PokerPro table review
Well, this is an old thread, but it's definitely a topic worth discussing. A lot has changed in the last year, but as far as automated poker tables go it appears that PokerPro is still the best table. They are made by PokerTech and now distributed by Aristocrat, as far as I know. I have played on a Lightning Poker table (distributed by Shufflemaster), and the software and operation is far inferior to that of the PokerPro table. I have also had reports of other tables that are inferior to the PokerPro model.
I've spent several nights playing on a PokerPro table at a casino in Europe, and there are a lot of situations where it is much better than having a live dealer OR playing online. I will list a few of the likes and dislikes I have for the table, but I was mainly interested in seeing what problems other players or operators are experiencing with these tables.
Just like any B&M poker room, you get to play against players that wouldn't normally be playing online. Playing online now requires a cash holdings account, or credit cards, etc, and this allows players to jump right into poker without the hassle of online money transactions. This table offers less overhead than a normal poker table, so it can be added to any location. It can also be licensed as an automated machine (like a slot machine) in some jurisdictions, so that can make it easier to legally operate. There are no dealers to train and/or schedule, no set hours for a game, no mistakes, and most importantly:
The game is faster than at a normal table. You can expect 50-100% more hands per hour. This is good, so long as you are one of the better players at the table. And if it’s at a casino, then hopefully you can play better than some of the gamblers that wander over from roulette
The software is good. It allows you to quickly make a bet of any size, call, or fold, and even has a few “extras” like the ability to show & fold, show one or both of your cards if you win with no showdown, and more.
Casino owners think these tables can run themselves, but they can’t. A cashier is required to deposit money onto the cards, and they have to learn the software in order to do it. (This requires a cashier that speaks English, which is obviously isn’t common at small casinos or pubs outside the UK.) So basically, the cards are frequently set up with the wrong player names, etc. But at least they know how to make deposits and withdrawals. That’s what cashiers do best. J
The software is buggy, and handles waiting lists poorly, so a “game host” is really required to make sure the game runs smoothly and people aren’t fighting over who gets the next open seat. On that topic, a tech support person is also required, because the software isn’t 100% stable. For example, if you kick the table or give it a good pounding, it will pause the game (thinking that one of the panels has been opened.) This requires somebody to go press a “resume” button on the server computer. This is surprisingly difficult to do for somebody who doesn’t know computers. I have seen hands aborted in the middle of the hand by accident, and I have seen them resumed normally. An on-call tech support person is really a must for these tables, because they are so complex that it can take hours for a non-technical person to fix a problem over the phone with PokerPro tech support.
The price tag is huge. As there are no real competitors, PokerPro looks to be trying to recoup a lot of the development costs as fast as possible. The hardware is not terribly special, but they are still charging over 100,000 euros for a table. And even if purchased outright, there is a monthly fee. The other option is to pay rental on a per-month basis of several thousand euros per month (I heard around 6k eur/mo), and I don’t think a lot of operators can afford that kind of a rental fee while trying to build a regular game. This table will need to be competitive with B&M poker rooms that charge just a few euros rake per hand, and that could be tough to do if the game doesn’t run for at least 8 hours per night.
Lately, I have seen problems getting the table up and running. Blue screens of death (crashes) are happening more and more frequently, and this is dropping the table up-time below 80% for the last week. I think this is due to faulty software or hardware conflicts with Windows (yes, it runs on Windows), or something of that nature. At a recent gaming expo in the UK, they demonstrated a new version of the software – which I hope will be more reliable. I have yet to see a working multi-table tournament, but sit & go tournaments seem to work very well.
In summary, I think the table is a big plus to spreading poker around the world, especially to small locations. Casinos can essentially open a small poker room while avoiding a lot of the problems that are created by running a live game. If a couple of the frequent players are trained on the operation of the table, they could certainly “host” the game and play in it at the same time. (As prop players, or whatever.) The games are very configurable as far as rake goes, rules of the game, etc. Hopefully the price of the table will drop and more operators will see this as a good way to open a new poker room, especially in location where there are no poker rooms. The best thing that this tables can do is to start poker games in locations where there are no skilled dealers or poker room managers.