WMS Gaming’s bid to break into the video poker market has gone live. Machines marked “Multi-Game Poker” went onto Las Vegas casino floors at Harrah’s and Caesars Palace in mid-December.
I happened to be in Las Vegas at the time, so I went to Harrah’s to check them out. Labeled “Multi-Game Poker,” the machines have standard video poker games such as Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Double Bonus Poker and Double Double Bonus Poker. It’s all on a comfortable, ergonomic cabinet, and there are loads of customization features for the look of the game.
I played around with the screen customization before beginning to play. Did I want a standard screen with pay table on top, cards in the middle and line at the bottom with credits, coin denomination and bets, or did I want cards at the top or bottom. Did I want a blue background? Red? Orange? Purple? Did I want a standard deck, perhaps something western or outer space themed, or maybe cards with BIG numbers and letters?
I chose a Western deck, cards at the top, orange background, and prepared for a little Double Double Bonus Poker.
Soon, players will be able to do the customization at home via WMS’ Players Life site. That was not yet set up, though the machine did print out a bar-coded ticket that would set Harrah’s machines to my specifications on future visits.
Video poker players know what they like, and their liking for IGT machines is well-entrenched. Other competitors have fallen by the wayside, and IGT stands virtually alone in the video poker market. That has casino operators hoping WMS succeeds to provide a little competition.
Soon, WMS will release a new game, Winning Streak Poker, that has a chance to win players as a game with a difference. Until then, the games are the same on WMS and IGT products, and it’s up to the comfort and customization features to attract players. WMS has a good product, but luring players away from the machines they’re accustomed to playing is never a sure thing.
BUFFET BLUES: I was in Las Vegas with a family group of nine, including my parents, two sisters, a brother-in-law, a niece, a nephew and my 21-year-old son. The group decided to try out Caesars Entertainment’s Buffet of Buffets, which for $44.99 allows you to eat up to six times in 24 hours at seven Caesars properties.
In theory, it’s a good deal. Even just a breakfast, lunch and dinner purchased separately would cost more than $60. Time it so you start with dinner one night and end with an earlier dinner the next, and it’s close to a half-price deal.
In practice, it was a nightmare. Lines were hideously long despite expanses of empty tables and unbused tables. It wasn’t just one property. After standing in a dinner line that didn’t move for 15 minutes at Paris, one sister walked to the desk, asked about the wait and was told about 45 minutes to a point just in front of us.
We opted out, and left for the Flamingo and a much shorter line. And a 15-minute wait to get to the cashier made it seem easy by comparison. But there was a line after the line, and another 25 minutes after being checked in before there was a table for us.
A 56-minute wait that started at 2:10 p.m. for lunch at Harrah’s was the last straw. Two men behind us were irate. Their 24 hours was going to run out before they could get to the front of the line. An unsympathetic employee told them that’s why they recommend leaving plenty of time. You’d think an hour early would be plenty of time. Alas, no.
We asked to see a manager, who told us two employees had called in sick. Why hadn’t he called in extra help? “They’re coming in at 3:30 and 5,” he said, which didn’t do much for the more than 100 people standing in line --- we counted --- with three times as many tables empty than occupied.
It wouldn’t seem to be cost effective to have dozens standing in line for an hour, not spending money in the casino, for want of a few busboys. The manager seemed to take offense when that was suggested to him. He said it was better than having sick employees come throw up in our food.
Other employees had different ideas, though. One came over and thanked us for complaining, saying it was unbelievable how little help there was.
It was unbelievable to us, too. If Caesars is going to offer the deal and take people’s money up front, it should provide sufficient staff to make the package usable. For us, this mealtime bonanza was a bust.
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