New Table Games at the G2E

20 January 2004

On the final day of the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, I was wandering the back aisles, away from the slot manufacturers, to see what table games and other new wares were being pitched to the casino industry.

Most of the new table games - as you'd expect, if you've been looking around table game pits in the last few years - are either variations on stud poker or side bets designed to increase house profits on blackjack.

So I had some trepidation when Ya Awada of Gaming Entertainment Inc. asked me to look at a game, and it turned out to be a blackjack side bet.

I see Awada practically every year at the fall gaming show and have written about several of his games in the past, including Super 9s, 3 Way Action and 3-5-7 Poker. Gaming Entertainment also distributes Play Four Poker, a game developed in the Chicago area that made its debut at the Horseshoe in Hammond in March.

His blackjack side bet is called High/Tie, and it gave me a surprise. I'm used to seeing blackjack side bets with house edges that far exceed the 2 to 2.5 percent house edge against an average player in blackjack itself.

On High/Tie, the best bet has a house edge of only 1.6 percent in a six-deck game. That's better than blackjack itself for an average player, although basic-strategy players who cut the house edge to 0.5 percent or so are better off sticking to the main game.

Here's the way High/Tie works. Players have a choice of betting that their first card ties the dealer - the exact denomination must tie; Jacks don't tie other 10-value cards - or that the first card matches the dealer's both in denomination and suit, or that the player's and dealer's first cards combine to make a blackjack.

Winning blackjack and tie bets each pay 5-1, with house edges in a six-deck game of 4.7 percent on blackjack and 8.8 percent on ties. Matches pay 16-1, and that's the best bet, with the house edge of 1.6 percent in a six-deck game. If you see this side bet in a casino, stick to the match bet. You'll
win less often than on the other two but collect bigger payoffs that minimize the house edge.

Awada also was showing a five-card game called Hi Lo Poker.

The Hi Lo portion of the game involves play against the dealer. The player starts by placing a bet in a box marked "Hi." After looking at his or her cards, the player then must place an equal bet in the "Lo" box or fold and forfeit the original bet. Hi bets are decided by whether the player or
dealer has the better five-card hand; Lo bets are decided by whether player or dealer has the lowest single card. Aces count as both high and low cards.

The player has a chance to win both Hi and Lo bets in the same hand, win one and lose the other, or lose both. There is no dealer qualifying hand - the player never misses out on a payoff because the dealer's hand isn't good enough, as in Caribbean Stud.

Any tied hands go to the dealer, and that's where the house gets its 2.5 percent edge.

In front of the Hi and Lo bet boxes is a circle marked "5 Card Bonus" for a separate bet. Regardless of what cards the dealer has, players are paid even money on a pair of 6s or better; 3-1 on two pair; 4-1 on three of a kind; 6-1 on straights; 9-1 on flushes; 12-1 on full houses; 40-1 on four of a kinds; 100-1 on straight flushes, and 500-1 on royal flushes. House edge on the bonus bet is 4.2 percent.

Hi Lo Poker is fun and easy, but I'd stick to the Hi Lo bet.

As for 3-5-7 Poker, Awada said, "I saw what you wrote about it, that the house edge is too high. I want you to know there is another pay table, with a lower house edge, but of course the casinos choose which version they put on the floor."

It's a combination game, with payoffs after three cards, five cards and seven cards, against different pay tables. There are alternate versions of all three pay tables, but the one of biggest concern to players is the three-card hand, where the house edge plummets to 2.3 percent instead of
3.5. The edge can be either 3.9 or 4.1 percent on five cards, and 3.3 or 4.0 on all seven.

I'd be surprised if we didn't see 3-5-7 in Indiana in the coming year. Keep your fingers crossed for the better pay tables, especially on the three-card hand.

MORE GAMES: Shuffle Master, as usual, had a number of table games at the show, with High Five Poker, Four Card Poker and Crazy Four Poker, the pai-gow poker side bet Pai Wow Bonus and the baccarat side bet Dragon Bonus.

I took a close look at Single 21, a single-deck blackjack game in which the player can double down on any number of cards, surrender on any number of cards after the dealer checks for blackjack, and split after hitting whenever two same-value cards are consecutive. Players' blackjacks always
win, and players automatically win when they have six cards without busting.

The trade-off: Blackjacks pay only even money unless both cards are the same suit. That leaves a game with a house edge against a basic strategy player of 0.65 percent - not as good as most six-deck games and certainly not as good as single-deck games with a normal 3-2 payoff on blackjacks, but far better than the Las Vegas Strip one-deckers where blackjacks pay only 6-5 without the extra favorable rules.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2003
Global Gaming Expo (G2E)

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