Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lenny Frome Left a Legacy to Casino Gambling World

(the following is a re-print of my column in this week's edition of Gaming Today)  


            There are days in our lives that we all have burned into our memories – weddings, births of our children and regrettably, the passing of someone dear.  As this article goes to print in Gaming Today, I will be remembering one of those days – the 13th anniversary of my father’s passing.  I will never forget my brother telling me that my dad had had a heart attack.  When I asked him how he was doing, he responded “he isn’t.”

            I could fill up this entire edition of stories about my dad as a dad.  I’m not sure exactly how long he wrote for Gaming Today, but I believe it was 8 or 9 years, which means we could fill this edition with the hundreds of articles he wrote.  But, why think small?  If one wants to see the legacy my father left to the casino world, one only needs to walk into virtually any casino in the world.

            A good gaming analyst doesn’t just crunch the numbers.  He works with the inventors to create the game.  You need the creative side to envision the cards and the betting, but the math is the glue that holds it all together.  So, the analyst may not have his name on the patent and he may not get technical credit for inventing the game, but there is no doubt that a good analyst helps to invent each game he works on.  So, try to walk into a casino and not see Lenny Frome’s handiwork. 

            You see some Let It Ride tables?  He worked with the founders of Shuffle Master to save that one from a horrible fate (a math error).  How about some Caribbean Stud tables?  Yep, his name is on the math for that one too.  Three Card Poker?  Yes, he worked with Derek Webb to refine the math and rules of the game.  He worked on Boston 5 from New Vision Gaming.  He worked on Spanish 21 with Masque Publishing.  He worked on dozens of other games that hit the casino floor but didn’t quite make it to success.  But even these failures opened up the doors to dozens more.  Imagine walking into a casino and having none of these games be there?  It would be like Las Vegas circa 1980!

            Of course, on the other half of the floor, we’d all be stuck with nothing but slot machines!  Oh, the horror!  Where would the casino of 2011 be without Lenny Frome’s contributions to video poker?  I don’t know who first called him the ‘godfather of video poker’ but it’s a nickname that has stuck through the years.  You can even find this on his Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenny_Frome) – which, by the way, I DID NOT create!

            Despite the accolades, when it came time for my father to choose an e-mail address – he didn’t choose “vpgodfather”, “vpguru” or “vpexpert”.  He chose “Playerspal”.  He tried very hard to create games that while they obviously had house advantages, at least gave the Player a fighting chance.  What he loved about table games and video poker was that everything was known and could be calculated using finite math.  He hated the slots because everything about them was a deep dark secret.  He called himself Playerspal because that’s how he saw himself.  He was there to educate the Players about how to play the games.

            Well, so far this has been about my father as a gaming analyst.  As I said earlier, I could fill up this entire edition of Gaming Today with stories about my dad as a dad.  Of course, there would be some similarities.  Education was very important to my father.  It didn’t really matter what the topic was.  Shortly after arriving in Las Vegas, he wound up teaching at UNLV.  Here was a guy who could ace my AP Physics tests at the dinner table without a calculator and he was teaching a relatively low level algebra course in college.  Still, he had the patience to teach the kids to the best of his ability and he took it far more seriously than many full-time professors I had in college.  It meant so much to him.  This is one of the reasons why my family started the Leonard Frome Memorial Scholarship at UNLV after he died. 

            Another thing very important to my father was his family.  He adored his children and grandchildren.  So, in an attempt to put together two very important things in my father’s life – children and education, I’m asking my readers to help me with a little project.  I found out via twitter (@gambatria) that my friends at Shuffle Master are having a book drive to help a Las Vegas based organization called “Spread the Word Nevada” which promotes literacy by distributing books to elementary schools throughout Nevada.   My wife and I will be shipping to them a few dozen gently-used books  from my kids’ home library.  I’m asking my readers to check out their website and if you are so inclined to assist them in any way you can – whether via a monetary donation, donating books or volunteering. 

            I’ll get back to gaming tips next week.  

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