Monday, January 16, 2006

Two New Games

I enjoy the games that I deal in the casino, although every game can be tedious at some point. Dealing dice is fun if you're not getting stroked by a bunch of stiffs (set it up, press it, take it down, repeat...), and pai gow and blackjack are fun if you're dealing to people who aren't playing like their mortgage depends on the outcome of every hand. I also deal a couple of 'carnival' games, Let It Ride and Crazy 4 Poker. And one of these days very soon I'll need to pick up Deuces Wild and 3-Card Poker, both of which I've managed to escape having to deal thus far.

The only games I have no desire to learn are Baccarat and Roulette. Roulette dealers love to be on that game, and are highly disappointed when they go for a few days away from the wheel. I just don't see the appeal, except that the table is always full of hot women players. But I don't know anyone that likes dealing mini-bacc, or even big-bacc (sidebar: I'm starting a grassroots movement to change it's unofficial name to maxi-bacc, but nobody has hopped on that bandwagon just yet). I took a couple of hours of training for mini-bacc and hated it, and luckily nobody has insisted that I follow up--I think they're just happy that I can deal dice along with pai gow and 21.

Anyways, there are a couple of new games finding their way onto the casino floor--one a totally new game and another is just a variation of an old one.

I'll start with the variation of the old one. It's called Emperor's Challenge Pai Gow, and my casino is the first one in Vegas to get it--it's been here about three weeks now, but I don't know if anyone else offers it yet.

Basically, it's just a regular pai gow game, with two different rules. First of all, there is no 'Envy' bonus on the Fortune bet. If somebody else at the table gets a four-of-a-kind or better, you're out of luck as far as getting paid a little extra for having a $5 Fortune bet. Instead, they call it Pai Gow Insurance--meaning that if your Fortune bet is $5 or more and you get a jack-high pai gow or less, you get a bonus. Jack-high pays 2-1, Ten-high pays either 5-1 or 3-1 (I've forgotten, and can't find my handout), but a Nine-high pai gow (the worst possible hand) pays 40-1. Unfortunately, the hard-core players hate this rule, because most of them prefer to play on a full table hoping to cash in on big hands. I don't particularly care for this variation because it just seems like an afterthought, like whoever came up with the game needed something else to set it apart from regular pai gow. Unfortunately, they've taken away a favorite bet from a lot of players in doing so.

The Envy Bonus is gone, however, the Fortune Bonus is still there in it's regular form, paying 2-1 for straights, 3-1 for three of a kind, etc.

Now the big new rule in this game is the Emperors Challenge. Basically, it's a way to play for a complete win or loss, instead of a tie which are so common in the game of pai gow. In order to play it, every player gets a puck--one side says "Pushes Allowed" and the other side says "Emperors Challenge". They are free to flip it to whichever side they choose before the cards are dealt. If they choose to go with the pushes allowed side, it's just a regular game for them. However if they choose to play the challenge, they'll either win or lose the hand, with no chance for a tie.

What happens is that there is a black and white Yin & Yang symbol on the table next to the dealer. Once all of the cards are dealt out (7 hands at 7 cards per--49 cards in play) there is a 4-card 'stub' leftover (52 cards plus the joker makes 53. 53 minus the 49 in play leaves four). With those four cards, two go on the black side of the symbol, two go on the white side of the symbol, all of them face down of course. The hand is played out regularly, while the players who have tie hands and have chosen the challenge have their cards left face up on the layout until the end of the hand and all other losses have been collected or wins paid out.

Once that is completed, out of all the players whose cards are still faceup on the layout, whichever one has the highest two-card hand gets a glass dice shaker. Inside, there is a specialty die--three sides white, three sides black. The shaker has a cover on it, so the player shakes it, then slams it down on the table. The dealer removes the cover to see what color comes up. If it die turns up black, the players get the two cards from the black side of the symbol, the dealer gets the white, and vice-versa. The four cards are turned over, and whichever ones make the highest two-card poker hand, that color wins. Simple as that. If the dice land on white, and the 2 cards on the white part of the symbol win, all of the players that originally tied have their hands paid off as if they won. If the dealer's cards are higher, all the tie bets lose. There is no house advantage to this except for the fact that matched cards go to the house, just like the original game, and the fact that there are more win/loss decisions, which of course over time favors the house and it's 5% edge on winning wagers.

A couple of my regular pai gow players who are in every week say they hate the game, but the table is always full. I think it has more to do with not having an envy bonus, but one lady said that she lost six challenges in a row and won't play it anymore. (Again, you can still play it 'regular way') But whenever people come to my table that I've seen playing it earlier, I ask them what their thoughts are. It's about 50/50, and I'm sure that the casino loves it because it's got to be a bigger moneymaker than regular pai gow.

I don't know if or when other casinos will get this game, or even if this is just a test run--I'm not privvy to that info, and if I were, I likely wouldn't be able to tell you anyways. But if you see it out there, don't be intimidated--it's still an easy game.

The next game made it's debut last Friday night all over the city. Bellagio has two tables, Wynn has one, Sam's Town has one, and we have one. There may be more of them out there, but that's all I know of. Anyhow, the official name is World Poker Tour All In Hold Em.

It's a derivative of Texas Holdem, with some serious modifications. It's just you against the dealer, so it doesn't matter what other people do or have in their hands--they can't beat you, only the dealer can.

The game starts with a blind ante of $3 to $25. Everyone then gets two cards. Based on the strength of those two cards, you can either 1) Fold, and lose your ante 2) Bet 5x your ante or 3) Bet 10x your ante. There are also two side bets available--the first one paying on the strength of your first two cards (suited pays even money, and it goes up to red aces paying something like 50-1), and the second side bet paying out on the strength of your 'made' hand, payouts start with straights, I believe.

Anyhow, for the dealer to 'qualify', his first two cards have to add up to at least 13 (Aces are always 11). If he's got between 13-17, he folds to the 10x bets, paying their ante's only, the 10x wagers are a push. If he's got 18 or more, he 'calls all raises'. A card is burned, then comes a three-card flop. No other betting action happens, but the dealer calls out potential hands like in 7-card stud. Another card is burned for the 'turn', then another burn and turn for the 'river'.

If you beat the dealers hand, you win even money on your ante and your 5x or 10x bet. If you've made a big hand, you'll also get paid on your final hand bonus. It's a simple game, and very simple if you've played poker before. Of course, the turn and the river can screw you just as badly as in real poker, and at either 5x or 10x your ante, it can get expensive in a hurry. At a $3 minimum you're risking either $18 or $33 per hand, plus the side bets.

I haven't had a chance to deal this game live yet, but from what I can see, it's very popular so far. However, I heard that on our first night we were just giving money away at that table. If that's the case, it won't be around long. I'm kind of curious to see a live game, so I'm hoping to get some time on the table.

In the meantime, I'll be found behind a blackjack, dice, or pai gow table cracking jokes and hustling tokes.

And on a positive note, our new uniforms came in and we start wearing them tonight. So instead of dressing like a gay genie, I'll be dressing like a gay bowler. I'm just glad they didn't go with the Brokeback Mountain western theme.

How 'bout them cowboys!


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