An unexpected development on Golden Nugget may prove to be a momentary blip of no consequence or signify a major change to come in game libraries.
A new exclusive video poker variant, Destiny Poker, has just launched on the site. The offering from JAMA Games is the first true new one-off game in the category in memory.
Video poker’s unique niche
Video poker occupies an unusual space in gambling circles. While simulated poker skill games existed in casinos for many decades, computerized VP games came about in the late 70s and immediately peaked in design with IGT’s Game King offerings in 1981. At the time these machines were unique in allowing casinos to offer multiple similar games with varying bets, payouts, and house edges on a single device.
The gameplay and aesthetic of these games are incredibly primitive by every possible standard of computer gambling, but they possessed a simplistic elegance that made them remarkably effective and in the years since, no superior modern version has risen to surpass them.
Video poker is popular with a particular flavor of gambler, as the games all feature a few common advantages. They are moderately strategic, allowing the player to have more control of the outcome than a slot machine. At the same time they are solitary games without the requirement of a dealer or other players. They also tend to have very favorable odds, among the best games in the casino with perfect play, and a skilled player can operate at their own speed.
The online versions of these games are extremely useful to savvy gamblers, as they usually offer a superior pay table to most brick-and-mortar casino video poker games, but feature the same retro graphics and gameplay since 1981.
Several NJ online casinos offer their own exclusive versions of VP games in addition to the standard classic Game King versions, but even these are usually at best identical imitations or at worst inferior knock-offs, with almost no new innovation whatsoever. That is, until now.
What is Destiny Poker?
Destiny Poker itself isn’t fully reinventing the wheel. The gameplay maintains the typical simplicity and the graphics and sound – while slightly sharper and more polished – still evoke the traditional look and feel of most video poker games.
The divergence from a typical Double Double Bonus Poker game is in a bonus feature where Destiny highly favors flush draws. Whenever a player holds four cards of the same suit, they are rewarded with a second-chance option, should they fail to hit their flush. There is an opportunity to redraw on the remaining cards for a chance to complete the hand, and even if this fails there is a “matching” mini-game unlocked where the player can still earn a portion of the value of the missed win, or at worst some free plays. A true case of skill meets luck.
Where the bonus comes into play is particularly clever: experienced video poker players generally follow strategies that revolve around chasing after royal flushes, as the higher payout is necessary in order to meet the expected maximum return. Ideal play often means continuing at the game until the royal is hit, which can often work out to every 40,000 hands. This also results in extreme frustration when the player is dealt four cards of a straight or royal flush and then fails to receive their needed card. With Destiny, at least the player can feel there is a better chance to still complete their long-awaited hand, removing a lot of the stress and rage.
In order to activate the bonus feature, players must pay a premium: six coins per hand, as opposed to the gold standard of a five coin max bet. Unfortunately, opting into the bonus reduces the payback to only 98%, whereas a standard 9/6 DDB returns 98.98%. Of course players that would rather trade the added excitement of the bonus bet for the better return are fully able to just that, by wagering five coins per hand. However, wagering less than five coins is not recommended, as players won’t receive the full payout on a royal.
While a 98% return is by no means the lowest for a video poker game (and much higher than most other casino games), it is far below the best Game King games which top out above 99.5%.
Destiny features a wide betting range, with a minimum bet of $0.01 and a maximum of $150, with a maximum payout of $100,000 on a very lucky hand.
Since most online casinos have much higher wagering requirements to unlock bonuses or earn loyalty points for VP play (on Golden Nugget, bets tend to be worth only one fifth of equivalent slot machine wagers), the extremely high RTP of good video poker games is necessary to make long term play worth it.
So while the flush gimmick is nice, it is not enough to make the game appealing to most serious video poker fans. However, it should find favor with action junkies and those who relish in the fun of video poker.
Hope for the future
A new video poker game does not at first seem as interesting as a new Live Dealer game or the launch of a new sportsbook, but it could prove to be an important event. Beyond the game itself, Destiny represents a first attempt at something new in an unexpected area, and possibly a sign of additional similar developments to come.
As a category, VP games have been stagnant for innovation since their inception. Beyond that, New Jersey online casinos have been reluctant to push established one-off variants of the game like Spin Poker, Ultimate X, and Super Times Pay.
Eyes will now be on JAMA to see if it will be designing other new one-off variants of video poker, or of other classic casino staples. Similarly, other developers could follow suit, allowing for new evolution in categories of gameplay that have otherwise forgotten the concept of progress.
Unfortunately, if such new games are not already well on their way then the likelihood they will come to be may at least partially be dependent on whether or not Destiny Poker proves to be successful.
The bottom line
Either adjusting the pay table to slightly decrease the house edge or else offering a specific promotion to draw attention to Destiny Poker (like one of Golden Nugget’s frequent Weekly Mission challenges) could go far to improve the chances of its succes. Otherwise Destiny’s destiny will come down to how long the novelty lasts for players who want a faster route to a royal flush than usual regardless of RTP.
Destiny Poker will remain exclusive on Golden Nugget Casino for 30 days, beginning on its launch date of August 23.
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