Blackjack, Pai Gow games star at G2E
October 17, 2018 3:00 AM
by Elliot Frome
Another Global Gaming Expo (G2E) has come and gone.
It was good catching up with colleagues and checking out the new table games. This is the first time in a few years that I’ve seen a nice collection of new games. If there was any disappointment, it was in the fact that I saw very few (if any) new inventors out there with booths. Perhaps at next month’s Table Game Conference, I’ll get to see some of the individual inventors.
As many of you know, I have a close relationship with Scientific Games, so I’m going to start with some of their new entries. At the top of the list was a game called U-Turn Blackjack. This is unlike any blackjack game I’ve ever seen. Most of the advantage in blackjack comes from the fact that the player decides what to do first. If he busts, he’s done. In this game, the dealer draws first – sort of. The game utilizes a shuffler with an optical reader. As such, it knows how many cards the dealer will need to either get to 17 or to bust. It will make sure that the dealer “draws” this many cards before any player must act. He still turns over his first card, but he may have one or more cards face down. These will all be dealer cards.
So, if the Dealer has a 7 up and only one more card face down, you know he has a 17 or an 18 (a 10/Face or an Ace). If he has a face card up and two cards in front of him, you know that his traditional “down” card was not a 7 through Ace. It is a lot more information for the player to have and thus utilizes a strategy that encompasses both the up-card and the number of cards.
To compensate for this player advantage, the game uses the Push 22 rule, where all Player non-bust hands will push if the Dealer busts with a 22. The payback here is between mid 98 and mid-99 percent, depending on the exact rules the casino uses.
Next up were two other Push 22 games that were not quite as new. They were Zappit Blackjack and Zombie Blackjack. In Zappit, the player can discard (one time) his initial cards if they are a 15, 16, 17 or 18. In Zombie, your busted hand isn’t dead yet. If the dealer has a 7 through Ace up-card and the player busts, he can still win if the dealer busts with a 23 to 26.
Both of these games offer paybacks comparable with regular blackjack. In Zappit, you simply need to learn when to Zap the hand and “standard” Push 22 hit/stick strategy. Zombie offers a whole new strategy as busting isn’t as painful as it used to be.
We move from Blackjack to Pai Gow. While this game is not brand new, it is an up-and-comer called Face-Up Pai Gow.
When I first heard of it, I wasn’t quite sure how they did it. But it is quite simple. The dealer plays his hand face up. Before the player even looks at his hand (or at least needs to set it), the Dealer shows his seven cards and plays them according to the House Way (which is a standard traditional House Way). After seeing how the dealer set his hand, the player reviews his seven cards and can set them however he would like (without setting them foul).
The player can pick any way which will beat both of the dealer hands. Or if he realizes that he can’t do this, can set them in a way that ensures a Push (splitting the two hands). If he can’t do this, he can simply turn his cards face down indicating to the dealer that he has lost. For this benefit, the player simply has to accept that if the dealer has an Ace High Pai Gow that the hand will push.
This is not a lot to give up considering that the game also plays without any commission. You also won’t mind the dealer getting an Ace High Pai Gow if you’re wagering the side bet, which pays for this exact hand. It will pay considerably more if you can get an Ace High Pai Gow on the same hand. I don’t play much Pai Gow as I find it a bit slow. This version at least moves a little faster. You don’t spend time trying to figure out how to set your hand and you don’t have to worry about those hands in which you could have set them this way or that way. You only need to set them in a way that wins or pushes if you can’t win.
Finally, we stick with a Pai Gow style game called Tiger Split. The player gets four cards to make two 2-card hands. Scoring is like in Baccarat, so you’d like a pair of 9’s. The goal is to beat the dealer’s two hands who sets his hand in a way so as to maximize the High hand. This is far less than optimal for the dealer, but with all those ties, the dealer can afford to play less than optimal.
The payback on this fast-moving game ranges from about 97 percent up to 99 percent depending on the pay table. Not surprisingly, there are a couple of side bets based on the player’s total point count and one that pays for high hand combinations (9-9, 9-8, etc…)
Next week, I’ll review some of the games I saw from some of the other gaming companies.