As a table game player myself, it has been with some sadness that I have watched the continuing erosion of the table game experience in many places throughout the world. Some casinos no longer offer table gaming.
In others, it has been reduced to a “gesture,” with a small pit area which is often closed during the graveyard shift and, if there is space among the sea of slots, expanded to meet demand on the weekends.
I recognize there still are table game success stories. Macau, Singapore, and other Asian markets are still mainly about tables (although slots continue to make inroads). The Las Vegas Strip still has a robust high-end baccarat business. Innovative table game operators continue to defy the current trends. Poker still has life. And Barona has made great strides with e-tables, as well as with its remarkable marketing and operating philosophy.
But if truth be told, there are still way too many surly or disinterested dealers out there. Popular table games have been squeezed out for “higher holding” new games or “rules altered” existing games with negative player impact. Many low-limit table game players have been run off by higher table game minimum bets. Casinos still do not make it easy for players to learn how to play table games.
I agree with most of the “table game improvement” suggestions offered over the years. Friendlier dealers? Sure. Innovating by testing more new table games with players? You betcha. Table game-specific marketing tactics? Absolutely. A more comfortable table game playing environment? It goes without saying.
But today I’m going to suggest two dramatic changes for “turning the tables” that, to my knowledge, have not been suggested before. They are sure to upset traditional table game managers and narrowly focused, cost-centric CFOs. And I don’t mind hearing that I may be “off base,” “full of it,” even “damn crazy” for suggesting these two notions. I live for the few who grasp the concepts and see the opportunity. Hopefully this will start a conversation, one really needed in the table game arena.
My first turning the tables notion is to double or triple the pay and the value of casino dealers. Actually, I would triple their value then triple their pay. How do you do this? Simple, by leveraging a dealer’s unique role of spending extended relationship-building time with casino customers. This enhanced role will include non-stop, easily understood teaching on how to play the games. It will include full and effective selling of the casino’s loyalty program, as well as all of the other casino amenities where there is a cash register. It will involve dealers gaining the skills of a counselor, a coach, an actor, a referee, a comic. It will mean simply that these dealers will develop a “book of business” with clients, rather than pump out table game decisions to make whip-cracking executives happy.
My second notion is to offer “full disclosure” on all table game bets and strategy situations. Yes, I am talking about posting the mathematical odds—the house edge—on all table games, all table game bets, and all betting decisions.
There already are precedents. In Pai Gow poker, the dealer will tell you the “house way” (the most mathematically efficient way) for setting a player’s Pai Gow poker hand. Many craps, blackjack, poker, and other dealers are already informally offering table game playing advice.
Table games have the real benefit of understandable mathematical value. A game is scheduled to win at an understood rate, and that rate can change by altering rules and conditions of play. There is always a mathematically proper playing strategy in table games when players are forced into decisions. I am saying we share those percentages and those strategies to make our customers better players.
So, there you have it. Triple the value of your dealers. Double the playing skill of your players. Your short-term table game “hold” may take a hit, but your long-term table game revenues and player loyalty will be off the charts.