For whatever reason, I felt the need to comment on the PokerTek "party" after the Holiday Classic this past trip. After all, they gave us free beer and swag. But they also gave me an opportunity to take a look at what the buzz was on these machines. Falstaff and Change 100 had seen these in action and I must admit, it did pique my curiosity.
The first thing that caught my attention was the layout. There were 9 of us at the table and we each had plenty of room. The view of the action was much better in the middle than if you were on a corner. The screen you had in front of you was easy to use, once you got down the concept of confirming your action. Checking the cards by "cupping" or touching the top of the video screen is cute. It appeared to me people were overdoing it because I don't think anyone was going to see your cards unless they leaned over to take a look as you touched them.
The play was smooth, like any real card game or online poker. It clearly told you the amount of the bet and how much it was to you to call. It announced all in bets. It even did chip races to when levels had pushed up. That annoyed some people but if the point is to make it as close to a physical card game, then I think it is good.
My opinion on the tables is simple. They were fun. It was like playing online but with a different twist. Having an opportunity to watch people as they played was interesting. I think most people were playing like they were online and were not observing others at the table. But that also could have been because people were drinking all day as well.
Would I play one of these machines in the future? Yes, but it depends on the circumstances. If I had the choice between this and a live game, I would take the live game. There is more going on in the live game than what you would see on the machines.
The flip side though is I think these machines would be great for SnGs or satellites to a live game. The thought of walking up and putting the card in the machine to get the game going is nice and easy.
I could see these machines doing great business in a bar, especially the heads up machine. It could get as much action as the pool table or dart machines.
The PokerTek tables were fun to play. If you come across them in your journeys, I would suggest you take the time to play them.