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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two parts on a recent student gaming showcase sponsored by Station Casinos in partnership with UNLV. It was held at Red Rock Casino & Resort.

It was my privilege to attend a seminar involving UNLV college students in the university’s Center for Gaming Innovation.

The center is supported through a grant from the state’s Knowledge Fund and helps students develop gaming concepts into commercially viable gaming products and builds an entrepreneurial spirit within the student community. The Center is run by Dr. Mark Yoseloff, formerly the CEO of Shuffle Master.

Through the years, I’ve written many columns about game design frequently stating it is impossible to determine which game will succeed. The only thing that can usually be done is tell which ones will almost certainly fail.

I found the games presented to be a good mix of game ideas. Some were more innovative than others. One game was completely fresh, while others were twists on existing ones. I don’t consider this latter category to be problematic. While I don’t respect copying someone else’s game and making one minor change (if that much), I do believe in taking an existing game and twisting it a bit.

Some people might think Four Card Poker is merely a cheap copy of Three Card Poker with little innovation. It is a highly successful game with a several year gap between Three Card Poker and Four Card Poker. If it was so obvious, how come no one thought of it before it actually happened? The goal in the industry is to make money, not necessarily to invent something so new and different.

Even the Odds was by far the most unique and innovative of the games. My first take was I didn’t really like it much. But, as I watched the game play, I warmed up to it. It is a bit quirky and at first seems overly simplistic. But then you realize there is a bit more strategy to it than meets the eye.

Game play is rather straight forward. The player makes a wager and is dealt two cards face up with a third card face down. The dealer’s first two cards are dealt face up as well. The twist in the game is that the hand point total (using a BJ type ranking, but a hand can go over 21) must be even. If you have an odd point total, it counts as a busted hand.

After reviewing your first two cards, the player may stick on that point total or ask for the third card to be turned over. If the player’s point total is odd, he busts and loses his wager. If it is even, it stays in play to the dealer’s three card hand. The dealer’s third card will be dealt regardless.

The player has to decide whether to stick on a lower even hand hoping the dealer will bust or to risk hitting and winding up with an odd hand. There is also an optional sidebet based on the four cards initially exposed (Player 2 and Dealer 2).

The next game, Super Three Card, is a Three Card Poker variant, but dealt from a multi-deck shoe. The player makes an initial Ante and Odds wager. Each player is dealt two cards face up and the dealer is dealt one card face up. The player must now decide whether to Fold, which forfeits the ante wager only as the odds bet is returned to the player, or to play by making an additional wager equal to the ante.

The player is given his third card, the dealer completes his three-card hand and the comparison takes place. The dealer does not need to qualify in this game. The optional Big Hand Bonus is essentially Pair Plus but is based on the player’s initial two cards and the dealer’s initial card.

The game was a bit slow. The dealer deals the initial two-card hands and has to first stop to resolve the Big Hand Bonus. Then he has to go around again and find out who is playing. Then he deals another card and has to resolve the base wager. The number of hands per hour might hurt the game a little.

Casino Battle is a Casino War variant, which I’m guessing won’t surprise you based on the name. To be honest, I found this game to be the least innovative. As stated earlier, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The player makes an initial Battle wager and is dealt two cards. The dealer rearranges the cards into High and Low. The dealer does the same with his own cards. Now a simple War-type comparison takes place. The High card is compared to the High card. Whoever has the higher card wins. If the two cards tie, then the Low cards are compared.

If a Double Tie ensues, the dealer wins. This presumably does not create enough house edge (as unlike Casino War, there is no additional wager), so a player hand of 5-high or lower (both High and Low cards are 2 through 5) is an automatic loss for the player. There are two optional sidebets, one based on the player’s two-card hand and one based on a four-card hand consisting of the player and dealer cards.

Next week: A look at Super Blackjack and Show Pai.

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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 Email: [email protected].

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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