Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coming Soon to a Casino Near You?

           Every inventor thinks their new game is going to be a sure-fire hit.  It's taken Three Card Poker about 15 years to get to 1500 or so tables.  Everyone else is sure they can do it in 2 to 3 years.  So what, if so far, no other game has even come close.  I believe the record for fastest game to 100 tables belongs to Ultimate Texas Hold'em and that took just over a year.

            So, in reality, I can't say with any certainty that any of the games I'm going to discuss today will make it to a casino any time soon.  They will, however, be on display at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) next week, at the Shuffle Master booth.  I didn't work on these games, so I can't give much insight into the strategy or the math (yet).  If you're going to the show this year, make sure to check these games out.  Next week, for the G2E edition, I'll review a couple of games I did the math on and be able to go more in depth on each.

Cincinnati 7 Card Stud

The base game is a simple game going head-to-head against the Dealer.  You make an Ante and Blind wager.  You get to look at the first 6 cards of what will eventually be a 7-card hand.  After reviewing your 6-cards, you can Fold or Play 1x or 2x your Ante.  The Dealer reveals his 7-cards and you get to see your 7th card.  If the Dealer beats you (best 5 out of 7 cards), you lose all your wagers.  If you beat the Dealer, the Ante and Play pay even money and the Blind pays according to the paytable.  There is also a bonus sidebet that pays if your 7-card hand is Three of a Kind or better.

The twist in Cincinnati 7 is the second optional sidebet.  Here, you are playing against all the other Players as well.  Top hand takes the enitre pot - as long as it at least a Two Pair or Better.   The Dealer participates just like every other Player - including putting up a wager each hand.  If nobody has Two Pair or better, all the wagers carry over to the next round.  Obviously, you can't jump into the middle of a pot.  If you skip a round, you're out until someone wins the pot.  Get a mini hot streak and you can increase your bankroll quickly.  It should also be noted that this sidebet has NO house advantage.  You're playing true odds against everyone.

Six-Card Poker

Another relatively simple to understand game against the Dealer.  Player makes an Ante Wager and is dealt 6 cards.  The Dealer is dealt 6 cards as well and turns over three of them, face up.  Player can now Fold or Play, making another wager equal to the Ante.  The Dealer reveals the rest of his hand.  If the Dealer does not have an A-K or better, the Ante pushes and the Play wager is won or lost depending on who has the best hand (best 5 out of 6 cards).  If the Dealer does have an A-K or better, then both Ante and Play wagers are won or lost depending on who has the best hand.

There is also an Aces Up sidebet that pays if the Player's hand is a Pair of Aces or better.  This sidebet pays even if the Player folds.  Yes, you will Fold with a Pair of Aces if the Dealer's three upcards are Three of a Kind.

Money Market

This one is a bit more complex and a little reminiscent of Mississippi Stud.  To begin Play, you make an Ante Wager and get 4 cards.  You must now either Fold or discard 1 card AND make a wager of 1-4x your Ante.  The Dealer will now expose the 1st of 3 community cards.  You must now either Fold or make a wager of 1-3x your Ante.  Dealer will expose the 2nd of 3 community cards and you will either Fold or make a wager 1-2x your Ante.

The Dealer will expose the final community card and then expose his 3 cards.  Best 5 out of 6 cards wins.  The Ante will pay according to the paytable.  All other wagers pay even money.

The betting structure on this one means you'll be wagering at least 4 units if you stay in until the end and might wager as much 10 units.  Unlike Mississippi Stud, you might have a likely winner, but you will rarely have a guaranteed winner.

There is also a one-way bad beat sidebet.  If you lose with a Pair of Jacks or Better, you win this sidebet.  This wager stays in action even if you Fold your base wager.

If you make it to the show and get to check out these games, feel free to let me know your thoughts about any or all of them.  You can reach me at elliotfrome@gamingtoday.com or on my blog at gambatria.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Total Opposites: Slots and ATMs

I’m writing this article from my new place in Las Vegas! I’ve got boxes everywhere and can’t find half of my stuff, but none of that will deter me from writing my weekly column.

I figure my new beginning here in Las Vegas is a perfect idea for a topic. What should you do when you’re just beginning to go to the casino?
I know one thing you shouldn’t do – play the slot machines. No game requires less knowledge than slots, so that’s why a lot of beginners wind up there. Few, if any, games give you less of a chance to win.
That’s why I think a good place to begin is with video poker. No, video poker is NOT a slot machine. It may look a little like a slot machine, but just because it has a computer screen and some buttons doesn’t make it a slot machine.
Perhaps we should consider ATM machines to be slots as well?
Video poker machines work on a totally different premise than slots. Video poker machines use random number generators to simulate dealing actual playing cards. Slot machines use random number generators to simulate nothing – they simply use it to pick which symbols will appear, but none of it is based on any actual anything.
You see 20 different symbols but that doesn’t mean they will appear with equal frequency. With video poker, you have 52 cards and each one should appear with equal probability.
It is this difference that makes all the difference. Because we know that a video poker machine simulates an actual deck of cards, we can create computer programs and math models to tell us absolutely everything about the machine.
Of course, we don’t know exactly which card will show up when, but we use probabilities to tell us the likelihood of any given card and, in turn, any given hand from showing up. It is from this we are able to develop actual strategies for which cards to hold and which cards to discard.
To start with, we know there are "only" 2,598,960 possible initial 5-card deals from a standard 52-card deck. Each one of these combinations has an equal likelihood of being dealt to the player. For each of these, we know there are 32 different ways to play the hand, ranging from discarding no cards to discarding them all.
Obviously, many of these ways would make little sense. If you are dealt three 6’s, a 10 and a 2, you’re not going to discard the 6’s. But, to be absolutely sure, our computer program takes a look at all 32 ways and determines which is the best way to play the hand.
The value it assigns to each is called the "expected value" or EV for short. The EV is calculated by looking at every possible draw that can occur given which cards were initially dealt and which ones were held.
The program sums up the payouts for each of these hands and divides by the total number of draws. We then look at the expected value for each of the 32 possible draws. Whichever has the highest EV is the proper way to play that hand.
By looking at the results of all 2.6 million hands, we are able to summarize the strategy into what is called a strategy table. This is what a player must learn in order to play each hand correctly.
As some of you are reading this, you may think this all sounds very complicated and not very beginnerish. But, it really is far less complex than it sounds. Most of the hard work is done by people like me.
Your part is to learn the strategy table and to use the information from it to play each hand. About 75% of the hands will be fairly obvious and the remaining 25% may take some memorization to get correct.
I suppose the alternative is to just keep playing slots. As I questioned earlier, if you think video poker is slots, you might as well consider a slot machine to be an ATM – even if they are complete opposites. The ATM gives you your money and the slot machines take it away!