Report from G2E 2009, part 3

29 December 2009

As long as there has been double-zero roulette, the math has been the same. Whether you're betting on single numbers, the 18-number red or black combinations or anything in between, the house has a 5.26% edge. The single exception is the five-number bet on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3, where the house edge soars to 7.89%.

So I was intrigued when I walked up to the Casino Gaming LLC booth at the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center. There, proprietor Frank Mugnolo was touting his new Colors bet. You can wager on either red or black, and you win if your color turns up three times in a row.

If your color turns up once, a plastic marker with a number 1 is placed on top of your wager. Two in a row, and your bet gets a "2" marker. And if your color comes in for the third time, you're paid at 8-1 odds.

The house edge: 4.34%, lowest on a double-zero game.

That's still a substantial house advantage, higher than that at many table games, but anything that knocks a little off that roulette edge is welcome. And the likelihood is that players making the Colors wager would also continue making other bets, giving the house the incentive of a little extra action.

Casino Gaming LLC also showed a new craps proposition, Point Seven. If a point is established on the come-out and the shooter sevens out on the next roll, the Point Seven bet is paid at 7-1 odds. It's an 11.1% house edge, in line with other craps propositions that spot the house too much for my taste. I'd stick to pass and come with odds, or place bets on 6 or 8, but those who like the high-risk propositions and who are frustrated with point-seven sequences might be drawn to this option.

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One of my favorite stops each year at G2E is Gaming Entertainment Inc., for a visit with game designer Joe Awada. He has a knack for creating interesting games with house edges that are reasonable for both player and casino. This year, he showed the new Top Play Poker along with newly tweaked versions of 3 Way Action and Double Draw Blackjack.

Top Play has a novel twist. Two two-card hands are dealt face up, and the higher-ranking hand goes to the players. Players and dealer then each get five cards face down. You can use three of your cards to go with the two face-up cards to make your best five-card poker hand in attempt to beat the dealer.

If players always start with the better two-card hand, why does the house have a 2.97% edge? Because the dealer may use any five of his seven cards, while players must include the two face up cards in their final hand. The dealer has more combinations to choose from.

Last year Gaming Entertainment Incorporated introduced a Double Draw Blackjack side bet that Awada said gave players a 0.25% edge when used properly. Awada's hope was that casinos would add the side bet to increase action on their regular blackjack games.

This time around, GEI tweaked the rules. In Double Draw, the player may wager an amount equal to the original bet anytime the dealer's face-up card is a 2 through 6. Making the wager also brings a free draw. If you have 16 and the dealer has a 6, and you make the side bet, you get to see another card. If it improves your hand, great. If it busts you, you don't bust — the card is just discarded.

In its original version, you'd get the no-risk draw even if you had 17 on up through 20. With a 20, you'd have a free shot at drawing an ace to give you 21, and if you missed, you'd still have a 20. That's been scaled back. Now you get the free draw only when you have 12 through 16. If you have less than 12, you still get a regular draw before the free draw comes into play — if you hit 8, draw a 7 for 15, you then get the free draw.

Awada says the tweak brings it back to an even bet. The house makes money if Double Draw increases action on the regular game.

The original version of 3 Way Action combined a one-card showdown, blackjack and seven-card stud. The first bet would be settled on whether you or the dealer had a higher first card. That would then be used as the starting point for a game of blackjack. After blackjack bets were settled, enough cards would be dealt out to complete a hand of seven-card stud.

The new version replaces the seven-card stud round with a three-card bonus poker hand, much like the Pair Plus portion of Three Card Poker. It also permits you to split pairs on the blackjack round — the original version prohibited pair splitting. Awada says the house edge averages around 2.9%, although that can vary both with the skill of the blackjack player and with the three-card pay table used by the casino.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2009

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