Check out Show Pai table game at Palace Station

Check out Show Pai table game at Palace Station

January 26, 2016 3:01 AM


Can’t decide whether to play Pai Gow or Baccarat on your next trip to the casino?

Try “Show Pai,” a new game that combines elements of both.

Designed by Phujohn “John” Nguyen, 25, a product of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Innovation program, Show Pai is currently available for play during a trial run at Palace Station.

“I liked the play style of Pai Gow and I wanted to incorporate more of a Baccarat feel to target Asian players,” Nguyen said. “This game is like a hybrid of Pai Gow and Baccarat.”

Nguyen’s game marks the third time a UNLV student’s game has hit the floor at Palace Station in recent years, according to Michael Jerlecki, the casino’s vice president and general manager.

For Nguyen, it’s a dream come true.

His family is originally from Vietnam. He was born in California, moved to Oklahoma by the age of 10 and went on to graduate from the University of Oklahoma in 2012 with a degree in entrepreneurship.

He then started working on a second bachelor’s degree, casino management, at UNLV. He thinks his interest in the gaming industry probably originated from playing a Vietnamese card game, but he insists he actually gambles “only two or three times a year.”

In fact, Nguyen said he “never played Pai Gow or Baccarat when I invented this game.”

“I just understood the concepts of how most of it worked and then I combined the two,” he said. “This was actually my second idea. My first one was too complex for dealers. I also learned that hands per hour was important. I wanted to try to make it quicker. I did four cards. You could do the same concept with five cards or more, but then it slows down the game.”

Like Pai Gow, there is a “high” hand (in this case, consisting of three cards) and “low” hand (one card).

The scoring system is similar to Baccarat in that if the cards add up to 13, they only count as the final digit of three.

Players clearly like the fact they get to “squeeze the cards” while setting up their hands.

Bonus bets can be made to cash in on less likely scenarios such as a “Double No Pai” – pays 80 to 1 – in which neither the dealer nor player is able to set his/her hand (for instance, each draws all 10s or face cards, equaling hands of zero).

Nguyen, who needed help from mentors at UNLV to establish the mathematical elements of the game, often gets to watch customers playing Show Pai while serving as a pit clerk on weekend nights.

“It’s really special when you can introduce the guest to the student inventor and start that interaction and dialogue,” said Scott Morrow, director of casino operations at Palace Station.

“Pretty amazing,” Nguyen said of the experience. “It’s interesting to watch. You can get feedback from the players.

“Some people think the bonus doesn’t hit enough, but the math’s been done. It’s right in where it should be. I’ve been told the game kind of goes in streaks.”

This partnership between UNLV and Station Casinos, which includes an internship program, is a give-and-take relationship for both sides.

Nguyen knows he wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity without it.

At the same time, the company puts itself in position to possibly identify the next hot game to hit casinos.

“To help foster the innovative mindset and innovative experience, it’s extremely valuable for us,” Jerlecki said.

The future of Show Pai could be determined in the next few weeks. The other two games invented by UNLV students that were tested recently by Palace Station didn’t survive after their 45-day trials ended.

Neither Jerlecki nor Morrow could comment on whether Nguyen’s game might have a chance, but Jerlecki did say, “It’s performing to our expectations, actually a little above our expectations.”

Nguyen said he wants to continue inventing games, but he plans to learn how to be a dealer, too, just in case.

NOTE: Palace Station also has added new electronic Baccarat machines, which feature real dealers and live hands every 35 seconds while offering a different type of environment in which each customer plays from a personal terminal similar to a slot machine. Players can play at their own pace while having more personal space than a typical Baccarat set-up. The game went live earlier this month, but an official ribbon-cutting open is scheduled for January 30.

Dave Dye is a former sportswriter for the Detroit News and He has covered six Stanley Cup Finals, five Final Fours, three NBA Finals, three Rose Bowls and one World Series. Email: