This series of articles will focus on reviewing gambling games outside of actual casinos and not involving money. About once per month, I’ll pick a specific game or type of gambling games (such as Facebook apps) to review.
If there’s a specific gambling game you like (or, better still, if it totally sucks!) please mention it in the comments or PM it to me and it may become the subject for a review!
One of my favorite gambling games (mostly nostalgia) of all-time is Caesars Palace for the Sega Genesis. This was basically an introduction into any form of gambling that was not poker, video poker or slots, as I wasn’t familiar at all with anything else.
This game was released before I was ten years old, so my gambling knowledge consisted of:
- Playing 500 Rummy against my dad for nickels.
- A pocket video poker game that I really liked which was a gift from a neighbor. (Someone gifted her a duplicate of one she had)
- Being a more-or-less proficient five-card draw poker player (good enough to beat all of my friends and win their money, anyway!)
- A little slot machine we got to spin for pennies in second grade for every A we received.
And...that’s basically it.
I acquired this game as a rental because our local video store had an offer by which you could rent any new release on a Friday for $3.50 and an additional game that was not a new release of your choice for $1. The best part was you didn’t have to bring the games back until Monday, whereas usually they would be due back two days later any other day of the week.
Circa 1995, (this game had been out for awhile by then) it became my additional $1 rental for four or five weeks in a row. Anytime I got bored or frustrated with my primary rental, I’d just pop this bad boy in and relax trying to figure out ways to beat the casino...none of which ever worked or had any mathematical expectation of working. Cut me some slack here, I wasn’t even a teenager!
Eventually, the video store owner offered to just outright sell it to me for $5 since I was the only one who ever rented it anyway.
In theory, the game centers around the Caesars Palace casino located in Las Vegas, Nevada. The reason why I say, “In theory,” is because it really doesn’t matter all that much aside from the cover art and the exterior casino shot in the game sort of resembling Caesars Palace. That aside, there are a few Caesars Palace logos to be found on the archways within the casino.
Nothing else about this game captures the casino experience and the whole entire thing just serves as a mechanism to get the games to the player. I guess it’s better than having a generic, “Select Game,” screen, but if you’re looking to get into the glitz, the eateries or the shows, you’ll be left wanting.
Hammering the point home is the fact that the Japanese version of this game was simply called, “Super Casino,” so any differences to reflect the Caesars Palace branding were simply added on to an otherwise already completed game.
You’ll start off as a male player who’s dressed in business casual (black pants, white dress shirt, tie) and will be given the option to name your character. The name that you choose makes no difference whatsoever. I guess in the Super Nintendo version NPC’s (non-player characters) would have little conversations with you, but nothing they said was useful and those NPC’s do not exist in the Sega version.
Perhaps surprisingly, some people must still play this game as I happened to stumble upon these cheat codes.
Which were last edited in March of 2017, so there are more than zero people playing this one.
The player will start out with $2,000 (unless the player uses a legitimately-earned password at the ATM or one of the cheat code passwords) with the goal being to amass as much money as possible. For whatever reason, you MUST first go to an ATM machine in order to have any money at all. If you really want to stretch it, there are two secondary goals:
1.) To leave the casino in a limo.
- The player can leave the casino anytime he wishes, but the mode of transportation will either be a bus, (if broke or really low on cash) a taxi (moderate amount of cash) or a limousine. To the extent that the game can be, “Beaten,” at all, leaving in the limousine would qualify as beating it.
2.) To be able to play at high-limit tables.
- There are bankroll requirements for being considered a, “High-roller,” and getting to play at the high-limit tables. The games are exactly the same, but with greater table minimums and maximums. I believe the bankroll to sit down is $10,000, or something.
The slot machines are extremely basic and consist only of two single-line machines and one triple line machine.
“Jackpot Jungle” is the game with three lines and only allows the player to bet one coin per line, though max betting is encouraged by way of the fact that three Jackpot Jungle symbols (which are also wild) on a single payline pays more for the second and even more for the third payline. The, “Machine,” itself has some vines on it in keeping with the jungle theme, but aside from that, the theme’s not really relevant.
