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Best of John Grochowski
Game-maker Rolls Out Monopoly, Yahtzee9 February 2000
LAS VEGAS At the annual World Gaming Congress and Expo, the biggest, brightest, flashiest booths in all the prime spaces belong to the major slot machine manufacturers.
Searching out new table games involves a trek up and down the aisles, past hundreds of purveyors of casino furniture, bingo cards and surveillance systems. Most new table games are developed by individuals or small companies, and when they show their games at the expo, many are hoping to interest a larger company in licensing their product.
So when one of the gaming industry's big names introduces new table games, it's something of an event. Mikohn, long an industry giant in designing bright, lighted displays for both casino interiors and exteriors, started to move into table games last year when it acquired Progressive Games.
With that purchase came the rights to Caribbean Stud and Caribbean Draw Poker, along with the progressive system that allows players to compete for a big jackpot on a $1 side bet. Recent additions to the table lineup are the deuces-wild game Wild Aruba Stud and the three-card game Tre Stud Poker.
Mikohn has taken a hint from the popularity of slot machines such as Wheel of Fortune, Bingo and Monopoly. Its big splash at the World Gaming Congress came from two additions based on popular home games - Monopoly Poker and Yahtzee.
Both are easy to play and have eye-catching table layouts. You'll never mistake that white-on-red Monopoly logo, complete with Mr. Monopoly (the former Rich Uncle Pennybags), for anything else. And the big yellow Yahtzee trademark looks terrific on the table felt.
Both share a problem that's common with new table games: The house edges are a little too high. In Monopoly, the house edge on the basic game is 4.32 percent. Yahtzee has many betting options, but all but three wagers carry house edges in excess of 6 percent. Those edges are enough to raise an eyebrow when compared with the 1.41 percent house edge on the pass line in craps, or 2.5 percent against an average player and 0.5 percent against a basic strategy player in blackjack.
Monopoly uses a special deck of cards with familiar Monopoly properties and color groups, along with wild cards, token cards, house cards and hotel cards. Each player is dealt four cards, and a fifth card is shared by all.
Payoffs depend on the combinations in your cards. One color group with a wild card pays even money, two railroads pay 2-1, two utilities 3-1, one natural color group 6-1, two color groups 12-1, three railroads 20-1, four railroads 100-1 and two natural color groups 125-1.
There's also a $1 side bet on a progressive jackpot, with payoffs ranging from $20 for any three wild cards to 100 percent of the progressive meter for all five cards in the dark blue - that's Boardwalk and Park Place, to novices - and green color groups.
In Yahtzee, players wager on whether a set of five mechanical dice roll winning combinations from the popular home game. Just as in the home game, dice roll up to three times. Players may wager either on the next-roll combination or on the final three-roll outcome.
One problem is that players have no control over their own destiny. They do not roll the dice - the mechanical dice are controlled by a random number generator, just as in a slot machine. Not only that, but the players have no say in which dice are rerolled. Casinos choose from two "house ways" of rolling the dice. In one version, if the first roll is two pair, only the higher pair is held and the other three dice are rerolled. In the other version, both pairs are held and one die is rerolled, hoping for a full house.
The house edges are higher if both pairs are held. Two pair is not a winning combination, so rerolling three dice leaves open more winning possibilities. Sharp players - and just about anyone who has played Yahtzee at home - will pick up on that.
The Yahtzee slot machines designed by Mikohn and manufactured by Sigma actually allow more player choice. On the slots, when the player hits the "Play Yahtzee" symbol that launches the bonus round, the player may choose which dice are rerolled.
When Yahtzee and Monopoly make their way into the casinos, they'll draw a great deal of immediate attention. But will customers risk U.S. currency instead of Monopoly money as they build color groups? Will table players accept slot-like mechanical dice with a random number generator? Will customers be put off when they find their bankrolls decreasing a little more quickly than on more established table games?
Answers to those questions will determine whether these games will hold a place on the casino floor.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski