2008 Global Gaming Expo, part 9

3 February 2009

Not too many years ago, the sight of electronic versions of table games at the annual Global Gaming Expo would set one to wondering just where the market was for such things.

Single-player video blackjack had never been much of a success. Would players flock to multiplayer tables with cards dealt on video screens? Electronic roulette had found a market in Europe. Some American jurisdictions that allowed only electronic games were finding they could draw in table gamers with the video approximations. And in out-of-the-way corners at some large casinos, multiplayer electronic tables were carving out a niche.

It seems such games have turned a corner with the success of Rapid Roulette, distributed by ShuffleMaster, Inc. With a live wheel but individual stations for touch-screen betting, Rapid Roulette has risen, um, rapidly in popularity and is increasingly finding homes on mainstream casino floors.

Perhaps inspired by Rapid Roulette's success, ShuffleMaster devoted a large share of its space at the 2008 G2E to its iTable family of hybrid games.

On iTable games, including blackjack, baccarat, Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold'em, Let It Ride Bonus, and Four Card Poker, live dealers and physical cards are used. However, wagers are made on individual touch screens, and cards are read electronically either by ShuffleMaster's I-Shoe Auto card reading shoe or its one2six Plus card reading shuffler.

That all results in a faster game, with no waiting to buy or exchange chips and electronic payoffs to and deductions from your credit meter.

Of course, ShuffleMaster also had on display its collection of regular table games, including the traditional live action versions of Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold'em. Among the newer games was High Five Poker, played with a 53-card deck that includes a joker used as an ace or to complete flushes or straights. You start by making an ante bet, then you make your best five-card hand out of seven cards dealt to you, and decide to stay in the hand by making a bet equal to your ante, or fold and forfeit your ante.

If the dealer does not qualify with at least a pair of 6s, those who bet win on their antes, and their bets are returned. If the dealer does qualify and you bet the dealer, you win even money on both ante and bet. One plus, compared to other ante-play games: If you have a straight or better, the dealer hand automatically qualifies, even if it doesn't include at least a pair of 6s.

High Five Poker comes with an optional Trips side bet, with payoffs starting at even money for three of a kind and rising to 200-1 on five aces — the usual four, plus the joker.

Another new one from ShuffleMaster, Roll Your Own Blackjack, was on display. It's a single-deck blackjack game in which you start with three cards which you then break down into a two-card starting hand and a one-card starting hand. Blackjacks always win and are paid 3-2, and you get a double blackjack whenever your first three cards are 10 value-10 value-ace, or ace-ace-10 value.

Where does the house get its edge? From the three-card bonus bet that must be equal to the blackjack bet. Paying hands start at a flush, just as in the bonus bet in 21 + 3.

A number of smaller game designers introduced wrinkles on blackjack. The playing card manufacturer Bicycle was showing its own set of side bets, Blackjack Plus. Players may bet any or all of five propositions based on their first two cards: that the two-card total is 2 though 6 (9-1 payoff on winners), 7-11 (3-1 payoff), 12-16 (even money) 17-20 (2-1) or a blackjack (18-1).

Score Gaming introduced a blackjack-poker combination called 21 to the River. The main game is blackjack, but the player makes both blackjack and poker bets. If the player doesn't bust, the poker bet never comes into play. The blackjack hand is paid normally and the poker bet is a push. If the player busts, then the card that busted the blackjack hand is used as the start to a hand of five-card stud. Four more cards are dealt, and winners are paid according to a table that starts at even money for a pair of jacks or better and rises to 500-1 on a royal flush.

Finally, there was Fortune Teller Blackjack, from Cary Lucier. You can play this as regular blackjack, and/or wager on every possible outcome. Instead of a blackjack bet, you can wager on bust or tie. And even if you make one of those bets, you can wager on your own hand's final total — 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 or blackjack, with all other hands covered by the bust bet.

Payoffs are less than true odds, of course, and there is danger to basic strategy or better players. The side bets can lure you off the path of solid play. If you have 16 vs. 6, and you've placed small side bets on 20 and 21 paid at bigger odds, will you be tempted to hit the 16? That gives the house an extra edge, the reason for existence of blackjack side bets.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2008
Live Baccarat
Live Blackjack
Live Triple Card Poker
Live Ultimate Texas Hold'em

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.
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