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Different strokes December 07, 2010 7:08 AM by Elliot Frome

Those visiting my website recently (www.vpheaven.com) may have noticed it looks a lot prettier than the old version, but lacks quite a bit of substance at the moment.

My son and I have been working on updating it for a while now. He has his own web development company (www.takeitww.com), but since I only pay him in room, board and tuition, I’m not at the top of his priority list.

One of the things he added to the site was a ‘blog’ that I have yet to start writing (but hope to soon). Blogs make me nervous. Basically, anybody can create a blog, so it can be hard to distinguish between the ‘anybodies’ and the experts when reading one.

I came across just such an example this week. I was reading the blog of a financial analyst who covers the gaming industry. Apparently he was at G2E as well and decided to write about a Texas Hold’em-based video game that caught his attention.

To be honest, I didn’t see the game while I was there, so I can’t really comment on it. Numerous companies have tried such games with little success to date.

What I found most interesting about this particular entry was his introduction to his main topic. For some reason, he felt it necessary to take general swipes at what he didn’t like. He started with the slot manufacturers and basically stated that they had little new to show – just the same old slots but themed to something new.

Next he took aim at the table game companies and dismissed everything he saw as games that they had shown in past years (which is not entirely true). In this regard, he made two statements that I found to be “interesting.”

First, he seemed to indicate that none of the table game companies had truly found success, having been unable to dislodge blackjack as the top game. My father and I have worked with literally dozens of game inventors and not a single one ever told us their goal was to knock blackjack off the casino floor!

Place 100 table games into casinos around the world and you probably have a revenue stream of about $100K-$150K per year. That sounds very successful to me.

Blackjack is a straightforward game that many kids learn. All you need to do is count to 21. To the casino – it’s 100 percent free. Just because blackjack may remain the single most popular game does not mean that there are no other successful table games in the casino.

Even more curious was the reason he cited for blackjack’s continuing popularity. He stated that unlike blackjack, no other game is beatable. While there are some card counters who claim they can beat blackjack (and perhaps they can under just the right circumstances), it is more than a little difficult to believe that this is the reason why Three Card Poker can’t catch up to blackjack in the number of tables.

First of all, thanks to some of the newer shufflers, the whole concept of card counting goes out the window. Next, of all the people who play blackjack, how many even know what it means to count cards? I’m guessing only 20 percent (at most!) of blackjack players even know the proper strategy without counting.

Of this 20 percent, only a tiny fraction even knows what it means to card count. A smaller fraction yet, makes any attempt to do so and an even smaller percent actually have any success doing so.

Lastly, having success at card counting does not necessarily mean you overcome the roughly 0.5 percent house advantage that comes with even the most liberal rules. I have no doubt that there are some players who only play blackjack to beat it or that it has one of the smallest house edges. But, for each of these players, at least an equal number see blackjack as downright boring.

The reality is blackjack’s share of the casino floor has been shrinking for years. It is still likely many years off before it won’t account for 50 percent of the total tables, but that day is likely coming.

It may never give up the ranking as the single most popular game, but this will certainly not be because it is beatable. First, it is not so easily beaten, if at all. Second, this is hardly a criterion for being the most popular game in the casino.

As proof, look at the other half of the casino and wonder why video poker has not completely overtaken slots. Video poker, which has numerous varieties that can be beaten, still cedes much floor space to slots paying a pitiful 92 or 93 percent.

While our analyst was singing the praises of this one Texas Hold’em game, should we judge its success by whether or not it some day completely displaces multi-play video poker from the floor? This would not be a proper yardstick in my opinion.

Bottom line: Players are best off when the casinos offer many choices. Hopefully, most will have paybacks that give the player a decent chance to win in the short run, while having some fun.

We’ll continue with our holiday stocking stuffer specials and offer up our six Expert Strategy titles (Three Card Poker, Four Card Poker, Spanish 21, Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud Poker and Mississippi Stud) for just $20. Send a check or money order to Compu-Flyers, P.O. Box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603.

I hope to start my blog as we get into 2011. I promise to not write about the financials of any casino – especially if our financial analyst blogger tries to steer clear of discussing the games on the casino floor.

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