An evolution of table games

January 28, 2014 3:02 AM
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Four card poker Two years ago, at the Global Gaming Expo, I was talking to someone at a table game booth. I was reviewing their new offerings when the gentleman I was talking to looked at my badge and asked me what “Gambatria” does.

Gambatria is the name of my company. (I’ll refer you to Gambatria.com for an explanation of how the name came to be). I explained I’m a “math guy,” which is the colloquial industry term for one who analyzes and/or invents games from the math side of things.

He told me he had never heard of me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little hurt. For the first few years I was in the industry, I expected my name to be relatively unknown. But, I figured some people would recognize the last name and put it together with my father’s name.

My father Lenny was known as the “godfather of video poker.” He didn’t invent the game, but he helped popularize it by developing the first strategies. He also helped the first set of table games make it into the casino by working with the inventors on the math. The list includes Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, Spanish 21 and Caribbean Stud.

Not exactly fringe games.

I’ve now been doing this for more than 10 years and like to think I’ve made my mark in the industry too. I’ve helped develop Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money, Boston 7, Imperial Pai Gow and countless sidebets for blackjack. In fact, if you look at the top 10 proprietary table games, you’ll see “Frome” as the name on the math report for a majority of them.

That all said, one of the games that was created after my dad passed away and before I got into the industry is Four Card Poker. The original math was done by Stanley Ko for Shuffle Master (now Bally Technologies).

I sometimes forget I didn’t do the original math work for this one. In many ways, Four Card Poker launched my career in the industry even though I didn’t. Writing for GamingToday, way back in 2004 I penned an article about Four Card Poker that got noticed by the then-CEO of Shuffle Master.

The CEO contacted me and put me in touch with Roger Snow, then the manager of table games. The rest is, as they say, history. Roger and I have been working together for nearly 10 years and have created some big games in that time.

Everyone in the industry knows Roger, so I guess we’re a little like Penn and Teller. I’m the quiet one. He’s the tall one.

But I digress. Four Card Poker was a very important step in the evolution of table games because, at that point, evolution had nearly ceased. Three Card Poker had been created nearly a decade before and had grown quite popular. But, nobody managed to create another game that truly got noticed. When I first heard the name of the game, I let out a soft groan. I figured it was a copy of Three Card Poker but with four cards.

I was pleasantly surprised. Nobody is dealt four cards. The player gets five cards, the dealer gets six cards with one dealt face up. Hence, we know how the house gets its advantage. The game gets its name because both player and dealer are trying to make the best 4-card hand from the cards dealt to him.

The dealer getting an extra card is a big advantage for the house. The way the player gets back into the game is because when he chooses to play, he can wager up to 3x his Ante wager. So, when you get one of those solid hands, you can turn it into a big win.

There is no qualifying in Four Card Poker so you’ll get paid full value for those so-so hands you win. The dealer’s upcard also comes into play if you choose to use Expert Strategy, which can shave a few tenths of a point off of the house advantage.

If you decide to go with Basic Strategy, you won’t even need to pay attention to the upcard. Basic Strategy calls for the following:

• Bet 3x if you have a Pair of 10’s or Better;

• Bet 1x if you have a Pair of 3’s-9’s;

• Fold if you have a Pair of 2’s or less.

This strategy will give a payback of 98.41% vs. a 98.60% for Expert Strategy. While this may “only” be 0.19%, I’d prefer to think of it as about 12.5% of the house advantage returned to the player. Expert Strategy is obviously a bit more complex, but I think the average person can memorize it in 10 minutes.

If you’d like to learn more about Four Card Poker, I recently updated my booklet. It now also includes everything you need to know about Crazy 4 Poker, which is similar (yet different) from Four Card Poker. In 18 pages, you’ll learn everything you need to know about both games, including the rules, the strategy and what to expect.

If you’d like to order a copy, send $4.95 to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89133.

Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Contact Elliot at ElliotFrome@GamingToday.com.

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