Focus on AGS: A table games revolution is creating excitement among players

August 22, 2023 8:00 AM
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports
August 22, 2023 8:00 AM
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports

The mercuric rise of AGS from primarily a Class II game provider into an all-inclusive commercial gaming supplier is being spearheaded to a great extent by the company’s focus on its table games division and the investment it has made in talent, innovation, and expansion into new markets.

A pioneer in table game progressive platform development, AGS first dazzled the industry in 2017 with the release of STAX, followed three years later by the groundbreaking Bonus Spin Xtreme. Both platforms are generating unprecedented excitement among table games players at properties nationwide.

Combine STAX and Bonus Spin Xtreme with the PAX S shuffler, which has completely revolutionized single deck table games, and the soon-to-be-released 3 Card Catch, a house-banked poker variation that combines the best of Three Card Poker and blackjack, and you have all the makings of a new star of the table games show.

John Hemberger, the general manager and senior vice president of table products for AGS, acknowledged that it has indeed been a long journey, adding “but I think we are at the point now where so much of the hard work from everybody on the team is paying off in the form of the most diverse product offering that we have ever had”.

“At the moment we are able to provide operators with felt games, side bets, award winning progressive systems, multiple platforms, and card shufflers,” he continued. “We offer signage for baccarat and roulette displays, even chip trays. It is really a pretty extensive offering for operators and what we bring to the table for their customers.”

Hemberger observed that even though STAX and Bonus Spin Xtreme are both of the same progressive genre, each is unique in its own way, saying “STAX is a more traditional table games progressive in that the way to win jackpots is all cards-based”.

“STAX can support up to five independent progressive meters on any game type,” he said. “The infrequent hands, such as a royal flush or seven card straight flush, are life-changing jackpots. But by having five different jackpots, you create a scenario where more frequent premium hands are generating jackpots as well.

“This makes it possible for the operator to make sure that there are winners of their table games progressives of a more frequent nature. The best of both worlds. Our goal is to innovate aspects of table game play that resonate with players and create the kind of excitement they desire.”

Bonus Spin Xtreme takes table progressive platform development to entirely new heights by enabling casino operators to link all of the table games on the casino floor to the same jackpot pool, a first-of-its-kind in the industry. One seed amount for all variations of table games equates into more rapid incrementing and bigger jackpots.

It is an entirely different offering from STAX in that Bonus Spin Xtreme borrows a page from the slot segment by incorporating a random wheel-based bonus that is activated when a pre-determined “trigger”, unique to each game variation, occurs during the course of play. The result is a spin opportunity and eligibility for everyone at the table that bet the progressive.

“The thing about Bonus Spin Xtreme that’s really, really powerful is the ability to link it with uncommon games,” Hemberger observed. “Jamie Abrahamson, our senior director of table game content, is the inventor of Bonus Spin Xtreme. Creating a ‘trigger’ unique to each game is a very important part of the technology.”

Abrahamson realized that he had to dial in to a trigger for each game that occurs frequently enough to give players the opportunity to see the wheel in action and get the feeling they have a real chance to spin it and win. The trigger frequency was designed to feel similar to players at any of the games linked to the progressive.

Hemberger emphasized that, within reason, the frequency of the triggers for each game variety were as close as possible to each other, noting “the crazy thing, and what is so impressive about what Jamie did, is this: Say you play blackjack and I play Three Card Poker. Our odds of winning the jackpot when we place the progressive wager are exactly the same.”

“It’s an entirely different way of marketing a progressive to players,” he continued. “The real power is that operators are no longer required to separate out all of the table progressives and feed all these different meters. With Bonus Spin Xtreme you have one link across your floor which you seed at one time. All of the games are then connected to feed the one single progressive.”

Another dividend of Bonus Spin Xtreme, according to Hemberger, is the reality that some games get better participation than other games. Pushing every single progressive bet from every table game into one jackpot really “supercharges” the experience.

Yet another intriguing aspect to Bonus Spin Xtreme is the optional “Must Hit” progressive, a concept derived from the popularity of slot machine “mystery progressives”. When it is triggered, a random player who is participating with a progressive wager is awarded the amount shown for the Must Hit prize. Every game at every table, what is great about this is that all participating players have an equal chance of winning it.

An operator may decide, for example, to seed the “Must Hit” progressive with $100 and set it to hit by $500. The only thing the player has to do is bet the progressive.

“As it climbs closer to the ‘must hit’ mark, you get a sense of the players thinking ‘it’s gonna hit soon’, creating the kind of energy at the table where they are going to make sure they have a bet down,” Hemberger explained.

“The other thing is that this is the type of jackpot that properties are going to be awarding multiple times a day. This creates excitement. Not everybody is going to get the opportunity to win a life-changing jackpot, but players still want to win. They see people winning – a player at their table, a player at a neighboring table. They feel they also have a fair shot.”

Meanwhile, AGS is basking in the success of its PAX S shuffler, which Hemberger said has been very well received.

“We created competitive pricing for this model, which is seamless in that it doesn’t have any unnecessary ‘bells and whistles” and is easy for dealers to use,” he noted. “Over 250 units are installed in the market. Our customers have been very supportive of us getting into this space and providing them with a viable alternative.”

Finally, 3 Card Catch, an innovative table game development from AGS, is getting set for launch in the live casino environment. This variation of Three Card Poker creates quick-hitting jackpots that are certain to attract attention.

“We saw what the operator response to the game was at G2E and it was all quite favorable,” Hemberger revealed. “We’re very excited to see what the player reaction will be. It’s a game where the learning curve will be fairly short. If you know how to play Three Card Poker, the transition to 3 Card Catch will be a quick and easy process.”