“Champions,” is a single-line slot machine game that is actually somewhat surprising in that it is technically a variable state game. The way it works is that the, “Champions,” symbol pays off twelve units (based on a three-unit bet) but also advances the, “Round,” indicator. Certain pay combinations increase in value depending on what, “Round,” it is on the game. By early 90’s standards, this would be a fairly unique slot feature.
“Home Run,” is another game with an interesting dynamic...for the time. The way this game works is that multiple credits must be bet for certain pays to even be possible. The third reel consists of Jokers, Double Jackpots, (activated with 2+ credits bet) Triple Jackpots (three credits bet) and Home Runs (three credits bet). Ideally, you want your first two reels to have two matching symbols and then to hit one of the special symbols on the third reel---which consists only of blanks and special symbols.
By today’s standards, the slot machines would be extremely basic and lacking in special features, but I tend to think they were interesting enough for the time...especially since many players of this video game (gambling was not widespread at this time, in terms of legalization) would not have played slots before anyway. I guess if one complaint could be made, it’s that there should be more than just three games.
Slot denominations range from $1.00/credit to $500/credit.
I don’t know why they left lottery tickets in this game when they rebranded it, “Caesars Palace,” as opposed to the Japanese, “Super Casino.” Apparently, nobody at the time noticed that Nevada does not have, and indeed has never had, a state lottery.
Of course, this game was perhaps unintentionally prescient in a few ways when it comes to lottery tickets. For one thing, you bought lottery tickets directly from the ATM Machine which, while that’s not strictly true now, there ARE lottery machines that will dispense tickets in some states, will redeem tickets for credits to buy more tickets AND even some with electronic lottery ticket games that can be played.
The second way this video game might have been unintentionally prophetic is that each lottery ticket costs $100 from the ATM. Okay, I’m not immediately aware of any states that have $100 tickets, but $20 and $30 are certainly not uncommon these days!
“60 Yard Fight,” is a progression lottery ticket by which the player scratches a spot every ten yards, starting at the ten-yard line. As the player progresses, the amounts to be won increase, but so do the number of bombs. Revealing a bomb causes the ticket to lose immediately, including the loss of any monies already earned.
“Match Two,” consists of a 5x5 grid by which the player scratches until matching two like prize amounts or landing on a bomb. Landing on a bomb ends the game immediately.
“Triple Jacks,” is basically three-card poker in which the player tries to scratch off spots in order to beat the dealer’s hand. The dealer, however, will never have a pair (or better) and fixed payouts start at one pair returning $150.
THE CHIP RACK
Before discussing the rest of the games, we have to discuss the chip rack. The way that the player’s chip rack works is that the player will move his, “Hand,” down to the chip rack and select the denomination of chips that he wants. If the player wants to make change, then he will do that by, “Picking up,” a higher denomination chip and moving it to a slot for lower denomination chips. Slots go: $1-$5-$25-$100-$500 (they got that right!) and each slot displays 24 chips. You can have more than 24 of a particular denomination(s), your slot will just appear full until you’re under 24.
If you wish to increase the denomination of your chips or, “Color up,” then you just do the opposite. For example, if you want to turn five $100 chips into one $500 chip, just, “Grab,” a $100 chip and move it to the $500 part of the rack; the game will understand what you want and will remove five $100 chips and add one $500 chip.
This is only occasionally a minor inconvenience if you happen to release the button at the wrong time (such as when attempting to drag up to place a bet) or if you’re not paying attention and do things in the wrong order. More modern games (such as on WizardofOdds and here) will just give the player a set, “Bankroll,” and the player can click and drag what chips he wants, so the player doesn’t have to fuss about making change or coloring up.
THE REST OF THE GAMES
For whatever reason, the Video Poker games use the chip rack feature whereas the slot machine games just insert coins at the appropriate denomination. In terms of betting, the Video Poker games operate the same way as slots, you insert the coins one at a time. When it comes to the slots, however, you don’t use the chip rack...each coin is just the denomination of the game automatically.
I guess they did this with Video Poker because five credits should be bet. Instead of betting five $1 chips, perhaps you can bet a $5 chip...I honestly don’t remember.
It doesn’t matter anyway because, as we all know, video poker machines do not take casino chips and nor did they then, or ever.
