Making case for Lenny Frome and AGA Hall Of Fame

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It’s that time of year.

I’m not talking about NFL training camps, although they are starting as well. I’m talking about getting the e-mail from the American Gaming Association calling for nominees to be inducted into their Gaming Hall of Fame.

I’ll submit my father’s name — again — but I have little hope that he will get in. My greatest hope came several years ago, when another publication I wrote for decided to start an all-out campaign to get him inducted. Instead, I think Blue Man Group was one of the “people” that got in.

No disrespect to the Blue Man Group. I’ve seen them twice and they are quite good. But has Blue Man Group really done more for the industry that Lenny Frome did?

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I understand the importance of including entertainers. So, I can see how Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Wayne Newton made it in before Lenny Frome. But as good as Blue Man Group is, did they really change anything about Las Vegas? From what I could find, they first played in Las Vegas in 2005 and were inducted just a few years later.

When that happened, I realized that the induction process may not be only about contributions to the industry. I mean no disrespect to the vast majority of people who have been inducted. I also realize that my father has been gone for more than 20 years and that many of the people voting may not even have ever met him or know much about him.

I don’t know if they’ll read this article, but I thought I’d put a few facts out there for them to consider. I put all of this and more into my nomination, but I’m also asking my readers to contact the AGA and put your two cents in as well. A little push never hurt.

Let’s review what Lenny Frome did for the casino industry. He didn’t invent video poker. But he’s widely acknowledged for being the reason that video poker is as popular as it is today.

When most of the industry considered them to be just slot machines, my father realized that there was strategy involved in the game on par with Blackjack. While the game was vastly different, the experience of playing video poker was more like Blackjack than slots.

He convinced numerous gaming magazines to give him some space and began writing about the strategy. As people read his strategy and applied it, the popularity of video poker grew. The terms expected value and Razgu were both first used by my father. These are now common terms in the industry.

Without my father’s insight, half of the casino floor would still be covered with nothing but slot machines. Instead, a significant portion of that floor is taken up by machines that engage the player in strategy and I believe have brought vast numbers of new players into the casino.

But that’s just half the floor.

In the late 1980’s, the other half of the floor consisted of mostly Blackjack, Craps and Roulette. Maybe you found a Big Six Wheel or a Sic-Bo table. On the cruise ships, you may have found the newly minted Caribbean Stud Poker table. But, they weren’t in Las Vegas yet.

Along came the founders of Shuffle Master. They had their single-deck shuffler, but not enough tables needed them. So, they set out to create a new single-deck game.

Amazingly, on one of their first tries, they came up with Let It Ride. I’m not sure who they got to do the math initially, but they decided to set up a meeting with Lenny, who they’d had read about regarding his video poker work.

As my father recounted the story, they came to my parents’ house and sat down at the dining room table. They dealt out a few dozen hands. Something did not feel right to my father. I don’t recall if he thought the game was too much in favor of the house or the player, but he sensed the math was off.

The two founders huddled and asked my father to re-analyze the game. Lo and behold, Lenny was right. The math was corrected, and the rest is, as they say, history. The age of the table game was born.

Over the next few years, Derek Webb, the inventor of Three Card Poker would come to my father to do the math for his new game. The owners of Caribbean Stud Poker asked my father to analyze that game for approval in Las Vegas. Spanish 21 would also be added to his resume.

These are the four games that transformed the casino forever. I have no doubt that had he not passed away suddenly in 1998 that the next generation of games would’ve bore his name on their math as well.

Ironically, it would be his son (me) who would have his name on those games instead — Mississippi Stud Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

Imagine the casino floor without any of these games. Might some of them have come to be anyhow? Sure. And perhaps someone else would’ve invented video poker instead of Si Redd. But that doesn’t take away from the reality.

Lenny Frome’s contributions to the casino industry were transformative and he deserves his place in the AGA’s Hall of Fame. If you agree with me, drop a line to Lauren Mikoy at [email protected].

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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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