Hybrid Poker Tables Coming Soon?
Imagine, if you could, stepping into your local card room and not seeing one dealer at the tables. Instead, everyone would be staring into a monitor at their seat, devising their strategies and playing poker as if they were online. It may sound a little crazy, but it is something that you could see happening in the near future.
A North Carolina company called PokerTek, Inc. has developed a new poker table that could revolutionize the casino game. Their technology is called PokerPro and is designed to remove the possibility of human error from the game. The tables would have monitors on them for each player that accept the deal of the cards, rather than a human dealer who would be responsible for the shuffle and deal. Play would commence as normal in whatever game was being played, with the bets being registered on the monitors and constant information being fed to the other players at the table. At the end of a hand, the winner (or winners, in a split pot game) would be credited with their share of the pot, as the computers would already have deducted the appropriate rake and determined the winner.
The purpose of the technology is to speed up the casino game. With the computer systems, there could be more hands dealt per hour (as is the case online) as there would not be a wait for a mechanical shuffler or the dealer themselves to shuffle the deck. There wouldn't be the problems of a misdeal or of the dealer accidentally "flashing" cards during play because it would be done through the monitors. There wouldn't be a disagreement over the rake being taken by the house, as the computer would be programmed to remove the proper amount (never too much and never too little). There would also be no argument over who won the hand, as the determination of the computer would dictate which hand was the best.
The advantages beyond the nuts and bolts would be of interest to the casinos. It would virtually eliminate the need for the gaming rooms to employ poker dealers. It is estimated that there would be around a 30% increase in the number of hands played because of the computer system (thus creating more rake) and the ages old question of tipping would be eliminated.
In their S-1 form that they submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission on August 4th, PokerTek is beginning the preparations to make an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of two million shares of stock in the company. It is estimated, according to the S-1 form, that the stock would sell for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 to $12, thereby generating the corporation between $20 and $24 million dollars.
The company would need the public offering to be able to move forward with the PokerPro technology. According to the document, the company was in the red in 2004 with net losses that totaled $925,837. In the first six months of 2005, the further development of the PokerPro system has pushed PokerTek even deeper into the hole, with a reported $1.58 million in losses.
They have been able to see their first profits from the PokerPro setup, however. Currently PokerTek has the table system licensed to the Seminole Tribe of Florida and their six casinos located there. The Seminole Tribe currently has two setups running which generated $12,000 in revenue by July 28th, according to the S-1 form.
The company's S-1 is a very interesting read into how they would use the IPO to further their company and the PokerPro technology. It is also brutally honest (to their credit) regarding many of the pitfalls that they may face, including a decrease in gaming, players not accepting the technology, the relatively small number of poker tables that are currently in use in casino properties (estimated to be in the neighborhood of 6,000 worldwide), a possible inability to properly acquire licenses that they would need to enter into different areas of the country (or around the world) and many other potential risk factors.
The company is run by CEO Gehrig "Lou" White and President and Secretary James Crawford. An interesting name that is presented in the S-1 form is that of Lyle Berman, one of the key players in the World Poker Tour and Lakes Entertainment. He is listed as the Chairman of the Board of Directors and is probably the force that PokerTek would need to move their technology into the casinos. I attempted to get some comments from Mr. White on August 15th. However, in an e-mail I received from him, he stated due to the current stock situation with the company, he was unable to speak about the company (a "quiet period" that is in effect when companies are in such a situation), the technology or other matters regarding it.
It remains to be seen what will happen regarding the PokerPro system and PokerTek. Would the technology be something that players would like? Is it something that could be implemented with little or no problems? And would the people it would replace, the dealers, be happy about it? It bears to watch what will happen, as it soon could come that we are all playing a hybrid game, "live" poker with the online elements there in full force. To learn more about PokerTek, you can visit their website at pokertek.com. If you would like to read over the S-1 form regarding PokerTek's application for an IPO, you can visit sec.gov and search on the company in their EDGAR section.
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