My Adventures with Big Tony’s Pokerkard – Tear down, repair, troubleshooting, etc. (Fixed!)

All of the content on this page is aimed at helping owners troubleshoot, repair, and service their game.  If a legitimate request to remove any of the material posted here surfaces, I will honor the request.

 

Recently I picked up a Big Tony’s Pokerkard arcade video/gambling game/machine.  It does not boot all the way into the game, but the price was right, and I love poker.  I try and make several journeys each year to nearby casinos to play in the WSOP circuit events, etc.  Anyway – this will track my experiences in attempting to repair Big Tony’s Pokerkard.

 

USA Operation Manual:

PokerKard_USA_v1.0_Manual_Rev_B

 

Here are some images of the various components…

IMG_6446

Top view

IMG_6449

Front View

IMG_6421

Top Raised

IMG_6425

Internals

IMG_6424

Touch Panel Underside

IMG_6451

USB Security Dongle

IMG_6456

PC Unit (Rear View)

IMG_6459

PC Unit (Top View): ASUS P5N73-CM Motherboard

IMG_6462

Nova Serial Card

IMG_6467

Novamax T4 Rev 3

IMG_6474

Seagate ST380815AS Hard Drive

Step 2:  Backup the Data & Hard Drive

So Big Tony’s PokerKard is running on Windows XP.  Pretty easy to get the data off that.  I attached the hard drive to my workstation and backed up the entire C: drive to a folder.  Next I made a CloneZilla image of the drive and “dd” image of the USB dongle so I always have an easy to restore backups.

  • Want to poke around or replace files on your game?  Use the “Files Only” link.
  • Want to write an image to a physical hard drive or USB dongle?  Grab the CloneZilla hard drive image and/or “dd” USB dongle image.

Big Tony’s PokerKard – Hard Drive CloneZilla image:  btpk_hard_drive_clonezilla

Big Tony’s PokerKard – Hard Drive Files Only:  btpk_hard_drive_files

 

Step 3:  USB Dongle Files & Image

The USB security dongle is reported as a Netac Technology Co., Ltd device (using lsusb).  It’s a 1GB USB key embedded into a plastic housing with black epoxy.  It has a single 1008MB NTFS partition with less than 3kb of (accessible) files.   I made a “dd” image of the USB dongle.

Big Tony’s PokerKard – USB Dongle “dd” Image: btpk_usb_dongle_dd

Big Tony’s PokerKard – USB Dongle Files Only: btpk_usb_dongle_files

 

Step 4:  CloneZilla and “dd” Image Restoration HowTo

This section has its own page.

If you’re going to use CloneZilla on the Big Tony’s PokerKard hardware, use the i686 version here:

CloneZilla i686 ISO (must be i686 edition as CPU in this game is not x64 compatible)

 

 Big Tony’s PokerKard – Working!

Many thanks to GetSlideWays on the www.newlifegames.com forums for posting the BIOS settings.  Both of my PCs had dead CMOS batteries, and after making the recommended changes, Big Tony booted up into attract mode.  This game does take a long time to boot.   🙂

 

Step 5:  BIOS Settings

To get into the game’s BIOS, have a USB keyboard connected to Big Tony’s PC, power it up, and press the Delete key a few times after the Express Gate screen passes.  If you aren’t sure what the state of your settings is, then navigate to the “Exit” menu and select “Load Setup Default.”  From there, proceed to making the changes below.

 

Legacy Diskette A:  Set to “Disabled” (Default = 3.5″ 1.44MB)

Plug and Play: Set to “Yes” (Default = No)

Parallel Port:  Set to “SPP” (Default = ECP)

Screenshots:

 

floppy_disabled

Legacy Diskette Setting

 

plug_and_play

Plug and Play OS Setting

 

parallel_port_mode_select

Parallel Port Mode Selection

 

parallel_port_spp

Parallel Port Mode = SPP

 

exit_saving_changes

Save and Exit

 

YouTube Videos!

Power up through attract mode:

 

Single person game play (2 Hands, 47 offsuit, all in!):

 

Other Modifications:

All of the fans in this game are overly loud.  I replaced the stock power supply (bad fan bearing) with an EVGA 500W ATX power supply and replaced the stock Intel CPU cooler with a Thermaltake CL-P0497 Intel Heatsink with fan.  I’ll have to remove the motherboard to install this particular CPU fan, but that isn’t much work. 

