We’re all familiar with a few of the bigger names in table game design, after all, some of them have posted here and a couple are still members.
The story is basically the same as that of Roger Snow, who is probably the most well-known designer of Table Games, founder of then ShuffleMaster, and the inventor of Let it Ride, which he actually used as a mechanism to market his shuffling machine.
Derek Webb is the inventor of Three-Card Poker, which is the most successful proprietary game in history, though Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em might make a run at that title one day. Pai-Gow Poker might have otherwise been most successful, except its inventor failed to patent it and lost out on a ton of money as the popularity of that game exploded.
Many tremendously successful game designers, such as the late Dan Lubin, have written literal books (his was excellent) on the subject.
What we don’t hear enough are stories from the other side of table game design. Stories about folks who invest a lot of money, and probably even more time value, just to strike out.
Today we will be talking to Dave Miller, perhaps better known as DJTeddyBear on these very forums, to discuss what the process might look like for Table Games that don’t make it.
One goal that inventors often have is getting picked up by a major distributor, but as we will see, you still need that distributor to actually be pushing your game for it to have any real shot.
Brandon James: I’m here with Dave Miller today, and he has designed a few table games, one of which was picked up by a distributor, but none of them actually made it into casinos. I’d like to thank him for taking the time to tell us his story today, so let’s get into how the other side of the stories you typically hear goes.
After you became a member on WizardofVegas, you started following the game design threads. Dan Lubin had mentioned that he created the game simple Pai Gow, which eliminates the commission on player wins. The only thing that the game does to compensate for the effect of removing this commission is creating a new condition for a push that changes the house edge.
Prior to seeing that thread, had you considered designing games at all? Or, was it that thread and Dan Lubin that inspired you to give it a try?
Dave: In the back of my mind, I thought it was a stupid idea. But, where does a regular guy go with a stupid idea? When Dan posted that he invented a game, he seemed like just a regular guy who was not part of some corporate think tank.
When I saw the story of his success, I started thinking, ‘Well, I could do this,’ and I started pumping him for information.
The idea I had was nothing spectacular, it just happened to come full circle this week (in October) was a game called, “Go for the Green,” it’s a game by which if multiple greens hit on Roulette, then there will be a prize. Just this week it’s a thread about a game with the same idea.
Brandon: Right, and Go for the Green would be a good add-on, right? Could a casino not optionally have a Roulette Table where it doesn’t even get treated as a side bet? Like, you could just have a table that implements it for free, with special pays on consecutive greens that might reduce the house edge a little bit, but not eliminate it.
Dave: Yeah, but once you do anything unusual with consecutive results, or anything like that, it’s going to be a different house edge and they will want to make it a side bet. The side bet is going to have a higher house edge.
I’m going to go ahead and just say it, it’s only meant to be a sucker bet.
Brandon: Right, I mean, it is what it is, but the players love them. If the players didn’t love them, then you wouldn’t have 27 different side bets for Blackjack in one casino.
Dave: (Chuckles) Right. So, I was playing around with, ‘Go for the Green,’ and even did some artwork. Nothing major, but I did some artwork on the game because that’s what I do in my regular life--work on computers and do graphic design.
The more I heard about the concept, I thought, ‘This is a stupid idea, why am I limiting it to just greens? The reason why is because it helped with the naming and using a four-leaf clover kind of graphic, and thought, ‘This is stupid.’’
So, I decided to modify that and just create a side bet whereby any number can come up consecutively and the player starts winning.
That’s what I started talking to Dan about. Dan helped me out with the process of getting a patent, and all of that jazz, and talked me through those initial steps.
I mean, the very first step at that time was for the low, low price of $100 and change, $110 dollars, something like that---you could submit an idea to the patent office and they will say, “Okay, this is an idea. You now have a year to do a formal patent application, but it’s protected for a year to give you time to submit a patent.”
Well, I could afford $100. I’ve obviously gambled more than that.
Brandon: (Chuckling) Right, I like that idea. We’ll get more into that game later, but I do like the idea more than, ‘Go for the Green.’
I liked the idea of, ‘Go for the Green,’ though. It has a great name. The name says what it is. The name even kind of explains the rules of how you win.
For me, I’d just look at that side bet and ask myself, ‘Well, why couldn’t I just bet 0 and 00 and then press my bet when I win if I wanted to?’
If this had a higher house edge I’d ask myself, ‘Why do I even want to do this? It’s easy to figure out that just betting the zeroes straight up has a lower house edge than this side bet.
I love the name, though. That’s great.
Dave: Yeah, when I transitioned to, ‘Hit it Again,’ that was the exact objection that I got.
First of all, that it was a higher house edge than the game of Roulette. The second one being that the players would be better off to press their bet after the first and second hit.
My counter-argument was that it would pay off for the players after the third and fourth hits. If it hits four times in a row, you can’t win that much otherwise, because your bet would normally exceed table limits for that to happen.
I stupidly thought that it would appeal to the casino because you’d get publicity shots with the top winners for advertising and all of that. I was told, “No, casinos mainly just don’t like parting with a lot of money all at once, regardless of what the math says.”
Brandon: That’s definitely sometimes true. You can see it demonstrated not just in terms of, like, the highest limits in the Table Games venue, but also slots and video poker.
You can go into a decent size casino, if you want to play $5 Ultimate X, for example Rivers Pittsburgh, you’re going to play single-line, because that’s all they are comfortable with, apparently.
Dave: Yeah. They’re risk-averse.
