronics. But fully automated poker tables could easily be part of a mix, he says. "It really fits anywhere in terms of game and operation," he says of PokerPro. "You get all the benefits from both a player's perspective and an operator's perspective, so we think that's a good marriage."

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