Inventing a new casino table game requires perseverance

May 8, 2012 3:00 AM

Perseverance can be a positive trait when you are trying to invent a new table game. Unfortunately, it can also be a negative one, which can all but kill your chances of ever having a game reach the casino floor.

This translates to one simple thought – don’t fall in love with your game.

Getting a game into a casino is not an easy thing. Having it remain there if you manage to get it placed is even harder. Perhaps 5% of all games that are conceived make it to the floor. Of those, maybe 5% stay for any length of time and continue to grow. When you add it all up, about 1% of all games invented are some type of financial success for the inventor.

This past week I had a conversation with a newcomer to the industry and reminded him only 1 out of a 100 games becomes a success. His response was he’ll just have to make sure he comes up with 100 games so one of them can be successful.

That type of perseverance is what you want to have.

A few years ago, I got a call from an inventor who wanted me to tweak a game my father had originally worked on for him. I found the file. My father had worked on the game 10 years earlier. In the 10 years, the game had been given a trial or two in a casino and been pulled out relatively quickly.

This is not a time for tweaks. It is a time to move on to the next idea. This type of perseverance could be a killer.

Roger Snow, executive VP of Shuffle Master, may very well be the most prolific table game inventor of them all, with games like Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Four Card Poker and Crazy 4 Poker to his credit.

Snow likes to remind people he has probably invented more flops than anyone in the industry as well. This doesn’t mean you should take any idea you have and quickly try to get it into a casino, with the goal being to try as many games as you can and hope something sticks.

Unless you have a track record of success, casinos are going to give you only so many chances, so you do want to put your best foot forward.

If you do manage to get your game into the casino for a trial, it is time to take off the rose-colored glasses. Listen to the feedback the table games manager gives you. If the game isn’t fairing well, don’t start blaming it all on the casino that was kind enough to give you the trial. They are not setting you up for failure.

Even in a free trial, it costs the casino money to try out your game. They need to train the dealers. They need to make room for your game by removing some other game that might have been doing okay – in hopes yours will do great.

No one can predict the success or failure of a game with a high degree of certainty. In the end, it must perform, which means its success is at the whim of the players. I have been working directly with inventors for a decade and indirectly for three decades, and there is no clear rhyme or reason as to what succeeds and what doesn’t.

The only thing certain is if you bring it to the players and they don’t approve, it is not a success. It does not matter that your brother, sister, mother and Aunt Tilly all love the game and think it is the greatest thing they’ve ever seen.

I don’t know how to tell you this – but they are biased. This is the same bunch who told you how much they love that new pair of glasses – the ones that make you look like a 1970’s version of Elton John.

If you spend 10 or 15 years trying to get a single game into the casino, you will likely have overlooked many other good ideas. There is a 99% chance any single game idea you have will fail. Every game that is invented is, as they say, a slave to the math.

That same math should be telling you that after a certain number of setbacks, your chances of success are greater by moving on than by insisting the reason your game failed was some flaw of anything but the game itself.

Putting it another way, the expected value of working on the next game is greater than continuing to beat the dead horse. And by now, you all know the right play is the one with the higher expected value.

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