Brandon: They want the only real gambling to be happening on one side of the table, not both.
Dave: Yeah, right. I get it. It’s a business; that’s fine, but still, what business are you in?
Brandon: (Laughing) So, you announced, ‘Hit it Again,’ which was a modified version of, ‘Go for the Green.’
One thing Dan Lubin always emphasized is that a dealer needs to be able to explain the general rules of the game to the player and he has about thirty seconds to do it.
Dave: The dealer has less time than that.
Brandon: Less time? I’m feeling generous, so I’m going to give you more time than that; I’m going to give you an exceptionally nice player who is exceptionally kind and wants to listen, so you get the full thirty seconds. What is Hit it Again?
Dave: You just put a bet down that the most recent result will repeat on the next few spins. If it does, then you can have it repeat anywhere from one to four times. If it goes four times, then you will win a jackpot; it could be a progressive jackpot, but the game starts paying with the first repeat.
The other problem is how often do you see the same number four or five times in a row? The answer most people would give is, ‘Never,’ because it’s so rare, but if you ask a croupier, he’ll say that it happens every now and again. Maybe once or twice a year.
Brandon: (Laughing) They’re not going to do a very good job selling me if they tell me that the top prize will only hit once per year. I wouldn’t encourage lying to players, but they got to sell it a little stronger than that, right?
Dave: Yes. Maybe they’ll say it hits once a month. Still, I don’t think that’s very encouraging to a player---which was the answer I got.
Dan was telling me about all the patent stuff that cost $110, I got my postcard back which is how you know that everything went through. Anyway, I’m down in Vegas at a convention because I used to be a DJ and a wedding reverend.
I’m there for other reasons, but Dan picked me up at the airport, took me to the hotel, took me down to Hash House down Sahara for a meeting with Mike for the Wizard coffee. Dan brought me back to a games distributor. I don’t remember the name, but they’re no longer in business.
The distributor told me, “Yeah, you’ve got an original idea here.” But, for all the reasons that I told you, they said it wasn’t really a great idea.
Dan also introduced me to a lawyer, Rich Newman, I went to Rich Newman and told him the whole thing, and he told me the same thing, “It’s interesting, but I don’t know if it’s patentable.” He impressed me--because this is a guy who would be making money off of me to sell me his patent services and instead he is talking himself out of a job.
I took his advice as being good advice--that it was not a good idea, so I let it go.
Brandon: I don’t know that it was a BAD idea, I think that, for me, were I a casino executive or a Table Games Manager and I wanted to do an interesting promo for example--the idea for the base game for, ‘Hit it Again,’ or, ‘Go for the Green,’ I would almost use it like a promo.
Something like, “Play Roulette between eight and midnight and, if this number hits three times in a row and you were betting on it the first time it hit, you’re going to get a bonus pay of x amount of dollars after the third hit.”
Then you just make it some amount that attracts players to the table, but does not put the overall proposition in the players’ favor.
Dave: That’s an interesting idea.
Brandon: Yeah, because the whole thing is still predicated on the same number coming up more than one time.
Rich Newman talked himself out of a job, but after that you came up with Poker for Roulette, had you been working on that, or was it only after Rich didn’t like the other idea?
Dave: It was actually on the flight home after that trip. Everyone I talked to said, “You’ve got an idea, just not the right idea. Go back to the drawing board and think of something and come back with it.”
On the flight home it occurred to me that it had to be something more exciting, something that a player could look at and be confused by the House Edge.
The big problem with Hit it Again is that you could do better just pressing unless the number hit all four times. The game had no real perceived benefit to the player.
I started figuring out with a piece of paper and a pencil and I started figuring out Poker for Roulette. I was excited to get home and start playing around with it on Excel.
Two months later, I had all of my math done (but not verified). I’m not the best at math, but Roulette isn’t exactly tricky. Another $110 for the provisional patent. After that, I announced it on Wizard of Vegas and put up a website for the game; November, 2010.
Brandon: It’s time to put your bowtie back on and become the croupier again, please explain Poker for Roulette in thirty seconds.
Dave: You’re making a bet that the next five spins make some kind of combination that resembles a poker hand. Have you ever gone up to the Roulette table and saw the display that shows some repeaters, or three of the same numbers?
Dave: Well, that’s it. Anytime you can go up to the display and the last five results look like some sort of poker hand, that would probably be a Poker for Roulette winner.
Brandon: Okay, so we’re playing for pairs, two pair, three-of-a-kind, four-of-a-kind--are we doing straights?
Dave: Yeah, and flushes. Also, the zeroes are wild.
Brandon: Oh, nice! That’s an interesting twist.
What I love about that idea is that if you’re playing the Poker for Roulette while you’re also playing just plain old vanilla Roulette, usually zero is a bad number.
Unless you’re betting on it directly, the zeroes are always bad. Now, it’s like you’re losing your base bet, but now you have a wild for your Poker for Roulette hand, so now zero is kind of a good number.
Dave: Exactly. The trouble is, with five spins, zeroes do come up too frequently to be wilds. It worked kind of like Pai-Gow Poker in that it was only partially wild. It would only work for a straight or flush, or four or five of a kind. I forget what on four or five of a kind.
For the next two years, I tried to sell it. I took it everywhere. Then, something that Mike Shackleford said occurred to me, “Keep it simple.”
So, make it only three spins. With three spins, I could make the zeroes fully wild and you’re not standing there with your money locked up for five minutes.
Dave: If you put that bet down and the next spin is some sort of zero, you don’t know what you are going to win, but it’s going to at least be a payout of one pair.
