If Si Redd can be considered the founding father of the video poker industry, then Ernest Moody has to be its prodigal son.
Moody is the man behind Triple Play video poker, as well as Five Play, Ten Play, Hundred Play Poker and all of the multi-hand poker games that have swept the video poker industry beginning in the late 1990s.
And even though Moody’s name doesn’t have the marquee recognition of Si Redd’s — the founder of IGT and developer of the first video poker machines — Moody is one of the most influential figures in the gaming manufacturing industry.
And his rags-to-riches success story is the stuff dreams are made of.
As noted, Moody invented the first Triple Play game. For those who have never played the game, its concept is very simple. The machine deals a five-card poker hand, but the game allows the player to play the hand three times.
Unlike other inventors, who sell their ideas or patents to manufacturers, Moody joint-ventured his concept to IGT, which manufactures and distributes the machines, and pays Moody a percentage of the royalties.
It’s uncertain exactly how much Moody receives per machine — estimates range from $5 to $15 per day — but insiders say he’s received more than $300 million over the years.
As a mega millionaire, Moody has been able to form his own company, Action Gaming, which has developed new video poker concepts such as Spin Poker, 5 Aces Poker, Super Times Poker and Five Play Multi-Strike Poker.
Moody has also become a thoroughbred horse owner and breeder with a farm in California. Among his charges is Rock Hard Ten who ran in last year’s Triple Crown series.
But it hasn’t always been the sweet smell of success. Before he hit on the idea of Triple Play, Moody had to mortgage his house and borrow from his parents in order to patent his concepts.
And, while he enjoyed mild successes as a stockbroker, restaurateur and casino investor in Colorado prior to coming to Las Vegas, Moody could not have foreseen the impact his new game would have in Nevada casinos.
"I don’t think anybody really knew until it went to field test in December of 1997," Moody says.
Once the game was on field test, it was an immediate hit. Moody says he tracked the game’s popularity up and down the state. One casino, the Gold Dust West in Reno, reported doing $250 to $300 per machine a day with Triple Play, versus $40 or $50 a day for a standard poker machine.
The story was similar elsewhere. When players flocked to Triple Play, others who couldn’t get a seat stopped to watch, to see what the excitement was all about.
"I think it’s just more fun than playing one hand at a time," Moody says of the game’s popularity.
In addition to playing multiple hands, players could play their favorite poker games— deuces wild, joker poker, bonus poker and double bonus poker.
"These are the same games players are used to," Moody says. "Someone who knows how to play double double bonus poker can play double double bonus triple play with no change whatsoever."
The idea of familiarity is key to Moody’s goal of creating video poker games that appeal to the greatest number of players. His company is constantly striving to develop new game concepts. It even encourages ideas and submissions from up-and-coming inventors.
Moody employs a legion of computer experts, mathematicians and designers, who are all working toward developing the next hit game, even if it doesn’t come directly from his own drawing board.
"The quest is rewarding," Moody says. "When this whole thing started, it was my dream to become successful, and the fun of getting there has been a big part of it. But it also felt good to know that I would not go out of business, that this thing would grow, and that I would continue to make money. That feels good."