New casino game ideas must adapt to survive
November 22, 2016 3:00 AM
by Elliot Frome
Successful game inventors know 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 even if you are willing to be flexible, you generally don’t get endless chances. Some have suggested you get only one, maybe two chances 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.
Even the most successful game of them all, Three Card Poker, underwent a key change in its early years. By early years, I mean the first couple of years it was in the casino. I’ve seen my father’s notes for when he was working with the inventor, Derek Webb. There were dozens of versions of the game before the current one came to be.
The change Three Card Poker underwent happened after Derek sold the game to Shuffle Master. When Derek created the game, he envisioned the two wagers as equals. The player could make either one or both. As such, they were designed to have relatively even paybacks, in the 97.5%-98% range.
As the game began to spread, it also ran into some headwind. Quite frankly, casinos weren’t making enough money off the game. Pair Plus has no strategy. Ante/Play has very little strategy and even if you play a Never Fold strategy, the payback doesn’t exactly plunge into slot territory.
The result was the paytable of Pair Plus was lowered from 97.68% down to 92.72% as the payout for a Flush was lowered by one. Some casinos opted to lower the Straight payout by one for a 94.43% payback.
Most players didn’t care. Casinos noticed though. The hold was much more to their liking and the players kept playing. From the casino perspective a win-win situation.
Personally, I would’ve thought it would kill the game. But, as good as I am about computing math, I’m not nearly as good as predicting human behavior – at least where gaming is concerned. Players have shown that on the whole they just don’t pay a lot of attention to payback. The rest is, as they say, history. Three Card Poker popularity would keep growing until there were more than 2,000 tables worldwide.
Three Card Poker didn’t change much for many more years. But as other games got more popular, its growth greatly slowed and then probably even began to shrink.
One issue Three Card Poker has always had is that even the rarest of hands – the Straight Flush – just isn’t all that rare. It is hard to pay a lot for a hand that happens every 460 deals as is evidenced by its payout of 40. The mini-Royal was added to add a slightly higher payout, but even that is 1 in 5000-plus.
Another change was made to Three Card Poker that would prove to be transformative and breathe new life into the game. It wasn’t so much a change, as an addition.
The Six Card Bonus was added to the game. I believe this sidebet was successful for two reasons. The first is it allowed for much higher paybacks as hands are now ranked based on the best 5 out of the 6 cards dealt (3 to the player and 3 to the dealer). The only hand that truly uses all 6 cards is the 6-Card Royal, which can pay really big bucks.
There are too many paytables for me to list them all. But, the Caesars properties feature a $5 wager that pays $1 million for a 6-Card Royal in a particular suit. It’s over a 5-million-to-1 shot, but that is a life altering payout!
As I received a question from a reader this week about this sidebet, I want to make sure I answer his specific question. He wanted to know if the 6-Card Royal had to be two Straight Flushes (player has 9-10-J and dealer has Q-K-A or vice versa).
The answer is NO. It doesn’t matter who owns the cards. You look at all six cards as if it were one hand for the purposes of the sidebet. This leads to the second reason why I think this sidebet has been so successful.
You can have the worst 3-card Poker hand and still win the sidebet. With Pair Plus, if you lose this wager, you’re not doing so well for Ante/Play. With the Six Card Bonus Sidebet, you may have a mess like 4S 7D 8S, but if the dealer has a straight of 5-6-7, you’ve got a 5-Card Straight.
If he has a Flush in Spades, you’ve got a 5-Card Flush. And, if he happens to have a 5-6-7 of Spades, you’ve got a big winner with a 5-Card Straight Flush. You won’t care one bit that you lost your Ante/Play wager!
Ironically, the payback on the Six Card Bonus can be below that of the Pair Plus payback. But, with higher payouts, the average player seems to care even less, which is often the case.
People play Lotto with its 70% payback. If the Jackpot climbs to hundreds of millions, even more people play it. It’s the nature of gambling. The Six Card Bonus Sidebet has put new life into an old game. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks?
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