Brandon: Yeah, well, you should love to see that on the zeroes as a Roulette player.
It’s kind of like Craps where some players like to make that Fire Bet and you get that third or fourth point, you’re like, “It’s already good and it can only get better from here.” You’re there with one spin.
Dave: It’s funny you mention the Fire Bet because that’s where this got started. I’m a Craps player; I’m not a Roulette player because I think it’s kind of a stupid game. You know, some people might think Craps is stupid or confusing.
Anyway, I’m a Craps player and I think back to the early 2000’s when they introduced the Fire Bet and I’m like, ‘It’s about time someone figured out how to get a jackpot on the Craps Table.’
It just so happened that I was standing at the Craps Table with my butt up against a chair of a guy sitting on the Roulette Table, and I asked myself, “Why is there no jackpot on the Roulette Table?”
So, that question just kind of burnt in my mind until I started talking to Dan about EZ Pai-Gow. That’s where the germ of this idea came from, 2006 or 2007, thinking about the Craps Fire Bet.
Brandon: I think that germ is a good starting place. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised that it’s not Poker for Roulette, but that there would be something to do with Roulette, at one point I came up with an idea for, “Keno for Roulette.”
Roulette is one number Keno, that’s all it is. My Keno for Roulette concept was just going to ignore repeat numbers. It would be based on the first five unique numbers, but they’d all be one card.
Mixed reviews, but it mostly seems that people thought it was not a good idea. I liked it because you could buy a card and play anywhere on the floor, like live Keno. You could just fill out a card and take it up.
Dave: The only way to do something like that would be electronically.
Dave: I’m always thinking about, “How does the dealer interact with this game? How does the dealer handle the game?”
It’s probably easier when things can be handled electronically, otherwise, I’m always interested in what the dealer is going to do.
Brandon: You have to be. In terms of new game design, you’ve probably heard from Dan and Mike and Roger Snow, if you’ve ever talked to him, that the dealer has to be on board.
If it’s going to be a new and unfamiliar game that they have to learn, then they also don’t know if the toke rate is going to be any good because of how new it is---they kind of have to be onboard with the game itself and dealing it an enjoyable experience for them so they make it enjoyable for the players. Wouldn’t you say?
Dave: Yeah, and on that note, I don’t know how many years ago, but I gave Roger Snow an idea for Let it Ride. Do you know what dealers called Let it Ride?
Brandon: Let it Die.
Dave: Yeah, do you know why?
Brandon: The game plays slow as hell, there aren’t many big hits and the toke rate sucks.
Dave: The toke rate might have something to do with it, but the big problem is that they just push bets back to the player all day.
Brandon: Well, Roger Snow came up with that and Mississippi Stud is basically just Let it Ride in reverse.
Dave: I have not played Mississippi Stud, so maybe you’re right.
My idea for Let it Ride was leave it the same, except instead of the dealer pushing bets back, you just put one bet up, and if you won, you put the second and third bets up yourself.
Brandon: That’s what Mississippi Stud is. That’s how it works.
Dave: The exact same rules, but you put additional bets up.
Brandon: Yeah, but here’s a thirty second explanation of Mississippi Stud:
Players starts with two hole cards, there are three community cards, after each round--the player decides if he wants to make additional bets of anywhere from 1x-3x, or fold. The player makes this decision based on how good their hand is. Before the first community card, round of betting, after the first community card, round of betting, second community card, round of betting, third community card comes out and the player wins based on poker hands starting with tens or better.
(NOTE: I said the wrong thing, Mississippi Stud is 6’s, or better. Let it Ride is Tens or Better)
Dave: Sounds similar.
Brandon: It is. It’s Let it Ride in reverse, that’s all it is.
Dave: Yeah, except it’s got a few little differences. You can fold or bet more than the base bet. My idea was that you just have two chances to match the amount of your base bet.
Brandon: I think Mississippi Stud worked because when the casino gives those varying---I think a player can even technically bet 2x, though that’s never correct--but those options, including folding.
I think your idea is a great idea that takes some of the work out of it for the dealers, but--
Dave: Well, the way you describe Mississippi Stud, there’s some math where the player might make a lot of mistakes.
Brandon: Right, from the casino perspective, if everyone played optimal Blackjack strategy and naturals paid 3:2 on every table and you had reasonably good other rules. Blackjack would not exist in that form.
Dave: Well, maybe---no, yeah you’re right.
Brandon: I don’t think it would be profitable enough without player mistakes.
Dave: That’s true.
Brandon: You could, but everything would have to be 6:5 and other terrible rules. Players would also not be playing side bets. I don’t think you’d even be able to pay the dealer.
In October of 2011, you went to your first G2E Expo, was that as an observer or as a developer? Were you a presenter or a developer?
Dave: Okay, I have attended multiple G2E’sd and Cutting Edge, but I have never been a presenter at those. I don’t have that kind of money.
If I’d ever hooked up with a company that wanted to present my game, I’d work the booth, but that hasn’t happened.
Brandon: Well, you’re talking about money. What kind of money do you need to be a presenter? How much space are you taking? You go in, you set up your table, you pay for some well-endowed woman to deal it---or do it yourself…
Dave (Laughing Heartily): Okay, well, say you don’t pay for the expensive well-endowed woman and you deal it yourself--do you have any idea how much it costs?
Brandon: No, do you?
Dave: Yeah, you’re talking thousands of dollars to rent a 10x10 square.
Dave: Yeah, and that’s just for the square. If you want some carpeting, a table, a chair, money-money-money.
Brandon: I know, especially if you have a completely new game concept that---would require a different felt or different layout--I can’t imagine a new felt is cheap…
But, to present your game all you need is, what? A Roulette wheel and you can either rent a crupier or just be your own. You’re saying that the basic cost for that 10x10 square, with nothing in it except for you standing there, is already thousands of dollars?
Brandon: Thousands, plural. How many thousands?
Dave: I said plural because I don’t know hope many. I knew it was out of my range, so I never investigated.
Brandon: But, you don’t necessarily have to attend G2E, was Money$uit ever at a G2E, that you recall?
Dave: I don’t know. I get some of those guys mixed up. Is that Brent?
Dave: I’m pretty sure he was, but not on his own. He was with the company distributing his game. Unless I’m confusing him with someone else.
I know DoubleLuck Roulette was at Cutting Edge twice, but I don’t know about G2E. They’re the same thing, Cutting Edge is a little cheaper, but not much.
Brandon: Right, would you consider Cutting Edge and G2E---those two events in particular---G2E does everything, slot demos and other things, right?
Dave: You’ve never been, have you?
Dave: You should go.
It’s a huge convention where about half of it is slot machines.
Dave: A quarter of the space, or less, is table games. After that, you have other vendors. Maybe a l,ittle under half is slots, because you have a ton of other vendors.
I describe it as anyone who has anything to sell to a casino is at G2E. Anyone from slot manufacturers to toilet paper distributors.
Brandon: And Cutting Edge? Is that more strictly geared towards Table Games?
Dave: Cutting Edge is small and is only Table Games. It’s in a banquet room the size of a wedding reception room. There are about twenty booths and a breakout room, and that’s it.
G2E has a few thousand booths.
Brandon: But, you did have a focus group with ShuffleMaster after that first G2E, right?
Dave: We have to backup because we’re still talking about the first G2E.
I’d set up some meetings with a few companies like TCS Huxley--the Roulette company.
They were having their own private little show at the Ghost Bar and Palms at the same time as G2E, shuttling people back and forth in limos.
I talked to a guy first there who really seemed to like my idea, and then I saw again the next day at G2E and he still seemed to like it. After that, he didn’t seem to like it as much. I don’t know why, but he didn’t.
I also had a meeting with Wizard and played some Blackjack with him.
Brandon: So, he liked it and then soured on it?
Brandon: But why? Was your original plan for Poker for Roulette to be incorporated into existing felts, or to just use lammers and move them to spots to indicate a player was on it?
Dave: There are a few examples on my website for how it could be done.
The main one that I like is you could just do it with the light up sensors. The one3s that they have for other Progressive jackpots on Table Games that turn red meaning the player has bet it. The dealer takes the bet and it stays lit up.
You could also use Roulette chips in a new spot because each player has a specific color, then just lock it up for multiple spins.
A few possible procedures were on my website since way back when, so it’s not like how to implement it should have been any great mystery.
Was it the most efficient way? Would the dealers hate it? I don’t know, but I had concepts down.
I should also mention that I deal poker at a bar league, so I know about dealing and game protection. I think about this (stuff). I’ve never done Roulette, but I have a general idea about how dealers look at things.
Brandon: I know Dan was definitely big on game protection!
For Poker for Roulette, it came to take place over three spins.
Dave: Yeah, my idea was to create a spot for it where the bets go and put a clear cover over the bets to protect them for the duration of the three spins.
Again, you can’t let someone touch those chips when they are locked up. It’s like the Fire Bet, you put them where the players can’t reach them.
Brandon: I assume players could only make a new bet every third spin?
Dave: That’s something I was debating because players could miss out if you do that.
Brandon: I think it would get sloppy for the croupier otherwise, here’s a new bet, this player is on his third spin, this other player is on his second spin---it would get pretty tough to track.
Dave: My idea was the players make the bets and you cover them up, then you move the bets to the next spot after every spin and put a lammer on top. That way, people could make new bets and the bets just move with the lammer, then you cover it up again.
After three lammers, you look and see if the result is a winner. If it loses, muck all the chips.
Brandon: I can understand how that might work, but Roulette is already a fairly slow game, so in your discussions with the various companies, was it ever bandied about that it should only be one round every three spins?
Dave: Yeah, I was originally against that, but then I said, “If that’s what they want to do, then who am I?” I started to think more and more about it, like the All/Tall/Small at CRaps, once the lammer is on-no new bets-so I thought people might be okay.
So, if no new bets are allowed until it is resolved, personally I don’t like it that way, but it’s okay.
Brandon: I would say you still get more action on Poker for Roulette than you do on Craps. Poker for Roulette would always resolve every three spins, so that’s easier, right?
Dave: Yeah, faster and easier. More betting.
Brandon: Right, even with how slow Roulette is, compared to Craps, I think you might get more resolutions on Poker for Roulette faster.
Dave: Absolutely, but the Fire Bet is starting to go away primarily because, once it hits, six wins, the jackpot, the Craps Table comes to a halt where you check surveillance and do the paperwork and it’s a pain in the ass.
You sound like a Craps player, that’s why it’s going away.
That’s why All/Tall/Small and repeater are gaining ground. Casinos don’t want to pay out a lot of money or waste a lot of time so when the six-pointer hits, that’s a downside and you also have to check the tapes.
Brandon: Just improve the five-point Fire Payout and drop the six-pointer to paying $599, problem solved. Now there is no tax paperwork.
