The casino industry is definitely a bit different than the one I spent the first half of my career in. Out of college, I worked for Andersen Consulting and then Medco Health Solutions.
I was in Information Technology working on large scale application systems. The majority of the people I worked with were white collar professionals with a slant for some geekiness. While there were some more colorful characters among them, I have to admit, on the whole we were a bit more vanilla.
The gaming industry is nothing like this. A much higher percentage of people are of the “character” variety. To be certain, this is not a negative. It is the nature of working in an industry with entrepreneurs and creative madmen who work on inventing casino games.
Many years ago, right after my father passed away, I had to call a few clients of his whose projects he was in the middle of. I was not yet in the industry, so I could not pick up where he left off. I had to tell these clients we would be refunding any fees paid and they would have to look elsewhere to get their work done.
I remember calling one client and telling him my father died. His response was “that really sucks… for me.” Notice that sentence is in quotes. When he said me – he meant him… not me, the man who had just lost his father. And then he hung up. That must have been one really tough phone call for him!
This past week, the industry lost one of its characters. His name was Dan Lubin. I met him half a dozen times or so. I won’t claim we were friends, but rather business acquaintances. It was quite a shock when I heard he had died however. He was only 52, which happens to be one year older than I am now. Roger Snow wrote a piece about Dan, which can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/requiem-gamer-roger-snow.
Reading that piece and some of the comments made me think a bit more about Dan. Yes, he was a character in the industry, but what made him especially unique was he was one of the good guy characters. I don’t remember him saying anything bad about anyone. He was always willing to help out.
At the G2E, when some of the gaming companies hesitate to show me their new games because of my relationship with Scientific Games, he would always give me a tour. He would talk openly and honestly about which ones he liked or disliked or what about the game he thought would work or wouldn’t.
He was a very happy go lucky type of guy. In an industry in which people can be very territorial and sometimes a bit nasty, he would have none of it. Several years ago, a keno/bingo company refused to allow me into their booth and even stopped my wife from taking some literature about a game they were showing.
He yelled at me that I couldn’t see the game because I worked with Shuffle Master. Of course, Shuffle Master had no footprint in the keno market and if you’re showing a game at a semi-public convention hoping for media coverage, it is a bit absurd to claim some attendees can’t see it out in the open.
This is the nature of the industry. I’ve seen grown men who are video poker experts get into the most inane arguments on chat boards. How about some professionalism boys?
Dan didn’t play into any of this. About a year or two ago, I bumped into him at Red Rock Station where they were showing some games invented by the college students at UNLV. He was ready to help them and give feedback on their games. He wasn’t trying to strike deals with them. He saw the whole industry as a type of community where you help one another. I truly commend him for that attitude.
Many of you reading this probably have never heard of Dan. Those in the industry know his name well. He invented the game of EZ Pai Gow Poker. I could’ve mentioned this game a couple of weeks ago when I talked about games/devices that seem so incredibly obvious, it’s hard to believe someone didn’t think of it sooner.
One of the big problems with the game of Pai Gow is the player wins 19 to 20 when he wins. This equates to a 5% commission on winning hands. This slows up the game terribly. Dan invented the commission free version of the game. When the dealer has a Queen High Hand, the hand is automatically a push. This is a hand the dealer will lose often (and rarely win) that now becomes a push. It generates a house advantage very similar to the 5% commission, but now the game can move at a much more normal pace.
Dan left his mark both on the casino and the myriad of people in the industry who knew him. He will be missed.