LAS VEGAS, Nev., Dec. 3 (UPI) — Because I write about gambling all the time, people assume I know how to gamble. I know how NOT to gamble. The only games I ever play – except for professional reasons, of course — are poker (for the mental challenge), blackjack (because it’s fun), and the occasional sports bet (because I’m an idiot).
Every time somebody asks me about, say, video poker strategy, my eyes glaze over. But recently I’ve started to branch out into the more exotic table games, since the same old stuff gets boring after a while, and actually I think this is the future of gambling. Unless we constantly find new games to play, casinos will eventually peak and go into a slow decline, no matter how many Indian tribes build new ones — or perhaps in inverse proportion to the number of Indian tribes building new ones. There are only so many ways to dress up a slot machine or change the color of the felt on a craps table. We need some new ways to throw away our money.
Hence, I give you my frankly unscientific guide to the games you can play when you’re sick of blackjack.
“War”: Whose idea was this? This is the same game you played with your little sister when you were 7 years old. Now you can play it in a casino, with the dealer alternating a card for you and a card for the house — high card wins. And, uh, that’s it! When you tie, you “go to war,” but with a ridiculous 17 percent house edge. This game will amuse you for about, oh, five minutes.
“Pai Gow”: This is a great game that, among other things, LOOKS cool. It has these dominos that look like Indiana Jones found them in the Temple of Doom. The only places I ever see it are in California card casinos. All you need to play is to be a 16th-generation Chinese gambler who has read 47 books in Mandarin. That’s why American casinos invented …
“Pai Gow Poker”: This is Pai Gow for dummies. It’s not a bad little Togel Singapore game, especially if you don’t like those rapid-fire dealers at the blackjack table. It’s a leisurely dealt card game, with a lot of conversation at the table, and if you act as the banker as much as possible, you can actually turn the odds in your favor. The casino dealer is supposed to tell you if you screw up and place one of your hands the wrong way, which helps after that third cocktail. Whereas Pai Gow is all Asians, you’ll find Caucasians attempting this, so you get more of a United Nations feeling at the table.
“Let It Ride”: Women love this game, because there’s no bluffing and no strategy and nothing to do except REMOVE YOUR BETS FROM THE TABLE if you get bad cards. It’s sort of like gambling in reverse, where you put up three bets, but you can take back two of them later. I don’t get it. I’ve tried to get it, and I don’t get it. Must be a female thing.
“Caribbean Stud Poker”: Old people love this game because they learned it on cruise ships, where it was invented. It’s basically five-card stud played against the dealer instead of the whole table, but the “pot” comes from a fixed payout schedule. I think people like it because they don’t have to worry about money management, but it’s annoying to me, not least because of the 5.3 percent house edge. Why not just play five-card stud?
“Three Card Poker”: This is probably the fastest-growing new game and comes from England, the veritable homeland of table games. It was originally called “Brit-Brag,” which in my opinion is a much better name. Actually all it is, is Caribbean Stud Lite. Instead of five cards, you use three, and its only virtue is that it MOVES. You can play this game at lightning speed with a minimum of thought.
“Spanish 21”: There are actually two different games with this title. In California, Spanish 21 is a version of blackjack that goes to 22 instead of 21, with no busting. In Las Vegas, it’s blackjack with the “10” cards removed. For a variety of odds reasons, you should play the California version but avoid the Las Vegas version. I like it, because if you get bored with blackjack, it makes you have to really have to rethink basic strategy.
“Red Dog”: I don’t see this one much anymore, because I think everybody got bored with it. But it’s the same game that was played in frontier saloons and to this day is sometimes dealt on the streets by card cheats. The casino deals two cards face up, and then you bet on whether the next card will fall between those cards. (A 5 and an 8 are dealt, for example. You bet that the next card will be a 6 or a 7. If you don’t think it will happen, then you just lose your ante.) As you might imagine, fascination tends to fade pretty rapidly.
“Sic Bo”: The good news is that the table looks cool, the dice ritual is kind of interesting, and there’s absolutely nothing to do because it’s pure luck. The bad news is that one of the bets on the board has a 47 percent house edge. (Is that legal?) Bet on the squares marked “SMALL” and “BIG” and watch the lights light up and you won’t lose too much money. The dealer is likely to be a character as well, since this is one of those games always dealt by showoffs.
“Seven Card Thrill”: The only place I’ve ever seen it is at one table at the Sahara. It’s the most fun and exciting new game of the last 20 years, kind of a combination of Pai Gow and blackjack. And the inventor can’t get it launched anywhere. I’m mentioning it again because I want some ACTION, people. I’m getting BORED.