Dave: That’s too easy.
Brandon: If you want to make it a cleaner number, then just pay 500:1 on it.
Improve the three-pointer, what the hell. Add a two-pointer if it’s mathematically possible, but I doubt that it is without taking almost everything from other hits. Improve the four or five pointer.
The six point Fire Bet is negligible on the return anyway. Funny thing, I hit one once.
(Brandon tells a totally unrelated story and wastes time)
Okay, so March of 2012 you had a focus group with ShuffleMaster---you mentioned that Poker for Roulette placed dead last. Out of how many? If there were only two games, then dead last isn’t so bad.
Dave: I think there were twelve games and a couple of them were ShuffleMaster---I don’t fully remember because there were two groups that year, and some had his own games, but I don’t remember which one I was in.
The judges were casino people, some dealers and Table Game Managers who he had hired to come in to look at and rank the games on a number of criteria.
When it was all over, the scores were tallied and I was dead last out of twelve.
I didn’t expect to come in first, but dead last has me wondering what the hell is wrong.
Brandon: Well, did you get any specific feedback?
Dave: I didn’t get any that day, but Roger Snow invited the people to call him and talk to him about the games. I went there two days later and I think the problem was how I presented it. My brother and I were there and we hired a dealer to help.
I also wasn’t on a real Roulette Table. It was an electronic table, so I just had papers made up for them to use and I think they were confused as to what they were actually looking at.
Brandon: Okay, so it sounds like, if you lost points for presentation, that wasn’t on you.
Dave: I know. Two days later, I’m talking to Roger, and I wish I still had my notes for that day---but he basically told me that, going in, I’d have the hardest game to demonstrate.
As a general rule, side bets are tough to demonstrate. The reason why is because people are paying attention to the game itself, so people barely notice a side bet that they are unfamiliar with.
He also said, “Oh, by the way, the name of this company is ShuffleMaster. If you come up with a way to do this with cards, come back and talk to me.”
Brandon: Weren’t they the ones who invited you?
Dave: Not exactly. It was an open tryout. Roger had made a WoV post that said any developers who wanted to come show their game could do so. I wasn’t invited, I just responded.
Brandon: Well, it was scheduled in advance. I can’t imagine you just walked into their building unannounced. So, did he say anything to the effect of, “We don’t even really make Roulette tables?”
Dave: Well, they did. They were pushing Rapid Roulette at the time, do you remember that?
Dave: That was the original stadium gaming thing.
Brandon: I know why I forgot. Because it sucks.
Dave: It’s one dealer and a bunch of terminals, dozens, that can play Roulette.
Dave: That was the other thing, I don’t know why the concept died. It was a good concept for Roulette.
Brandon: Zero points. I like Poker for Roulette better.
Brandon: Seriously, I hate this stadium stuff. Poker for Roulette has a perceived advantage on the player side--huge jackpots. It’s useful for me. On the three or four times I have played Roulette in my entire life, I’ll play the four corners around the day of my birth, but what the hell am I supposed to do with this other dollar? It’s a $5 minimum. I never know what to do with it anyway.
I mean, I know better because I understand the math. But, if I am a casual player and win on Poker for Roulette while losing my other bets, I feel like I just free rolled the main game.
I just got out of three losing bets because the straight hit.
I feel like I’m free-rolling when I lose on a zero or double zero because now it’s a wild for my Poker for Roulette hand.
I think it’s a good concept. I think they only don’t like it because it is tough to implement.
Did you talk to them about implementing it as a side bet for stadium games?
Dave: I did, but it would cost a ton of money. You would have to program it, create it on the display, test it to make sure it work right.
It would cost a fortune, so they want to see it work as a bet for the physical game first. You’re not going to spend that on an unproven commodity.
Brandon: Any talks with any online casinos? It doesn’t seem like, but I’m not a programmer, aren’t you a programmer?
Dave: I’m not. I do some on the side and in my day job, but I use technology that’s fifty years old.
Brandon: Yeah, but why would it be so difficult to implement? Here are the last three numbers that came up, here’s what you get paid in these scenarios, if none of those things happen then you lose. Why would that be hard to program?
Dave: I wouldn’t think it would be for someone who does it for a living, but it’s outside of my capabilities as far as software.
At one point, a couple of years back, I thought about creating an app as a demo and I couldn’t figure it out.
I watched some tutorials and read a few books, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Maybe this dog is just a little too old.
Brandon: Okay, so after the ShuffleMaster focus group and the feedback…
Dave: Roger said he liked the concept, but they’re not into Roulette. They had the Rapid Roulette system, but it sounds like that was an acquisition---that they didn’t always have it.
Brandon: We should mention that Roger is a really nice guy.
Dave: He’s a great guy! Every time I have ever seen him, he approaches me with his hand out. He remembers me every time, so I trusted his advice, it is just not what I wanted to hear.
Brandon: We can talk about BeachBumBabs, who you met, and one for the money. She saw a few installations with One for the Money, which is a one-card game.
Dave: Yeah, but he showed me a demo of a different game, House Money, because they were going to find a graphic designer to do a logo for it. I wanted to talk about it on the forum, but he asked me to sit on it for awhile.
When he did give me permission to talk about it, I created a thread called, “House Money---Friggin’ Fantastic!”
It was a side bet for Blackjack that resolves based on your starting hand, and if you win, you have the option of putting your winnings on top of your Blackjack bet. I got a suited Ace-King Blackjack in one of the two hands, which I could then take the winnings from and put on my original bet for a 3:2 payout on the main hand.
