The Big Fish

            If you wanted to learn how to hit a baseball who would you go to?  Personally, I'd want a lesson from Keith Hernandez.  As a die hard Mets' fan, I hear him on the broadcasts about hitting and the guy knows what he is talking about.  Combine that with his lifetime .300 batting average and his overall stats and I think my decision makes sense.  The bottom line is that I'm going to an accomplished major league HITTER for advice.  While there are many others you could go to, if you told me you wanted to talk to Ruben Tejada (a lifetime .250 hitter?), I'd really have to question your judgment.


            The same is true if you want to learn how to invent a casino game.  Who are you going to go to for advice?  Are you going to listen a prolific inventor or the suggestion of your brother-in-law who has never invented a game, but likes to go to the casinos once in a while?  I consider Roger Snow to be one of (if not THE) most successful game inventors out there.  Ironically, he'll tell you that he's also had more failures than anyone else, but that is the nature of an industry where a very small percent of new games actually succeed.


            When Roger gives advice to inventors, one of the things he will always suggest is to fish in the big pond.  This essentially means to look at games that are successful and realize that they are successful for a reason.  Thus, searching for something that is so out of the ordinary might mean you are fishing in a small pond.  If you look at most of the proprietary table games, you'll note that they fall into three major categories:


·       Sidebets to existing games (mostly non-proprietary games like Blackjack)

·       Blackjack variants

·       Poker based games


            You'd be hard pressed to name a game that doesn't fall into one of these three categories.  Let's take a closer look at each category.


            Sidebets:  Why should you work on a sidebet for an existing game?  Because there are a LOT of these games out there.  There are thousands of blackjack tables out there.  You don't have to get your game on ALL of them.  No one is going to do this.  But, if you get 100 to 200 placements, you could be talking about a lot of money over a few years.  No one has yet conquered this market.  Games come and go.  It is a potentially lucrative market, but it can be a tough game to develop compelling sidebets for.


            Blackjack variants:  Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch, Free Bet Blackjack.  These games have made a LOT of money for their owners.  You'll note that these are complete games with their own changes from blackjack.  Spanish 21 uses a Pontoon deck (no 10's).  The other two use the Push 22 rule which creates an 8-9% house advantage which is then reduced by giving the Player a variety of advantages.  These changes create a new compelling game.  Please don't simply have the Player try to get closer to 11 or 31 or 51 or 101.  These have been tried.  They haven't worked.  They're not going to work.


            Poker based games:  Three Card Poker, Four Card Poker, Crazy 4 Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold'em, Mississippi Stud Poker.  These are all poker based games.  They use a standard 52-card deck.  They use standard poker hands.  They can be against the Dealer or they can be against a paytable.  Paytable games are usually less intimidating, but most definitely acceptable.  Let It Ride and Mississippi Stud have both been very successful paytable games.  The rest our games where the Player go head to head against the Dealer.  Can you do any better than Three Card Poker or Ultimate Texas Hold'em?  They are the top games of all time. 


            If I only have a dollar for every time some inventor has pitched a game to me that doesn't fall into one of these three categories.  Now, that doesn't mean that there is zero chance of a success.  But, the chance is greatly reduced.  The most common argument I hear is that people are sick of poker and blackjack.  They want something new and different.  There is some truth to this.  But, generally speaking, the non-poker, non-blackjack games keep their interest for a few hours and then they're ready to go back. 


            New games fall into these three categories NOT because no inventor has ever thought outside of this box.  Rather, when they have, their games have not succeeded.  We know that Players (and casinos) are not sick of new games, because sooner or later, another poker based game or blackjack variant comes along.  I've mentioned in the past few weeks a new game called Zappit Blackjack.  Yet another blackjack variant that might be poised to become the next big game. 


            So, do you go fishing in the big pond or do you try to sell the casino on the game that uses a 45-card deck with hand rankings that no one has ever heard of with 3 suits and 15 ranks?  If you want to land a big fish, I think there is really only one choice.