G2E 2007, part 6: What's new in table games?

8 January 2008

For me, no visit to the annual Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center is complete until I've had a chance to check out what's new at Ya Awada's Gaming Entertainment Inc. booth.

Awada, a former World Series of Poker no-limit seven-card stud champion, has a way with the tables, designing games that are easy to play and deal, have house edges low enough to give the player a shot to win, yet have enough going on that the casino is going to make enough money to keep the game on the floor.

Take Double Down Baccarat, one of the new games at the biggest booth GEI has ever had at the annual gaming conference and trade show. Elliott Frome's analysis of the game calculates the house edge at 0.86 percent if you bet on player, and 1.22 percent if you bet on banker. A house edge of less than 1 percent is a rarity in a casino game. Even regular baccarat, a favorite of high rollers because of its low house edge, has house edges of 1.17 percent on banker and 1.36 percent of player.

How can Double Down Baccarat offer such a low house edge? By giving the players betting options that increase the total amount wagered.

It amounts to adding some blackjack-like touches to baccarat. One card is turned face up on player and banker hands, and bettors have the option of standing, doubling down or surrendering. One bonus: If a double down wager wins with a hand of 9, the original wager is paid at even money while the double down bet is paid at 2-1.

To make up for the doubling and surrendering, the house wins all ties except on 9. If both hands are 9, player and banker bets all win.

Those who follow the best strategy for the game and actually lower the house edge to the optimal 0.86 percent will double down on 63.31 percent of hands, according to Frome's analysis. All those double downs bring enough increased action to make the game profitable for the house, while giving the player a shot to win.

Another GEI game, Lo-Bo Reverse Blackjack, is a blackjack about-face. The object is to get a LOWER-ranking hand than the dealer. Stanley Ko's analysis of the game calculated the house edge at about 1.8 percent with a basic strategy, which Ko also calculated.

All the 10-value cards are removed from the deck, and instead of busting by going over 21, you bust anytime you go over 13. Instead of getting paid 3-2 on two-card 21s, you're paid 2-1 on a pair of Aces, the perfect hand in Lo-Bo. You may split and double down, as in regular blackjack.

After you see your intial two cards and the dealer's face-up card, you may either stand or discard one card and call for a hit. You're always going to want to get rid of a 6 or higher, and in many situations will want to dump a 5, if that's your high card. The dealer will always take a third card, and make his or her best two-card hand out of the three.

It's an interesting twist, one that players who think dealers get all the high cards will want to test.

** * ** * **

On the last day of G2E, I like to scour the aisles for variations on blackjack, the game where I put in most of my table time. Most are side bets, requiring an extra wager, such as Reel Games' Jackpot Blackjack. A $1 side bet can bring anything from $3 if either you or the dealer have a blackjack, on up to a progressive jackpot that starts at $10,000 if both you and the dealer have Ace-Jack of spades. The house edge of about 24 percent at rollover value is pretty typical. My advice on making such side bets: Don't.

I was intrigued by British company TCS John Huxley's Blackjack Plus, three insurance-like options. The first is insurance, with a twist. As in regular blackjack, when the dealer has an Ace up and a 10-value face down for a blackjack, the insurance bet pays 2-1. However, if the face down is a Jack of spades or a Jack of clubs, the payoff is 3-1, reducing the house edge against average players to 3.54 percent.

The second Blackjack Plus option is Dealer Draws Ace, available when the dealer has a 10 face up. If the dealer then completes a blackjack with a 10 down, Dealer Draws Ace bets are paid at 11-1 odds, a high house edge of 7.4 percent.

Finally, there's Dealer Busts on Ace, a side bet that the dealer who starts with an Ace will bust. If the dealer hits soft 17, Dealer Busts on Ace pays 6-1 and has a house edge of 2.6 percent. If the dealer stands on all 17s, the bet pays 7-1 and has a house edge of 7.62 percent.

Most players should avoid such options, but advantage players will find extra opportunity in the enhanced insurance option.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2007

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.