Poker, blackjack may still be what public wants

Oct 16, 2012 3:00 AM

Last week, I talked about the Global Gaming Expo and what I observed was going on in the slot machine segment of the industry. For those who missed it, essentially, the manufacturers are turning slot machines into what seems like video games.

While I certainly won’t suggest playing them due to their low paybacks, relative to the rest of the casino, I certainly tip my cap to them for a tremendous marketing coup.

One thing I did find strange is no attempts were made to transform video poker in the same manner as slots. On one hand, this solidifies my theory that video poker is NOT slots just because they share a similar form.

We cannot dismiss this lack of video game transformation on the notion it wasn’t thought of as the very same companies develop both video poker and slot machines.

My conclusion on this is that the manufacturers are very aware the video poker players don’t want video games. They want stronger paybacks with the added element of skill. Adding themes and bells and whistles will not improve a product that has produced as strongly as video poker has.

That leaves one more area of the casino up for discussion. What did I find in the table game arena? No real surprises. This is both good and bad for a variety of reasons.

First, I saw almost no new inventor/gaming companies. Sad to say, this is not a surprise anymore. From what I’ve heard, these booths cost a lot of money and it is not easy for a small company that is trying to invent games to come up with the type of cash needed to have a booth at these events.

I filled out a survey while at the show and gave my feedback in this area. If this is a show about the big boys, then all is fine. If they want the G2E to be an opportunity to let some of the unknowns have a chance to shine, then something needs to change.

One company (Score Gaming) I’ve seen at the show the last few years was noticeably absent. I have not had an opportunity to find out why.

I did note two or three new inventors who had small booths way down near the food and beverage section. I realize this is where many of the smaller booths are, but it would seem to make more sense to put these companies closer to where the big table game companies are. This will not only increase their exposure to casinos, but also increase their exposure to those big companies who may find their games of interest.

Of course, in past years, new inventors have frequently been a double edged sword, which brings me to the crux of my point. There is one thing virtually every game from the big companies (SHFL, Galaxy and DEQ) all had in common – the games revolved around poker or blackjack.

Many new inventors I speak to think casinos need some way to wager on a variety of popular games. Hence we’ve seen variants of backgammon and football on a casino table. To the best of my knowledge, none of these games have had any success.

Were they bad games? Well, not necessarily. Some of them were kind of fun to play. I’d love to sit around with friends or family and play them. The question that really needs to be asked is whether or not this is a game people are going to want to play for hours while wagering their hard earned cash?

If you look at all the proprietary games that have had any success, you have to conclude the answer would be NO. Look at the most successful titles in the industry – Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Crazy 4 Poker, Four Card Poker and Spanish 21. These are all based on poker or blackjack.

If you’re out to invent a game, are you going to base it on poker and blackjack or start using a combination of dice, cards and flashing lights? I’m all for thinking out of the box, but at the end of the day you also have to give the customers what they want.

In the end, my hope for next year’s show is I’ll see more new inventors who will be showing additional games that use more creative ways to wager on poker variations. That would also be my advice to aspiring table game inventors.

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 [email protected].

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