Change comes slow

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I spend most of my working week helping inventors create viable casino table games. What makes a good game casino game? I haven’t a clue. Sounds strange coming from someone who is an expert at creating casino games.

I’ve played some part in some of the most successful table games of all time, including Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Mississippi Stud. My father, Lenny Frome, helped the inventors of Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Spanish 21 and Caribbean Stud Poker. If there was a pitching coach who coached a Cy Young winner year after year, could he really just spit out what makes a successful pitcher? Quite frankly, I think that task would be easier.

The reality is that the pitching coach couldn’t turn each pitcher into a model of each other. Rather, he would have to use the talents that each pitcher has and maximize that effectiveness with certain similarities. Very few successful pitchers are wild and walk a lot of batters. Most Cy Young winners throw hard. But, in 2012, R.A. Dickey won the award while possibly not throwing a pitch all year that hit 85 miles per hour and most of his pitches in the 70-80 mile per hour range.

The same is true of table games. For years, I’ve listened to inventors try and mimic everything about Three Card Poker’s math to try and create a successful game. What’s the fold rate? The win rate? The qualifying rate? But, if you look at other successful games, they don’t mimic Three Card Poker so much. Three Card Poker’s fold rate is about 30%. Ultimate Texas Hold’em has a fold rate that is about half of that. Three Card Poker’s non-qualifying rate is also about 30%. UTH’s rate is again about half.

So, we have two of the most successful games of all time that quite frankly don’t look anything like each other mathematically. One is a simple 3-card head-to-head game. The other is a 7-card complex head-to-head game with community cards. Jacob DeGrom meet R.A. Dickey! But there are commonalities. They both use standard 52-card decks. They are both poker-based games. 

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I have many inventors who bring to me games that either use unique decks comprised of more or less than 52 cards or some variation of a standard 52-card deck. I always tell them that they have an uphill battle. Not only do they have to convince companies that their game is good, but they have to convince them that players will learn and accept their deck and that the casino can figure out how to incorporate this deck into their operations. You can only imagine how ugly it might get at the blackjack table if a deck with four extra Aces accidentally gets used in play.

Innovation in casino table games has been incremental. For now, nearly all games are based on known games — poker, blackjack, baccarat and Pai Gow. This isn’t by accident. This is an industry that moves forward by baby steps usually. Someday, someone will break through with a game based on a new concept or deck. I look forward to that day because it will open up the industry to a whole new level of innovation.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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