EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second 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.
Next up was Super Blackjack. It’s not easy to innovate in the blackjack space. Geoff Hall has cornered this market somewhat by patenting the push-22 concept. I give kudos to the inventor of this game for coming up with something new and different. But, of all the games I saw, this one might be the only one with a significant flaw (or two).
The first and smaller problem is it turns blackjack a little too far on its side. The second and bigger problem is it takes a low volatility and relatively low bankroll game and supercharges both. In my opinion, perhaps just a bit too much. At first blush, the game looks similar to regular blackjack.
The player makes a wager and equal ante wager and gets two cards, while the dealer gets two cards, one face up. Your choices from here, however, are quite different than blackjack. You may stick, split or double. There is no hitting. You may split any two first cards. You may double up to 4x your initial wager (even after a split). You may split Pairs unlimitedly. Blackjacks even pay 2-to-1.
The catch is there is no standard hitting. The result is the amount you wager per hand goes WAY up relative to standard blackjack. You will split many of your starting hands. Many of these will turn into double down situation. Some, where you should double for 4x, which is a good thing for the player, but it does mean you need a bigger bankroll than normal blackjack.
The house gets its advantage from the hands you neither split nor double that are just caught in between (and from some of those split hands that are still bad situations but not as bad as sticking). It also comes from the Ante wager, which is really a mandatory sidebet that pays when the dealer busts based on the dealer’s hand value.
It takes a little while to get used to the concept of no hitting and the amount of wagers you wind up playing per hand. I like the effort on this one, but I have doubts as to whether players will accept the impact.
Lastly, we had Show Pai. If I had to pick my favorite of the five, this one would have been it. Pai Gow games are very popular. This one is simple to understand and moderately fast paced. To begin play, the player makes a Play wager and is given 4 cards. He must split the cards into a 3-card hand and a 1-card hand, using baccarat-style scoring.
This means face cards and 10’s count as 0 and any point total over 9 counts only as its single-digit score (so, a 15 is a 5 and a 22 is a 2). As in regular Pai Gow, the high hand (3-card hand) MUST outrank the 1-card hand. There are situations where a hand cannot be set this way; this is called No Pai. If the player has a No Pai, he loses. If the dealer has one and the player doesn’t, the hand pushes.
There is an optional sidebet that pays for a No Pai (among other things). I liked this game because it is playing in the “right pond,” meaning Pai Gow-style games are very popular right now.
With only 4-cards, the game should be fast and relatively easy. Some players might have to learn Baccarat-style scoring, but this isn’t exactly the hardest thing to learn.
Overall, I was very impressed by the games I saw. This would be the case under almost any condition. When one realizes it was college kids (many of whom may barely be old enough to go into a casino!) who invented these games, it becomes all the more impressive.
These games may or may not succeed, but in either case the valuable lessons the students are learning will help them whether they choose to stay in the field or move on to other endeavors. A big round of applause to the Center for Gaming Innovation.
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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 www.gambatria.com. Email: [email protected].