Viva Las Vegas: New Casino Game Invention

Viva Las Vegas: New Casino Game Invention

by Jessica Zimmer, December 2009

Two Card Joker Poker? 2-Way Monte? Progressive Texas Hold 'Em? Casinos today offer a long list of all sorts of games. While it might seem like casinos are offering exciting new ways for gamblers to make even more money, really they're offering exciting new ways to get you in, sitting, and betting. Like any business, casinos strive to keep profits high, boosting their odds on new and old games alike.

In the 1990's, casinos turned their attention to electronic gaming. Video gambling was great news for casino owners, with higher profits and reduced costs - you never need to pay medical benefits for a video game. The only problem with these money makers is that they were sorely lacking in the romance department. The last two to three years have seen a rise in so-called "table games;" any game where you can sit at a table and gamble, usually with other people. These games are a little more glamorous, allow people to make new friends and maybe even find old-fashioned amour. Table games and new media attention with shows like "Las Vegas" are drawing more and more people into casinos.

Where do these games come from? Casino owners usually turn to gaming companies, whose sole purpose is developing new games. Gaming companies create everything from online games to slot machines. The real creative work is done by developers, whose only goal is to make the act of betting more exciting. If possible, they put twists in a game to increase the odds for the house. Once completed, developers give the game to the company, which copyrights it. Casinos then purchase the rights to use these games from gaming companies. Sometimes casinos even buy tables or equipment from the companies.

Casinos make money off new games because players don't know the rules and haven't had the time to learn how to trick the game.

Standard blackjack has been reinvented as both single deck 6-5 blackjack, a game very popular in large casinos, and Super Fun 21. In 6-5 blackjack, casinos pay $6 for a blackjack that was won on a $5 bet, or a 1.2 to 1 payoff. Standard blackjack pays $7.50 on a $5 bet for a 3 to 2 payoff. Changing the advantage in this way means players can't bet in multiples of 5 and that the casinos advantage is raised to 1.4 percent, nearly 600 percent higher than standard blackjack.

In Super Fun 21, you can double the bet on any number of cards or after splitting pairs. A natural hand is a winner even if the dealer gets a blackjack. The house usually wins. The dealer pays even money on all blackjacks except diamonds, which pay 2 to 1. Since a player has so few chances to get a blackjack in diamonds, the house has a .9 percent edge.

Poker has been reinvented as well. In Ante and Play Three Card Poker, casinos gain an advantage by using multiple players. The dealer puts one player in the ante position and another player in the play position. The ante player sets the ante, the play player can fold or up the ante. Each player gets three cards to start. If a player beats the dealer, he or she gets paid even money on both bets. Ante and Play only gives the players an advantage because it offers bonuses for straights, three-of-a-kinds, and straight flushes. Since Ante and Play has so many opportunities for the bet to be raised and the players to fail, it gives the house a 3.4 percent edge.

Believe it or not, even roulette can require an overhaul. Since older roulette wheels slow down faster as they turn and dealers develop patterns of throwing the ball, outlaw players can predict numbers with amazing accuracy. The solution? Casinos change the game. A European roulette table has one less number than an American table. Switching to the European version raises the casino's odds from 2.7 to 5.3 percent.

Casino owners know that it is most exciting for players to win. If you win at some games, more than likely you will stay to play others. Following this logic, European and Atlantic City casinos create an advantage for players by adding the "en prison" or "surrender" rule in roulette. With en prison, even money bets (Black-Red, 1-18) that land on 0 become imprisoned. If the imprisoned bet wins on the next turn, the bet is released and returns to the player. This means that the house only has a 1.4 percent edge.

A casino's goal is to make any game "hop" - popular and a good draw for patrons. Once a game is hopping, a casino has the opportunity to change the rules, hopefully upping the odds for the house. So be careful; just because you know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em, make sure you're gambling to your highest advantage. Although, of course, there'll be time enough for countin', when the dealin's done.