My $5 bet turned into a $145, or something.
Brandon: Well, I guess it adds that semi-jackpot type element that Blackjack is usually missing, but has with some side bets and weird progressives.
I’m not a Blackjack aficionado, I’ll be honest, far from being my specialty---there is not a single table game that I like less than Blackjack.
Dave: (Laughing) I don’t play it much at all, either.
Brandon: It is impossibly boring.
Dave: I get too much static from the old bitties for not playing the side bet, or they get pissed off that I am making correct decisions that they think are wrong.
Brandon: I’d say to them, “Since you think the side bet is so great, I’ll let you bet it for me and we can split whatever the result is.”
On the other thing, “If you don’t like my decision, then if I am at a negative expectation, you just hand me my bet back and I’ll make whatever decision you want me to make.”
Let’s go to July, 2013 and Shuffle Game Day, what was that?
Dave: That’s the same Shuffle event, though they did it a little differently that time. I presented alone that time and thought I could do a good job because I thought I knew the ins and outs of everything.
I went and demoed it myself---I don’t remember what happened, but the scoring was on the Forum---it has since been taken down, but I was offered a contract.
Brandon: It went well enough that you were offered a private demo, right?
Dave: I don’t remember why, but I guess I did well enough to get that. I thought Roger was just throwing me a bone, but there was a casino executive there and another guy from ShuffleMaster.
It turns out the Executive was the Table Games Director of either Venetian or Wynn.
I demoed the game, but I didn’t get any real feedback right away. They went off to talk amongst themselves, but they weren’t talking about my game. They were talking about a side bet for Pai-Gow Tiles.
I thought, “That’s interesting. I wonder if I should tell Dan about this?”
Brandon: (Laughing) I hope it was Venetian, that would be funny, they went on to say, “You know what’s better than a Roulette side bet? How about we just have three zeroes?”
Dave: Yeah, I know. Don’t think that hasn’t occurred to me.
Brandon: Can you even patent that, though?
Dave: Nobody is picking up Poker for Roulette, but we’ll just add zeroes. Whatever.
Brandon: Seriously, can you even patent that piece of garbage? How? It’s Roulette, but there are more zeroes.
Dave: I don’t know, but I wouldn’t think so.
Brandon: How would you argue that something about that needs protected? What idea would you be protecting?
Dave: Yeah, that’s why I think it spread so rapidly.
Brandon: So, it’s April of 2013 and Shuffle gets back to you and basically pronounced you dead in the water, right?
Dave: Pretty much. That’s when I posted on WoV asking whether or not it was a dead end.
I was hoping someone would say, “No.” I was hoping maybe someone would show interest. And then, wouldn't you know it, my patent was approved.
Brandon: Right, so let’s jump to November of 2013--Two things: One, did Shuffle talk about any hypotheticals with how the arrangement would work if they picked the game up?
Dave: Not really, but maybe that’s because I already kind of new. Dan told me about it, the distributor trials it in a casino, they may or may not get paid, but you’ll get a slice if it takes off.
I obviously wanted to get paid, but that will come if the game is successful. I wanted to get it into a casino. It doesn’t matter what percentage of zero you get before that.
Brandon: (Chuckles) Okay, second question: We’re in November of 2013, this is the third side bet, the first one was prior to July 2010...we’re talking about three or three and a half years of time investment.
That’s set. Not counting costs for things you would have been doing anyway, like attending G2E.
Not counting that, in this three years--and the furthest you ever got was a private meeting with ShuffleMaster that went nowhere---how much in actual money costs had you incurred?
Dave: I’ll start by saying it makes my wife crazy that I never kept track of every single expense. I’m not entirely sure how much I paid for the patent and the lawyer, but I think it was about $18,000 total.
Dave: I also think that I got out cheaper than most.
Brandon: But, then you also have...when you went out and did the focus groups, demo days and private demonstrations---were any of those you were flying to Vegas only to do that?
Dave: Yeah, but I don’t remember how much it was. The airfare. I probably had a free hotel anyway. Lost money gambling, but that wouldn’t count.
Listen, I like Vegas and having an excuse to go there.
Brandon: A few months after this, you saw a game called Football Roulette, please describe that.
Dave: If a spin is a zero, then you pick a team, either red or black, and then yardage is assigned on the next four spins based on whether the number is red or black and what number it is.
If you gain enough yardage for the Touchdown, then you win. If your number isn’t green after the first spin, then you lose immediately.
Brandon: It sounds like you don’t win often. It sounds like you’re only one in nineteen to even have a chance to win to begin with.
Dave: There’s a certain range where you gain yardage and one side loses yardage. It moves based on what the number is, but you can also go backwards.
Brandon: Do you know if this person is on the forum? This designer?
Dave: I don’t think so. I think the first time it was mentioned on the Forum was me.
Brandon: Well, no offense to the designer, but that game sounds really goddamn stupid.
Brandon: You know what I would do?
Dave: What? Keep in mind this is on a machine, not a physical table.
Either way, it proved that there was some interest in a side bet.
Brandon: You’d visit the Cutting Edge the following month and then have a meeting with Galaxy Gaming the following month. Was Dan still there at this time?
Dave: I don’t remember, but I know he got me the meeting. He’d been there for awhile, but someone asked him, “Why wasn’t this meeting sooner?”
We had a handshake agreement after that meeting, for a different reason, it took awhile to get the actual contract done.
