Successful game inventors know that they cannot fall in love with their game idea. Just because you like it, doesn't mean everyone else (or anyone else) will. Of course, one of the issues with this is that even if you are willing to be flexible, you generally don't get endless chances. Some have suggested that you get only one, maybe two changes at tinkering with your game before you're likely going to have to abandon it. This applies to a game that has been placed in a casino and not necessarily one in the process of being showcased.Read More
Last week, I discussed some of the Blackjack variants and sidebets that will be on display at the Scientific Games booth at the Global Gaming Expo that begins today. This week, I'll give a preview of some of their poker-based table games. For those of you who are regular readers, you know that I will not find it surprising that virtually all of their table games are fitting into one of these two categories - Blackjack and Poker. Many inventors have tried to break this mold, and none have succeeded. So, you can question whether the issue is that they haven't hit the right formula yet or if they are fishing in the wrong pond. The latter still seems to be the likely answer.Read More
The Global Gaming Expo is just a few days away. This week, I'll begin to discuss some of the games that will be on display at the Scientific Games display. If you take a closer look at the games, you'll see that they are a blend of games from the inside, games from the outside and even some blended sources. I don't know of any table game company that hasn't promoted games from outside inventors. The key is a successful game. The source of the creativity is just not a primary concern.Read More
Invariably when I get into a discussion with someone about the gaming industry, whether it is someone in the industry or not, the game of War comes up. To be more accurate the name of the game you see in the casino is Casino War. It really isn't much different than the game you used to play as a kid. You get one card, Dealer gets one card. High Card wins. If you tie, you go to war. In the casino version it ends at one war in order to keep the speed up and as a means of creating a house edge. You play for money instead of trying to win the whole deck, which in this case is usually a shoe of 6 or 8 decks of cards.Read More
One of the reasons why we see fewer and fewer independent inventors at the Global Gaming Expo is that the cost of the booths are so high. This is not a complaint, just a reality. Independent developers do not have thousands of dollars to spend on a booth. Developing table games is relatively cheap. I've worked with some inventors on developing video poker style games and you can't really do this for less than 100K given the cost of the machines themselves. The two largest expenses for table games is for the patent work and for the math work. Once those are done, you need a felt and a table sign and you're ready to go.Read More
This column is mostly about video poker. Ironically, I haven't taken a definitive count, but I'd guess and say that I write about video poker about 2/3 of the time. My father's first full-length book was titled America's National Game of Chance: Video Poker. He used to occasionally write about how video poker should be made America's official game of chance. I don't think he really expected Congress to take it up. It was more about the popular notion of just how perfect of a game video poker is.
Video Poker may look a lot like slots - or at least it did 20 years ago when the first video slot machines came out. Back then, they each played on what appeared to be simplistic computer screens. Nowadays, many slots play on gigantic flat screen monitors, while I think most video poker machines still use up the old-style computer monitors. Very little is hi-tech in terms of what you see. For as much as they used to look like one another, the similarity ended there. Slot machines are 100% luck. You can't argue this. This might be exactly what you want and thus it is perfect for you. My problem has never been that there is no skill factor. It is that you have ZERO knowledge about the game. Two slot machines sitting side by side with identical paytables might have two totally different paybacks and you'll never know. It is just the way they are programmed. A week later, the two machines and their respective paybacks could've been swapped or changed to be completely different - and you'll never know.
This is not possible with video poker. In most of the United States, video poker machines MUST play as randomly as if you took a deck of cards and used them instead. There can be no manipulation of the frequencies of winning hands. The frequencies are determined by the nature of the deck and the paytable which drives player strategy. Since these are both completely known, the payback of a video poker table can be calculated down to the most exact figure. The only way it can be changes is if the deck is changed (i.e. add a Joker or make something wild) or the paytable is changed. Both of these types of changes would be immediately known to the Player and again allow for an exact calculation of the payback. You can't change the payback of a video poker machine without the Player knowing about it.
The result is that video poker plays far more like a table game than a slot machine. Table games generally have some form of strategy, too. Most use a deck (or shoe) of cards, with the composition known to the Player. Payouts and betting rules are all spelled out. As a result, every table game has a known payback too that cannot be changed without changing the paytable. Video poker shares with slots the medium in which it is played (video machine) and speed of play. You're not getting hundreds of hands of a table game dealt in an hour no matter how fast everyone is playing!
The fact that video poker plays more like a table game is what makes video poker so fascinating. Now we throw one additional layer on top of our argument to make it America's National Game of Chance. The number of different combinations of games is nearly endless. Blackjack has several rules that can be done as either X or Y. When you look at ALL the possible combinations, there might be in theory a couple of hundred ways that it can be played (many of these combinations don't exist in the real world). Also, some of these rules don't impact the game much or at all. Whether you can split to 2 hands, 3 hands or 4 hands simply doesn't change much in our strategy. Yes, it impacts the payback (very slightly), but that is all.
For most other table games, you're only going to find a handful of possible paytables out there across the country. Ultimate Texas Hold'em has only so many Blind paytables and Sidebet paytables. None of them impact the strategy we use to play the game. So, again, they change the payback, but they don't really change the game.
Video poker on the other hand has a seemingly endless variety of games. Changing the paytable slightly might make slight changes to our strategy without changing the nature of the game much. But, if you start ramping up the payouts for Quads and push them higher by adding in the kicker value, you not only change the strategy, you change the entire feel of the game. If you are a regular player, you know all too well how different bonus poker is from double double bonus poker. Reducing the payout on the Two Pair from 2 to 1 and increasing greatly the payouts on the Quads turns a relatively slow game into a high volatility one. You don't win at double double unless you get your four of a kinds. In fact, you still may have a tough time winning unless you can pick up some of the bonus four of a kinds.
The bottom line is that video poker offers something for every type of player while staying true to a game based on a combination of chance and skill. There is the relatively low volatility of jacks or better to the far greater thrill of double double bonus. There are one-play machines all the way up to 100-play machines. You can play with Deuces Wild, Joker wild or both! They might all be video poker, but these might as well all be different games. Nothing else in the casino compares to video poker and what it can offer the Player.
A few months ago, Nik Walenda walked across a tightrope between two Chicago skyscrapers blindfolded. I'm not all that impressed. I think he should try analyzing casino games for a living. Most days it seems a lot like walking a tightrope blindfolded too. Only, if I mess up, I don't just hurt myself. I might cause a casino to lose a lot of money if I allow a game to hit the floor with a Player advantage. After more than 10 years in the industry, I've never done it, but I have heard cases where it did happen due to a math mistake.Read More
Just how important is it for Players to play the correct strategy in the casino? Most of my columns look at this aspect from only the Player's perspective. I put it in terms of a loss rate per hour to the Player. I turn this into an overall impact to the Player's bankroll over a weeklong trip to Vegas. Today, I want to look at strategy at a very different level. I'm going to look at how it has changed the landscape of gambling in the world.Read More