I’m working on a mod for that crazy blower that cools the LCD electronics…it’s overkill, loud, and emits an obnoxious whine.

 

Pic of the new power supply and Thermaltake fan installed:

btpk_new_ps_and_cooling_fan

 

Notes of Interest:

My T4 USA edition has (3) versions of the main “sysmax” executable in the “C:\POKERKARD” folder.  The region 17 binaries attempt to initialize modem hardware that my USA editions doesn’t have.  Anyone know what region 17 is?  Europe?

  • sysmax.new = Nova Region 17, Software v1.08
  • sysmax.bak = Nova Region 17, Software v1.09
  • sysmax.exe = Nova Region 3, Software v1.16  (This is the USA edition executable)

 

To try the various executables:

  • Rename sysmax.exe to sysmax.original
  • Rename sysmax.bak or sysmax.new to sysmax.exe
  • Reboot the PC.

 

To go back to the original:

  • Rename sysmax.exe back to either sysmax.new or sysmax.bak
  • Rename sysmax.original to sysmax.exe
  • Reboot the PC.

 

  32 comments for “My Adventures with Big Tony’s Pokerkard – Tear down, repair, troubleshooting, etc. (Fixed!)

  1. Michael Martin
    September 21, 2015 at 2:54 AM

    Great Post, I’ve also just acquired a similar unit. Mine is a slightly different model (different style base, and the top is hinged differently) Unfortunately no keys were supplied with my unit so I am still trying to get into it.

    • RevisionX
      September 21, 2015 at 5:24 PM

      A drill and a 1/2″ bit should do it. 🙂

  2. Warren
    October 24, 2015 at 11:51 AM

    Excellent blog, thank you so much for sharing as I now have my pokerkard machine working again. Quick question, the fan attached to the bottom of the screen does it rotate all the time? I think mine maybe broken.

    • RevisionX
      October 24, 2015 at 12:34 PM

      No problem – glad to share the info. I have a history repairing old arcade games (Asteroids, Donkey Kong, etc.) so it was fun to troubleshoot something less than 30 years old.

      You must be talking about the blower that is mounted to the back of the LCD panel. Yes, that obnoxious fan runs constantly. I connected my machine to a power strip so I have a switch to shut it off after the PC powers down. You can set the BIOS to power up any time AC is restored, and as long as you’re not in the middle of a game, I’ve found that just cutting the power doesn’t result in any side effects (so far). Next time you power up, the PC wakes up with no need to open the top.

      • Warren
        November 1, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        Thank you, new motor bought and installed, the company that made the fan cannot supply the motor anymore as it was obsolete and wanted £100 + VAT for a replacement unit, but managed to find similar motor and install it to the fan blade and chassis. Next task is to clone the hard drive as it seem to crash/freeze mid game sometimes and just sits at the big tony main screen. Power off and the games tries to restore before power failure, which it does. Hoping it is a dying hard drive with some bad sectors. My model does not have the USB dongle, so hopefully buying the same hard drive and cloning will work.

        • RevisionX
          November 1, 2015 at 11:09 AM

          Let me know how it goes, but the same make/model drive doesn’t matter for my hardware or the image I’ve provided. This CloneZilla image is an 80GB partition image. Even if you use a 1TB drive, the Windows XP operating system is still in it’s original 80GB partition. You may be wasting a lot of space, but it will work fine. I should have a write up on using CloneZilla (on actual Big Tony’s PokerKard hardware) soon.

  3. Warren
    November 7, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    OK, so cloned my working hard drive on two different drives and every time the machine boots with the new hard drive, it stops after going through the normal loading process and displays the engineering screen with message saying software failed to load. In the SYSMAX.log it states SOFTWARE LOAD 11002 FAIL on the good drive SYSMAX.log it states PokerKard initialised. I don’t have a USB security dongle on my machine and software is 2.02. If your interested in an image please contact me. As I don’t have a usb dongle do you think the software could be coded to the hard drive serial?

    • RevisionX
      November 7, 2015 at 6:21 PM

      To test the serial number theory I’d buy a used drive that’s the same make/model and try your image again. What are you using to take your drive images? Security seems unlikely given how there was none whatsoever on my unit and even the “DO NOT REMOVE” USB dongle can be replaced with any thumb drive. That said, I have no experience with these machines beyond my unit.

      • Warren
        November 8, 2015 at 2:44 AM

        The second hard drive I bought was the same make and model alas gave me the same error. I am using Acronis for cloning. Any guidance much appreciated at this point as I’m at a lose. I’ve order some replacement ram also to see if that’s the reason for the mid game freezing that sometimes happens. so close to having a fully working system with a backed up image I would love to fix the final hurdle to give me piece of mind.

        • RevisionX
          November 8, 2015 at 10:47 AM

          You’re the second person I’ve heard of use Acronis, his didn’t work either where CloneZilla does. I posted another article on restoring images with CloneZilla last night, but it’s still a work in progress.

        • RevisionX
          November 8, 2015 at 12:42 PM

          The CloneZilla ISO I’m hosting runs on the Big Tony’s hardware and has a Memtest option at boot. Memtest is the de facto standard for software memory testing, so I’d image CloneZilla to a USB key, press F8 at boot to enter the boot menu, then boot that USB device, and run the Memtest option from the first menu. The new post on CloneZill and dd is up: http://www.scottcking.com/?p=279.

        • RevisionX
          November 8, 2015 at 1:01 PM

          One other thing – I found that when my game did not boot up (fully) the exhaust fans would power up so the inside of the cabinet quickly became an oven. Temperature issues would certainly cause freezing and hangs…maybe that helps?

  4. Joe
    December 6, 2015 at 5:28 AM

    Hi i have aquired 2 units models i am not sure of, both didn’t work so i basically used all the good parts to make 1 which now starts up how ever it stops at the pokerkard start screen in maybe service mode, it says new hardware found and another box saying date and time incorrect. i close the boxes and try to insert coins, i get 3 flashing lights ” Coin valid but not authorized.

    I have followed your instructions to reload the software but i am unable to create a boot usb, the Clonezilla file ive downloaded is not recongnised as an iso file, Sry first time ive tried this….Do i create a bootable usb with Rufus, then extract the Clonezilla file on your site to the usb?

    • RevisionX
      December 7, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      Hi –

      Sounds like you need to start with resetting the BIOS to defaults, set the time/date, then proceed. If your BIOS settings are not correct (they are documented with screenshots) then you won’t get far. Start there, then proceed. I added a screenshot of a “configured” Rufus to the page.

      Please use the version of CloneZilla I have provided. When you burn a CD/DVD, you open an app, select the ISO, and then it burns the ISO to the disc you choose. It’s no different here. Download the ISO file to your desktop, connect your USB key, and then open Rufus. At the top, select your USB device, and near the bottom of the window it says “Create a bootable disk using”, click the icon and browse to your CloneZilla ISO and then “Start.”

  5. lindsay
    May 25, 2016 at 2:35 AM

    Hey. Awesomepost. Ive just brought one but seems the touch screen doesnt work. Any thoughts? Also mine doesnt have coin acceptors. Can i bypas these with maybe a push button instead? cheers lindsay

    • RevisionX
      May 26, 2016 at 7:21 PM

      The “touchscreen” isn’t anything like a modern touchscreen. They are very simplistic – tiny wires run to select areas of the screen and overlay the graphical buttons. The Nova cards control this, but it’s probably more likely that you have a driver issue. Does the game boot into attract mode now?

  6. Lindsay
    May 29, 2016 at 9:30 PM

    Hi. Yes it boots into attract mode. Like the previous post from warren, my fan under the screen doesn’t work either. Ive brought a replacement coin acceptors but there is only 1.2 volts going to the coin acceptors. Shouldnt they be 12v?

  7. Joe
    August 21, 2016 at 8:12 AM

    Awesome my friend. I have stuck a lot of money into this game. I purchased the last remaining screen from BMG as my screen had terrible black areas in it like someone took a black paint spray can to it. I believe it was due to no fan on the screen itself and that is what the tech thought also. I purchased a new fan from Europe (actually two of them as the shipping and minimum order was more than the cost of the fan. Anyway, the batteries on the boards must have gone dead as the game was left sitting for a while. I just updated the BIO’s settings and just like that I got it running. Guess, I’m off today to get the new batteries. I also purchased two thumb drives with software versions 1.16 and 2.00 while there was still any sort of tech support for these. If you go backwards to 1.16 you can set the game to free play which is most likely what most homeowners want.

  8. jJimmy
    January 18, 2018 at 7:38 PM

    Everything worked good, until i turn the machine off and turn it on the next day. The machine said NTLDR is missing. what did i do wrong please.

    • RevisionX
      January 22, 2018 at 11:00 AM

      Hi –

      NTLDR is the Windows “boot loader.” Without it, well, you know where you get to. Since your machine was working one day, but not the next – I would expect this to be the CMOS (coin cell) battery on your Big Tony’s motherboard. If it loses the date/time on each boot (aka the CMOS/BIOS settings), then it will not remember the make/model hard drive and this would cause the error you are seeing. Let me know how that checks out.

      Best regards,
      Scott…

  9. mesz
    March 16, 2018 at 12:05 PM

    I obtained one of these and upon turning it on the screen will come up “No Signal”. So looking at the PC I noticed that it’s not booting up at all. I installed a new power supply and the PC still doesn’t boot up. Any idea where to start with this?

    • mesz
      March 16, 2018 at 12:14 PM

      I Just to add to my post …….I also took a power cord directly to the PC and nothing. Wanted to make sure that it wasn’t an issue with the power within the game!

      • mesz
        March 20, 2018 at 6:30 AM

        Thanks to this post I was able to get the machine back up and working! The two main issues were that the power switch on the PC wasn’t connected hence the PC wouldn’t power on. Once I wired it the system would come on but the game wouldn’t play at all and the touch screen wasn’t working. This issue was a result of the BiOS. So I followed the above directions as well as from Benchmark and game is now working, Just an FYI the below info is what I received from Benchmark:

        To enter the BIOS, press the “del” key several times on initial startup with any USB keyboard plugged in until you see the “BIOS settings” page.

        The custom BIOS password is: renzo07 (note the letter o then the number 0)
        (with a fresh BIOS there is no password, though it is recommended to set it back to this to prevent confusion during future service calls)

        Using the arrow keys on the keyboard you can move through the settings. There is usually also some basic instructions on the bottom and the side of the screen for the different menus.

        The proper settings for the game are as follows:

        General settings
        CPU config – set to x6 or lower (if the option is available)
        Chipset – set to 256m
        PCI PNP – no
        In the onboard config section,
        LAN – off
        Serial – auto
        Parallel port mode – spp
        Power: APM Config
        Restore on AC Power Loss – set to “last state”
        Boot priority
        HDD
        Disabled for the rest
        Boot settings
        Quick Boot – enabled
        Halt on – no errors
        Express gate should be disabled

  10. Ethan
    April 10, 2018 at 2:19 AM

    I have taken the computer out and connected to a vga input and it loads everything normally, when i put it back in the arcade console and try to connect to the touchscreen i dont get any signal coming through, does anybody know why that could be?

    I am about to try a new dvi cable so fingers crossed it is an easy fix, if anyone has any other helpful ideas id love to hear them, thanks guys 🙂

    • Ethan
      April 14, 2018 at 6:07 AM

      Ive tried the new cord and it didnt work so im a bit lost at the moment

      • RevisionX
        October 31, 2018 at 10:51 AM

        Ethan – sorry for the long delay, were you able to make any progress?

  11. meSz
    April 23, 2018 at 8:29 PM

    Can anyone take a hi res picture of the decal where you lay the Pokerkard and either post it here or let me know and I can provide my email address. PLEASE?

    • RevisionX
      October 31, 2018 at 10:36 AM

      Hi, I no longer have the machine, but if anyone else scans this decal I’ll add it to the page.

  12. John Buckley
    October 12, 2018 at 5:27 AM

    Sounds like u did a great job! I wrote the software for this game and its many versions.
    The region 17 refers to the area that the machine will accept Pokerkards from. Hope you get as much fun playing it as u did getting it back into service.

  13. Victoria
    October 31, 2018 at 10:34 AM

    Were you ever able to find a solution to cards not being available anymore? I saw on a forum somewhere that you were looking into making some.

    • RevisionX
      October 31, 2018 at 10:47 AM

      Hi. Before selling the machine I found some on eBay. I did not pursue attempting to create my own.

  14. Victoria
    November 3, 2018 at 9:50 PM

    Do you still have any of the cards with you?

    I’m looking for one to clone the data to a blank card, but I can’t find these anywhere.

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