In the business world, one of the key things to have is a leader that not only knows his product and audience but also has the vision to move forward in that industry. Jake Kalpakian, the Chief Executive Officer of Jackpot Digital, is arguably one of those people. Through his vision and leadership, he has moved Jackpot Digital from mobile phones into the casino gaming industry and, by extension, into the poker arena.
Jackpot Digital’s major offering for the poker world is its entirely automated table known as Jackpot Blitz. The Jackpot Blitz table will be making its debut in 2018, but it has roots that stretch back a decade. With Kalpakian helming the company, the Jackpot Blitz table may make more of an impact on the live poker world than its predecessors did.
Recently we had a chance to speak with Kalpakian, where we learned more about the Jackpot Blitz table and Jackpot Digital’s work in casino gaming.
Is Online Poker Legal: How did Jackpot Digital get into casino gaming and, in particular, automated poker tables?
Jake Kalpakian: Jackpot Digital bought PokerTek, the company that created the PokerPro tables, in 2015. Those tables have been so successful that they are still in use today in many areas. We believe, however, that we have a second-generation table that will take automated gaming to new heights.
IOPL: Yes, the Jackpot Blitz tables are amazing. I remember with the PokerPro tables it was like each player had a little monitor in front of them. The Jackpot Blitz table, though, is almost like a real table setup.
JK: That’s correct. We’ve put years of software development into this product and, although we knew that the PokerPro table was a warhorse, it needed freshening up. The way games are going today, people are looking for more of a “touch screen” experience. We thought, however, that while the touch screen was a nice idea, we wanted to try to keep as much of “poker” alive as possible.
Even though the cards are digital, you can still peel them like you would in a live game. The table is more of a social simulation, to be as realistic as possible. The table is really a giant iPad!
IOPL: It is obvious from looking at the table that there has been a great deal of thought about the player. You’ve even included other games, such as blackjack, to give players something to do while not in the hand. Why include things like that?
JK: If you go to a poker room, many times you’ll see players sitting out a hand. You’ll see those players on an iPad or iPhone, playing online. They’re playing multiple games while at the poker table. Poker players are a very special creature, they like to be engaged. They don’t like sitting around doing nothing. They always want action, so we’re just providing them what they might want.
IOPL: Where are these tables going to be? The cruise industry was big for the PokerPro tables, I remember.
JK: The cruise industry is our #1 customer, so they are going to be on the Jackpot Blitz tables first. Then we’ll start to roll them out to casinos across North America, probably between January and March 2018. But there are multiple cruise lines that will have the Jackpot Blitz tables onboard to start with.
IOPL: What is the big draw of the automated tables for the cruise and casino industries?
JK: You don’t need to pay a dealer, you don’t need to have chip runners. You don’t have to staff the tables or the poker room, unless you want an overall manager who monitors things, because the table does everything itself.
IOPL: What do you say to those who scoff at the idea of automated tables? What would be your suggestion to these players to push them over to the Jackpot Blitz tables?
JK: Look, we know most poker players prefer the “live” dealer, the cards, the chips. With the Jackpot Blitz table, the difference between live and automated is shrunk to nearly nothing. The Blitz table is much faster, getting more hands in to maximize play per hour. There is no dealer “mistakes,” no tipping.
While those things make it great for the operators, we also are looking at making it great for the players. We are trying to make this as close to the “real thing” as possible. The fact you can bend your cards, cover them, play with your chips, we’re trying to give the same feel as if you were playing live. Add in the fact that the Jackpot Blitz table offers total engagement to the player whether in the hand or not and we think we’ve got a good product.
We’ve found that, when we use the Jackpot Blitz tables in a tournament format, it breaks through that initial reluctance to play on automated tables. The players naturally migrate to the Blitz tables in a cash game. We’re positive it will be an enjoyable experience for players and they’ll come back for more.
The Jackpot Blitz tables will be coming out in 2018 and they may very well be coming to a casino (or cruise ship) near you.