Tips for Inventors


            When I decided to go into gaming analysis more than a decade ago, I did my best to tell prospective clients that I wasn't just "the math guy", but rather a true consultant.   I'm now in my late 40's, and I started doing this professionally in my mid 30's.  But, I've been doing this for 'fun' for over 30 years.  It started by programming the high school computer to analyze blackjack.  I started going to Atlantic City casino (with my parents) when I was in my mid teens.  They bought me a fake ID so that I could get in without issue.  My first trip to Las Vegas was when I was 18.  Hopefully the statue of limitations has run out on these offenses.


            I think it is relatively fair to say that this stuff runs in my blood.  Ironically, my father barely gambled in the casinos.  My mother used to play some video poker.  I play far less now that I live here relative to when I used to just visit.  Through all this, I have seen literally dozens of table games.  There are probably only two dozen true games (not sidebets) currently on the floor.  There are hundreds more than were 'invented' but never saw a casino.  There are probably a  couple hundred that saw the casino floor but will not again.  I've met with dozens of inventors either as potential client or just to shoot the breeze.  I've written many times before about some of the things not to do about the elements of the game.  Today, I'm going to put on my 'consultant' hat and give some non-math advice to the inventors out there.


            Number one - don't try to convince people how your game is going to be more popular than Three Card Poker.  No game has come even close to the number of tables that Three Card Poker has.  It has roughly 2000 tables in the world, while Ultimate Texas Hold'em has MAYBE 1000.  There is only one Derek Jeter.  There are many Reuben Tejada's and he still makes $1M+ this season.  If you get 50 placements on-going at $800/table, this would be almost $500,000 per year in revenue and you will be as happy as anybody on the planet. 


            Number two - Don't expect that 3 months after your game is shown that there will be 100 tables out there.  No game has ever come anywhere near this.  The casino industry does NOT embrace change at this rate.  There is not a lot put at risk if a casino waits a few more months to see how a game does before it decides to put in a table too or to expand the number of tables. 


            Number three - If you want your game to be successful at all, you better hit the pavement and be prepared for the worst.  The worst is not being told 'no'.  The worst is being treated like a doormat.  I know one inventor who flew across country for a meeting with a table games manager of a casino.  When he arrived, he was told that the manager was not in that day - DESPITE being able to see him at the other end of the casino floor!  As one gaming company executive likes to say - he has NEVER had a table games manager call him up and say "what new games do you have for me?".  You're going to have to be persistent and bring the game to the casino.  Related to this is that if you are selling a live table game, bring the live table game, not an electronic demo to the casino.  They want to see the game in action as it will be played. 


            Number four - Unless you're already a millionaire who simply wants to invent a game so that he can say he invented one, the name of the game is to make money.  It is not about creating the coolest, newest, fanciest, most colorful, most technologically advanced game using objects no one has ever seen before.  The idea is to create a game that Players want to play and that casinos will make available to those players.  Over the years, I've heard a lot of complaints that some new game is a lot like an older successful game except for one thing that has changed.  This may not be the epitome of creativity - but the new game succeeded as well.  As I said earlier, the casino industry does not embrace change readily.  If you look at the history of table games, you will see that they have evolved with incremental changes with each new highly successful game.  We didn't go from Three Card Poker to Ultimate Texas Hold'em in one step.  There were several successful games in between (Four Card Poker and Texas Hold'em Bonus Poker for example).


            Number five - This applies to most any venture.  Don't make enemies.  To build up your game, you don't have to bash the other guys game.  It is fair to say why your game is an improvement over another game, but do you really want to go into a casino and say that Mississippi Stud Poker sucks?  That casino has made a lot of money off of that game and there is a good chance that the Table game manager knows the inventor of the Mississippi Stud and maybe even is friends with him.  The casino industry is a relatively small industry.  Talk about why your game is good and don't worry about what the other guy is selling.


            I've watched way too many inventors stick their feet in their mouths up to their knees.  Their games may be good, but companies may be turned off by who they have to deal with.  If you just can't help yourself, you may want to consider staying more in the background as the inventor and find a salesman to represent your games to casinos and/or gaming companies.   Just make sure you find the right guy.  In one case, a very nice investor hired a guy to represent him, who shot off his mouth so much that he cost himself a potential deal with a gaming company.