The only game is a variation of 9-6 Jacks or Better by which the Royal Flush returns 1000-For-1 with a five coin bet. This makes the overall return of the game 100.067% and is, I assume, not a game that you would actually find at Caesars Palace. Even if you would, my jaw would hit the floor if you told me they had it at the $500 denomination, which is assuming they even had/have any games at that amount!
Of course, I wouldn’t have known the optimal strategy at the time, much less how to figure out if the game operated randomly.
The only annoying thing about the video poker game was the absence of a, “Max Bet,” or, “Repeat Bet,” function. You also could not accumulate credits on the machine. As a result, you had to deal with the animation of putting five coins in every single hand.
Okay, everyone reading knows what Blackjack is, so let’s get to the rules:
Blackjack Pays 3:2 (Even on low limit tables!)
Split Up to Four Total Hands
Hit Split Aces---YES
Double on Anything
The instruction manual says insurance pays 1:1, but it actually pays 2:1 and even says so on the table in the game. Must have been a typo.
I can’t remember whether or not the dealer Hits or Stands on Soft 17, but either way, this game has a slight player advantage. That makes sense considering they made the same true for the Video Poker game.
The only annoying thing about this game is that $500 is the highest chip denomination, even at tables with a maximum bet of $20,000. If you wanted to bet the max, then you would have to hit the button forty times! It’s not even like you could do it quickly, as there’s a short animation of placing the chip every time.
There’s also no, “Repeat bet,” function, so you’d be doing this every single time.
This is just standard double-zero, “American,” roulette.
Perhaps the only annoying thing about the Roulette game is that it’s very easy to place an, “Inside bet,” in an unintended spot because of how much of the screen the, “Hand,” takes up. If you’re not planning to make those kinds of bets, then the game is perfectly fine.
One area that’s potentially lacking is that you don’t get to see the chips get paid off as you do with Craps or Blackjack, the winnings just immediately go to your chip rack after you hit a button to indicate you’ve seen the wheel result.
The funny thing about the Craps game is that it actually sucks compared to what was probably the case in Caesars Palace Las Vegas at the time. The reason why is that you can only make a 2x Odds bet.
In some ways, it’s awesome. The ANY SEVEN bet pays 5-TO-1, and therefore, has no house edge. ANY CRAPS pays 8 TO 1 and has no house edge.
The 2 & 12 bets pay 31 TO 1 and have a House Edge of 11.11% while 3 & 11 pay 16 TO 1 for a house edge of 5.56%. The FIELD BET also shares the worst house edge on the table because it does not double or triple anything---all pays are even money!!!
So, whoever designed these payouts quite probably had never been to a Craps Table before, but at least we got a few 0% House Edge bets in this video game out of it. I’m actually kind of surprised whoever designed these even knows there’s an odds bet.
….Until you actually PLAY the Craps game, then you’ll notice that the instruction manual (once again) is wrong. All bets have a house edge. The payouts listed in the manual are not what you will find in the game.
The Keno game is representative of a Live Keno game, so the player can visit the Keno desk, purchase his ticket, choose the numbers and can go off to do other things whilst awaiting the results.
Here are the House Edges:
1 Spot: 25%
2 Spots: ~28%
3 Spots: ~28%
4 Spots: ~30.5%
5 Spots: ~31.5%
6 Spots: ~31.9%
7 Spots: ~33.6%
8 Spots: ~29.7%
9 Spots: ~32.5%
10 Spots: ~32.6%
I guess the lesson is that you probably shouldn’t play Live Keno, and even less so at both Caesars Palace and the video game version of Caesars Palace. Jesus. You’d think they could give the video game version a reasonable return-to-player.
I really feel like an idiot now. Then again, I wasn’t even a teenager.
Video Horse Racing
The game calls it, “Video Horse Racing,” but I think it’s really meant to represent simulcast wagering. In either case, this game allows for Win, Place, Show, Quinella and Trifecta bets. All else being equal, the instruction manual basically says the casino’s hold is 15%.
Anyway, you can look at stats and try to make informed decisions about which horse(s) to pick. I have no idea whether or not the results are actually randomized to correspond to the stated odds. The max bet is $9,999.
