Getting a (table) leg up
Winners of the 2012 Best New Table Game Competition at the Cutting Edge Table Games Conference report worldwide placements at casinos
One way is for game developers to take part in the Best New Table Game Competition staged annually at Raving’s Cutting Edge Table Games Conference, this year set for November 18-20 at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.
The competition is designed to recognize those new table games and their inventors, companies and promoters, whose new games, as judged by casino table game operators and marketing executives, have the best combination of player appeal, ease of understanding and potential commercial success. To give casinos a good idea of a game’s rules and fun elements, inventors set their games up on tables at the event and conduct actual play.
The Gold winner of the 2013 Casino Journal’s Best New Table Game Competition will receive floor space at Bucky’s Casino, Ariz.; Chinook Winds Casino Resort, Ore.; Gila River Gaming Enterprises (either the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, Vee Quiva Hotel and Casino, or Lone Butte Casino) in Ariz.; and Muckleshoot Indian Casino, Wash.
The top three winners of last year’s Best New Table Game Competition— High Card Flush by Galaxy Gaming, Player’s Choice 21 by Renegade Table Games, and Racing Card Derby by Racing Card Derby—have fared very well since, due in part to the exposure they received during the contest and at the conference. Here is an update on their progress:
High Card Flush by Galaxy Gaming got off to a roaring start as it found immediate placement at the Hard Rock Biloxi Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., where it performed admirably.
A fast-paced game that allows multiple wagers and multiple chances to win, High Card Flush is played with a standard 52-card deck. A house-based game can be quickly learned by players, it requires no understanding of poker strategy—only the ability to count cards by suits. The object is for players to get longer flushes (the number of cards in the same suit) with a higher value card in the flush than the dealer.
Play begins when players place the ante wager on the felt tabletop. The dealer then deals seven cards face down to each player and himself. Players then check their cards and, based on their confidence in their hand, can make a raise equal to or up to three times the value of the ante. Players with no confidence in their hands can fold and give up their ante. After the raise, players reveal their cards to determine if they have better hands than the dealer. The dealer automatically loses if he doesn’t have at least a three-card flush with one of the cards at least a 9 high. Players win even money on all bets if they have a higher flush (five of a suit beats four of a suit). Where players and the dealer’s hands are equal (including high card in the flush) a push results and the bets remain for the next hand.
The game has three bonus bets that casinos can offer that reward players from a paytable for getting straight flushes, ace high flushes and four of a kind.
Following its Mississippi success, Galaxy set out to secure additional placements by putting High Card Flush into an intense “‘incubation phase,’ during which we closely monitored the game at The M Resort in Las Vegas, with an eye on making it better,” said Ken Dickinson, product development and manufacturing manager at Galaxy. “Our efforts included analyzing player behavior, dealer mechanics and procedures and the effectiveness of the layout. The observations obtained during this phase led to several improvements to the game which has helped lead to faster adoption around the country.”
“The incubation phase proved so successful that High Card Flush became a hit and The M Resort became our first client to add a second table on their floor,” Dickinson added. “The game can be found in over 10 states, with more coming online in the fourth quarter of 2013. We have also had significant interest in international markets, specifically the United Kingdom. We expect to begin placing High Card Flush internationally in early 2014.”
Dickinson also noted that High Card Flush also has a number of pending agreements that will place it in even more properties. “In short, the game is gaining the type of momentum and traction you would expect to see in a successful table game,” he said. “High Card Flush continues to interest all types of players as they walk through the pit, primarily due to the innovative and distinctive nature. Players are especially intrigued by the possibility of winning up to 8,000 to 1, something that is rarely seen on a pay table.”
Player’s Choice 21 by Renegade Table Games, the second place game in the 2012 competition that offers “a unique twist on the conventional game of blackjack,” also had a productive year.
“One of the biggest challenges a new developer of table games can face is breaking into the industry and recording their first successful table placement,” said Greg Jaffa, vice president at Renegade. “The exposure from being in the competition helped Renegade get its first placement for Player’s Choice 21 at the Palazzo Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas.
“Since our game’s debut in June, it has been well received by both casino staff and patrons,” Jaffa added. “The exemplary performance of Player’s Choice 21 during the field trial at the Palazzo earned it an extended stay on the casino floor through the end of 2013. Comments from players were that the game was fun; that they felt more in control and loved being able to touch and slide cards into their desired positions.”
Unlike traditional blackjack, Player’s Choice 21 players are initially dealt three cards, which they arrange into two blackjack hands with one card common to both. This twist, Jaffa explained, introduces a whole new element of strategy into the conventional blackjack game without changing the traditional rules. Blackjack still pays 3:2. Doubling down and splitting are still allowed. Once a player sets his cards, each hand is played like regular blackjack according to house rules. But there also is a Player’s Choice Bonus Bet that pays players initial three cards according to a posted paytable.
Expansion of Player’s Choice 21 looks promising, Jaffa said. Following approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission (it was on the group’s September agenda), Renegade hopes to expand the game into other Nevada casinos. The game also went live in Great Britain with a field trial at Grosvenor’s Casino. Pending licensing approval in Minnesota, Renegade will be getting additional placements. Licensing applications also have been filed in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, Jaffa reported.
Third place winner Racing Card Derby by Australia-based Racing Card Derby (RCD) likewise had a productive year since the competition. Within months the game was being placed in casinos on four continents.
An innovative casino table game that combines cards and horse racing, Racing Card Derby adds excitement and theater to the casino floor, said Matthew Bielenberg, executive at RCD. “There has been limited innovation in casino table games over recent times and importantly there is a shortage of entry-level gaming product to encourage new casino punters,” he said. “Generally the environment is intimidating and lacking in theater and excitement. By combining horse racing, cards, visual display monitor and an audio race call in a very simple game format, Racing Card Derby appeals to a broad demographic ranging from young entertainment seekers to horse race followers. Yet it is a simple, fun game where guests can have a ‘flutter’ and/or participate in promoted activity and win prizes.”
The game begins when the dealer draws cards with each suit representing a horse. As a card/suit is drawn the horse moves one length with a winner being declared after four lengths. The game has three main betting options: red or black; pick the suit; or pick the order of the winning horses.
The game provides the casino with strong financials, outperforming blackjack in game speed, hold and total number of players, Bielenberg said.
Three months after the competition, Racing Card Derby had gone live at the G Casinos in both Coventry and Reading in the United Kingdom, the Fiesta Casino in the Philippines, and Skycity Auckland Casino in New Zealand. It received approval from gaming regulators in all locations.
In the U.S., Racing Card Derby was launched at the Pechanga Casino in California. But in an unusual twist, the game was approved by the Minnesota Racing Commission for play at the Running Aces Harness Track in Columbus, Minn.
The game has since been approved in many gaming jurisdictions and is offered in six languages and nine countries in casinos across the world, Bielenberg added.
Participants, especially the winners of the 2012 Table Game Competition, found it worth the trip to the conference.
“The Table Game Conference is a must-to attend for any new table game inventor,” Renegade’s Jaffa said. “It helps level the playing field for smaller companies. The format of the event allows exhibitors to demonstrate their game to industry experts and get critical feedback necessary for making the game a success. And participation helps smaller firms make contacts throughout the gaming industry that can result in placements.”
“The exposure at the Table Games Conference has played a major role in gaining exposure of High Card Flush,” Dickinson noted. “Our industry has seen an explosion of innovative proprietary games in the past 10 years and the Table Games Conferences helps highlight the best and most cutting-edge games on the market. The conference is an important time for our team as it provides an opportunity to have that priceless face-to-face interaction with clients and contacts in the industry.”