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The Essentials of Casino Game Design: From the Cocktail Napkin to the Casino Floor Paperback – October 11, 2016
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About the Author
From there, he became the in-house designer of table games for Galaxy Gaming, developing Three Card Prime, Heads Up Hold 'em, Three Card Double Play, Four Card Frenzy, and Cajun Stud, among others. His most successful table game has been the highly popular EZ Pai Gow. He lives in Las Vegas.
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Book Review: The Essentials of Casino Game Design: From the Cocktail Napkin to the Casino Floor
November 20, 2016 at 9:54 am
By David Schwartz
Steve Wynn famously said that the only way to make money in a casino is to own one. That kind of capital outlay is beyond the reach of most of us, but still, the idea of making money in a casino is alluring. Outside of working in one (and most of us know how unglamorous that can be), owning a piece of the action by having a proprietary table game in the pits seems like the best way for an average Joe (or Jane) to get a piece of the action. With tens of thousands of dealers and millions of players in the U.S. alone, there is no shortage of human capital for table game innovation.
So plenty of people have an idea for a new casino table game. Many games make it through the development process. Some get field trials. But few are truly successful, with an install base generating thousands of dollars a month. In his new book, former dealer, game inventor, and current Lubin-Jones LLC CEO Dan Lubin provides a clear path for game developers to follow. If it doesn’t get your game on the floor, it won’t be through lack of planning.
Still, it is not an easy path. Early on, Lubin makes the excellent point that just over 900 proprietary games have been approved by Nevada and installed for play, far fewer than the 4,000 people who have climbed Mt. Everest. Further, he says that only 200 designers have actually gotten enough installs to actually profit from their game. While a truly successful game can bring its creator more than $1 million over its life, that is a real long shot. Still, like Everest, the challenge is there, which makes it worth pursuing. That’s where Lubin’s book comes in.
Lubin, who invented EZ Pai Gow while dealing at Sunset Station, provides in his book a step-by-step guide to taking a game, as he says, from a vague idea to an installation. He first identifies the most important part of a new game, the “humdinger” or element that adds legitimate value to the player and describes how a prospective designer should put together an initial game kit. Also important to a successful game is the “Poker-Eye Effect,” or how well the game’s immediately obvious strategy matches up to the correct optimal strategy. “Easy to play,” he says, “should mean easy to play right.”
He also weighs the pros and cons of pushing a side bet to an existing non-proprietary game rather than developing an entirely new game and incorporating a side bet into your own new game. All developers, though, will find the final seven chapters intensely useful. They walk the developer through game protection principles, hiring and correctly using an independent mathematician, the technical writings, artwork, and demos needed, intellectual property, presenting at the Cutting Edge Table Games Conference, issues that come with success, and the challenges of turning pro.
I can strongly recommend The Essentials of Casino Game Design to three groups. The first, for whom it is absolutely essential, is prospective casino game designers. Look at it this way: you are going to invest tens of thousands of dollars before your game makes it to a casino floor. You may spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars just to find out that your game idea has already been done. In that light, spending less than $40 on a book that can save you countless hours and guide you to making a better game is a total no-brainer. Mr. Lubin could probably charge hundreds of dollars an hour as a consultant to new game developers; with this book, you are getting him at a tremendous discount. For example: his list of good independent math experts alone will save game designers a ton of time.
The second group is table games executives and dealers, who are in a position of approving and dealing new games. Lubin’s book will give them more insight into what developers should and shouldn’t be pitching them, and at the very least will help them ask better questions of designers. Dealers will get something out of learning about the game approval process and may be inspired to consider developing their own games. At the very least, a good reading of the book will make for a more knowledgeable and more engaged management and dealer team.
The third group is the idly curious, who just want to know more about what goes into developing a successful casino table game.