Brandon: What can you disclose about the contract on the business side? Do you get paid on total installs? Flat percentage of revenues?
Dave: My understanding is that, since my patent is only in the United States, they could install it outside of the country and they wouldn’t have to pay me anything.
So, they offered 20% of domestic net revenues and 10% of overseas net revenues. It’s important to keep in mind that this would be after expenses, so it could be whatever percentage of $0.
Brandon: Right. It would have to be installed somewhere in the first place. The casino would have to hold money, then Galaxy gets a percentage, and then---
Dave: No, the casino hold is irrelevant to Galaxy. Galaxy would just be paid a flat monthly install fee for this game, per table, regardless of how the casino does on the game or whether or not they even operate it.
It’s a couple hundred a month. I think the biggest one is $500 a month. But, if you’re installed in lots of casinos and have a few tables at each of those, then it’s a good chunk of change.
Brandon: Right. Well, it seems like...suppose it’s whatever a month, but it’s after expenses. They have to create the layout, fix anything that gets broken, transport the table there in the first place.
Dave: Yeah, it depends what responsibility belongs to who. If it’s the distributor, then all of that money comes out, right.
In many cases, the distributor supplies a bunch of supplies to run the game. My game, for instance, had little lammers to track the results, plastic covers, maybe racks for the lammers...but the casinos would generally do the table felts because most casinos would want their logo on there.
Brandon: Yeah, but a few hundred per month, per installation, that would go to Galaxy in a favorable scenario---the game has to get off the ground. You have a few initial installs which, I imagine they get the game for free for some time, right?
Dave: In some cases, the first location to install it gets it free forever.
Come to think of it, that was one of the things Roger asked me, he asked how much I expected to be able to charge for it.
If it was me, what would I charge the casino if they put it in and decided to keep it.
I said, “$1 per month, per year.”
He asked me why.
I thought I’d do it for free, but some lawyerly instinct kicked in and said, ‘Nothing is free, you charge a dollar.’
Roger told me that was exactly right, but you never actually get the dollar, you don’t worry about it.
Brandon: That’s awesome. I was just thinking a few hundred a month per table, per installation, so how many tables are you going to need in casinos before you start making money? How many casinos only HAVE one Roulette Table to begin with?
Dave: A lot.
Brandon: A lot. And you’re in for fifteen grand, but you’ve said that you have gotten off cheap. You said that you got off cheaper than anyone else could reasonably expect to and you’ve got a contract with Galaxy Gaming.
And then 20% of $400 is only $80, and that’s assuming there are no expenses.
I’m not trying to denigrate the idea. I just want people to understand that there is a very low probability that anyone is going to design a game or side bet that is going to recoup your time and money costs. Even when a game is successful, it’ll still be quite some time before you recoup your initial investment.
Dave: Mike talks about that on one of his other sites. He has another site where he discusses this stuff and he says, “People think game developers are tripping over themselves trying to get new games, but really, they are just trying to get people into casinos.”
Brandon. Right. I want to make a comparison: Say you’re a young adult, you go to college and get your degree, you start applying to places, but they all say, “We’d take a chance on you, but you have no experience.”
And then you say, “Well, how the hell do I get any experience if nobody will hire me?”
It’s like the casinos say, “We’d love to install this game if it was a proven product,” but, how the hell am I supposed to prove the product if you won’t install the game?
Dave: That’s another problem that we didn’t get to yet. Many of the casinos and game distributors ask that, “Is this installed anywhere else?”
Brandon: And, it’s like, “No, because you won’t install it and everyone else is asking the same damn question and won’t install it because the answer is no.”
So, my understanding is Brent, with Money$uit, got some installations in Tribal Casinos where it’s easier to get approved or maybe only the tribe has to approve it.
So, now he has something of a proven product. Do you think that’s a better way to go?
Dave: My conclusion is that you really just need a friend in the industry.
Brandon: In May, Galaxy changes the name. Now, it’s going to be called, “Trio-lette.”
Dave: Yeah, but I think you need to have an insider in the industry. It could be a casino employee or someone in distribution.
I had that with Dan until he passed away. The closest casino to me is eighty miles away, so I don’t know how I’d handle the logistics of it even if I wanted to do what Brent was doing. I don’t know how it would be feasible, because I still have a day job.
Brandon: Brent’s a lawyer, isn’t he?
Dave: I don’t know.
Brandon: Dan had his connections because he was a longtime Craps dealer, right?
Dave: Yeah, he was at Fiesta Henderson.
Brandon: So, he knows people. He was your in at that time.
A few months later, now Galaxy is calling it Trio-Lette. I don’t know that I love that name.
Dave: I definitely don’t love that name, but that’s not my call. I own the concept, but they call it whatever they want. I just want it installed.
Brandon: Yeah, they could just call it, “Roulette Side Bet,” if they wanted.
I still figure you want marketability. That name sucks.
Dave: Yeah, but I never did any trademarking because that doesn’t protect the game, it just protects the name.
They liked the name. Fine. Whatever.
They had a feeling that, “Trio-lette,” had a fresh sounding name.
I mean, Pai-Gow Poker had nothing to do with Asian culture at all, but it’s a little bit similar to Pai-Gow Tiles with high hands and low hands. They have the Dragon Bet, whatever.
Brandon: Poker for Roulette, Roulette Poker, Three-Card Roulette, except it’s not cards. Three-Spin Roulette.
Dave: Three-Spin Roulette is probably the ultimate name.
Brandon: Trips Roulette, because I assume that is the best payout.
