Plus it’s a link to dad, Lenny Frome
A few days ago, I was doing a bit of reminiscing. I did a search for my father’s name on the Internet. One of the first hits I got was an article I wrote that talked about how it had been 7 years since my father passed away. This was actually why I was doing the reminiscing in the first place. As this article goes to print, it will mark 12 years – 5 years since I wrote that article – since my father, Lenny Frome, passed away. I hope you will all indulge me as I take a trip down memory lane.
One common question I get from friends and colleagues is, “What does the name ‘compu-flyers’ have to do with gambling?” So, here’s the honest answer – it doesn’t.
My father retired from the aerospace industry in 1985 and moved to Las Vegas. This was not a man who was going to spend his days doing nothing but sit by the pool. After about a year, he took a job teaching math at UNLV (go Running Rebs!). Sometime later he decided to buy himself a computer.
Believe it or not, back then most computer monitors were still monochromatic – remember those yellow on black or green on black CRT monitors? It was also about the time that Commodore and Atari launched the beautiful color computers and color monitors. My dad decided to go for an Atari 520ST. His plan for his retirement was that he was going to take his computer to the mall and take pictures of people who would then pay to have them put on all sorts of items (calendars, aprons, t-shirts).
So, my dad ran to whatever office you run to in Las Vegas and registered the name ‘Compu-Flyers’ (for Computer Flyers). Of course, he soon ran into a problem. The programs didn’t yet exist that allowed you to print out that which you saw on the screen. So, he had a color monitor and a color printer, but no way to print what was on the screen.
This didn’t deter my father much. He began to analyze the file that stored the graphic for the screen and deciphered how it stored the pixels of color. He then experimented with his printer and figured out how to print in color. Then he wrote the program that printed what was on his monitor. Keep in mind, this was someone who had never programmed a computer before. He was gifted at the slide rule, but had NO training at computers! His first program took SIX hours to print a single picture. He wasn’t convinced that the kiosk at the mall idea would allow for a print to take 6 hours!
Fortunately, it was about this time that he got interested in video poker and his programming efforts continued there. I’ve recounted numerous times in this column how he was intrigued by machines that blared different paybacks for what appeared to be identical machines with identical paytable. After many months, the first mathematically-based strategy (‘Expert Strategy’) was born.
The rest is as they say – history. As my father began to write and disseminate his strategy, his popularity grew. They nicknamed him the ‘Godfather of Video Poker.’ When Shuffle Master invented Let It Ride, they searched him out to verify the math (and good thing they did as he discovered a flaw in it).
My father was in his 60’s and had basically created an industry. Maybe it existed before him, but he certainly popularized it. When you think of video poker, there is no doubt that you think of Lenny Frome. He didn’t invent it, but without him, I’m not sure if it would’ve become nearly as popular as it has. He also provided the math for Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud Poker and Spanish 21. Thanks to him, I have added to that list with Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Mississippi Stud Poker. These are some of the most successful games in the industry today.
All this from a ‘retired’ man with a little company called Compu-Flyers and an idea to sit in a mall and print pictures of kids on aprons to give to their grandmothers! In the last few months, as my mother reached 80, she decided it was time that I take full ownership of Compu-Flyers – I have been running it for the past 12 years. As I was filling out the forms to officially take ownership of it, I gave some thought to changing the name to something more relevant. In the end, I decided against it. Compu-Flyers the name may have nothing to do with gambling, but Compu-Flyers the company has made immeasurable contributions to the industry.
It is also for this reason that I really think it is time for my father to be inducted into the American Gaming Association’s Hall of Fame. I know my dad wasn’t a big casino owner, or an entertainer or even a game inventor (although I think he assisted in a variety of areas), I do think that through his work, he changed the casino forever. Can you imagine casinos without the tens of thousands of video poker machines, the thousands of Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, Spanish 21 or Caribbean Stud Poker tables? I’ve looked on the AGA website and can’t seem to find a nominating process. If someone from the AGA (or someone else knowledgeable) can provide me the methods for nominating him, I would greatly appreciate it. I think it is time – and I assure you – he never did steroids!