Introducing a new table game to the public isn't as simple as hitting on a concept that's fun to play, gives the house a reasonable edge and convincing a casino to try it. There's a seemingly endless series of hoops a game developer must jump through.
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That's something Jason Kobal knows all about with his Casino Over Under, newly licensed in Washington state after initial licensing in Mississippi.
To get to the point of licensing, game developers must ask themselves if the game is easy for players to understand? Is there enough player involvement to keep it interesting? Is it easy to deal rapidly and mistake-free? Is the layout clean and uncluttered so as not to be confusing? Is the math rock solid, preferably done by someone with an established reputation in evaluating casino games and their house edges?
After that comes the big hoops of licensing before state gaming boards, convincing a casino to host a field trial and finally, selling the game.
Casino Over Under definitely falls in the easy to play, understand and deal category. It's a three-card game, with card values the same as in blackjack except that Aces are always 11.
As in many table games, play starts with an ante. You then receive one card face up.
Then it's decision time. If you think two more cards will lead to a total of over 23, then you may stay by placing a bet equal to your ante in the over field. If you think the total will be under 18, then you can place the bet in the under field. You also have the option of folding, and losing your ante.
The dealer then flips two more cards face up. If you've bet over, you win even money on both ante and bet if your total is 24 or higher. If you've bet under, you win even money on ante and bet if your total is17 or lower. If the total is 18-23, the house wins.
There's also an optional Bonus bet that pays off on certain hands, regardless of whether your main bet wins or loses. It pays even money on 12 or 27, 2-1 on 11 or 28, 3-1 on 10 or 29, 4-1 on 9 or 30, 5-1 on 8 or 31, 10-1 on 7 or 32 or 50-1 on 6 or 33. The house wins on totals of 13-26.
Michael Shackelford has an analysis at wizardofodds.com. The house edge is 2.1 percent of the ante or 1.05 percent of total action. The best strategy is to bet on under if your first card is 5 or lower, and bet on over with 6 or higher. Never fold.
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On the Bonus bet, the house edge varies with the number of decks -- from 2.38 percent with four decks to 1.96 percent with eight decks.
It's been a long road to licensing. Kobal said he had the idea in 1995, then in 2004 had he late Amherst University math professor and gambling expert Don Catlin do the mathematical analysis.
After Eliot Jacobsen, in his outstanding AP Heat blog for advantage players, found Casino Over Under was vulnerable to card counting, Kobal had analysis relative to counting done by Joe Shipman. Then, for licensing, he needed yet another analysis by the gaming laboratory GLI.
The last field trial was halted after the Jacobsen blog — host casino Magnolia Bluffs didn't have continuous shufflers to prevent advantage play.
Now, with licenses in two states, Kobal has hopes rising that the public will get a chance to play his easy, engaging, fun game.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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