The only annoying thing about the Horse Racing is that you would think you could play anytime, but that’s not true. If you see a race going on the video screen, then that means that the race (apparently this is one-track simulcast) is in progress and you will not be allowed to access the terminals.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SEGA AND SNES VERSIONS
I actually rented the Super NIntendo (SNES) version of this from a different video store to see how much different it was...but that being well over 20 years ago; I’d be lying not to say that I’m mostly relying on online information and this Youtube video:
- The SNES version has the table game Red Dog, which is not in the Genesis version of the game. I don’t know why the Sega version (which I believe was the second to be released) took that game out, but they did.
- The SNES version has dealers standing at each table game whereas the Genesis version just shows the tables. For whatever reason, the SNES version only has one dealer at the Craps tables, no supervisor and no stickman.
- As mentioned before, the SNES version has a few NPCs (non-player characters) that the player can interact with. Some of them will offer advice. In the video, one player said that a particular lottery ticket returns over 100% in the long-run (which could possibly be true, since this is a video game) while another player (incorrectly) says the best Blackjack strategy is to, “Assume a dealer ten.”
- The player can take easy advantage of the fact that the game can be saved anytime and the instruction manual all but tells the player to take advantage of that. If you want to increase your bankroll quickly, then just bet everything you have on whatever you want and save after every win. I bet players wish they could do that in real life!
- The game will actually admonish you (via in-game message) if you go too long without playing anything. That’s even more brazen than an actual casino!
- Somehow security (in the game) knows your balance at all times. It has to, otherwise it wouldn’t know when to allow you into the high-limit room or refuse you access. Could you imagine an actual casino security guard coming up to you and saying, “Sir, we’re sorry, but you don’t look like you have much money. Therefore, we cannot permit you to walk into the high-limit room.”?
Overall, this game was a pretty good mechanism at the time for putting a variety of casino games all in one place for people to enjoy. Nowadays, you could play even better versions of these games (and more) right on this website, at Wizardofodds.com, or any other number of websites or apps, but this was really good in the context of the early to mid nineties.
The games themselves hold up and are reasonably smooth, with the exception of inside bets on Roulette which can be a bit of a pain to make. Additionally, having to load one coin at a time (and only enough for one spin/hand) on video poker and slot machines can be annoying. Equally annoying is the absence of a, “Repeat bet,” function on anything. If I’m being charitable, I guess I could suggest that they wanted the experience of playing the game to be as authentic as possible, but in reality, I’m guessing that they just didn’t think of having that function or the ability to accumulate credits on slots/video poker.
The game really could have had a bit more to it than just the casino games like dining, shows, hotel rooms, hosts, comps, etc...that would have at least given it a little depth and maybe made it more akin to a total Vegas-experience. Of course, the originally completed version of the game was just a generic casino...so it would have perhaps made more sense prior to the Caesars Palace branding.
Either way, it offered a lot of games in one place and created a mechanism by which bankroll was at least a little bit important, as opposed to the handheld games which would just automatically replenish you to the starting amount when you hit $0.
The game wouldn’t hold up by today’s standards, unless you REALLY want to play casino games with questionable graphical quality on your TV. Even then, there are more recent releases for console video games.
Context will always be king and in the context of 1993-1999, I rate the game an 8 out of 10.
If this game were released today, then I might rate it a 2 out of 10, so I wouldn’t be in a hurry to go out and buy yourself a copy unless you’re a collector or want to do it for the nostalgia factor. However, if you do want to buy it, it’s actually fairly easy to find copies online from various sites.
The only real areas for improvement would be to allow the Video Poker/Slots to accumulate a credit balance, to allow the players to make a horse racing wager at any time (I think they were going for realism, but even then, you can place a bet on a future race whilst a current race is happening) and to have some sort of, “Repeat bet,” function for faster betting of large amounts at table games. I’m not going to dock any points for there being nothing to do in the casino besides play gambling games because the original game as-designed did not tie into Caesars Palace or any casino specifically.
Either way, it was a solid game for the time period and a great way to be introduced to new casino games if you’re a ten year-old kid from the Midwest.