Dave: Three green is even more. If they’re all the same green, then that’s the maximum.
Brandon: Trio-lette is just weird. Does everyone even know that Trio refers to three? I guess they would. I don’t know.
I hear the name, “Poker for Roulette,” and it automatically brings a concept to mind of what the game should be and it matches what you describe. I hear, “Trio-lette,” and I just know that there are three of something.
Dave: I’m going to disagree. I don’t think Poker for Roulette is actually a great name. People will ask, “What does poker have to do with Roulette?”, and the answer is nothing.
I only came up with that name because it was originally based on five spins. It had additional pays, such as full houses, so it made more sense then. There’s no strategy involved, you don’t even really need to know what a full house is.
You probably like the name Poker for Roulette because you’re on the forum and have been hearing it for so long.
Brandon: I think you have to have a fundamental understanding of how poker rankings work. The game is based on actual poker rankings, so I think it makes sense. If I get 22-22-15-19-28, I know I should be getting paid for a pair.
There’s nothing to explain. I hear Poker for Roulette and I know what it is. I just have to look at the paytable.
Dave: I did have to explain it to some people. They were confused by 38 numbers versus 52 cards in a deck.
I like it because I’ve been using it for ten years; you like it because you’ve been hearing it for ten years.
Brandon: I like it because it says what it does!
Dave: Okay, I’ll stop arguing it.
Brandon: Well, I’m not married to it. On a 0-10 scale, I’d give it a six because it doesn’t roll off the tongue, no offense, but it does say what it does.
Three-Bet-Roulette, that rhymes. I guess that would be an okay name.
October 2015, I’m intrigued by this. Your note says, “I F’d up, Gary V. agrees,” can you elaborate on this?
Dave: Okay, back to that handshake meeting. I don’t remember how many people were there, but the CEO was, Dan was, the CFO and two other guys.
I’m in Gary’s office talking about the financials, so he’s the CFO.
After the first day of G2E, I’m with the group and we’re going to a restaurant in The Venetian near the showroom. He’s got a private room and I get invited to go along---cool!
We go to the room and there is seating for about twenty people and about thirty people in there. I told Gary, “Listen, there are too many people here. Lots of Galaxy people; I’m an outsider, so I’m going to step out.”
He asked if I was sure, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I don’t get to Vegas often, so I don’t want to waste all this time with these people I don’t know talking about (stuff) I don’t understand.”
As soon as I left, it occurred to me that was dumb. I should have just sat there without knowing what was going on.
I went to G2E the next day, went up to Gary and said, “I (messed) up.” He said, “Yeah, you did.”
Brandon: I don’t have much to add. I mean, he asked you to be there, right?
Dave: He invited me to come along for dinner.
I missed out on someone else buying me a $100 steak dinner. I like food, but I don’t need a $100 steak dinner. I can just go to McDonald’s for five minutes and be doing.
Brandon: All right. The following month there is another Cutting Edge that you attended.
In October 2016, Gary V. steps down. So, he was the CFO at the time, was he your primary contact with Galaxy?
Dave: No, Dan was my primary contact until he got fired. After that, I was dealing with other game development guys whereas Gary did the financial part.
He’s a personable guy, so he just pulled me aside to tell me he was quitting Galaxy.
Brandon: Okay. So, Galaxy---you’ve been contracted with them for about a year and a half at this point---how are we looking in terms of installs or talking to decision-makers? Where is Poker for Roulette a year and a half in?
Dave: I know they showed it at a show in London. I forget the name of the show, but it doesn’t matter. They showed it there because England is big on Roulette.
I disagreed with their logic over there. That’s their bread and butter. I thought it would be better to prove the concept in some small casino with one or two Roulette Tables.
That’s like coming up with a Baccarat side bet and trying it out in Asia first.
Brandon: I think you can look at it that way. I think you can also say, “Everyone over here loves Roulette, so if it doesn’t do well here, it’s not going to make it anywhere.”
Dave: I live in North New Jersey. I totally get the concept of, “If you can make it in New York, then you can make it anywhere.” I understand the goal.
I think before you go to Broadway, you go to some small theater elsewhere and make sure you’ve got a good act. I didn’t like the idea, but they’re the experts.
After that, they show me their concept for dealer procedures and game protection. I don’t like their concepts and they don’t like mine. But, they’re the experts, so what do I know?
They also say it’s tricky to get a field trial---because everywhere you go there are procedures and red tape. I asked, “What about a cruise?” I’m sure that, on a cruise, there is zero red tape. Another thing is that you can put it in for a few days, take it out, and nobody except the employees knows about it.
If it works, keep it. If not, don’t. They told me they had a cruise line they work with, but they never put it in there.
Brandon: Did you worry about how they would differentiate one revenue from another using the same Roulette chips? Like, how would they tell how much the side bet was bringing in additionally to the base game?
I know it’s the same with Blackjack side bets. I don’t know how they keep track of that.
Dave: I know it’s all part of the data that comes through. How much action was at the Blackjack Table before and after the side bet? I imagine it’s the same for Roulette, but I don’t know.
We were just trying to prove the concept. Will people play it and dealers deal it? You can try that on a cruise without losing a bunch of money in the process.
Brandon: Right, so we’re a year and a half in with Galaxy---the game has been demoed in London once and that's it. We are up to zero installations.
Dave: Actually, it was not demoed. They only talked about it. They don’t own a Roulette table. It was just something they talked about in their booth. They had a few Blackjack games, but no Roulette table.
Brandon: Is it almost like you’re getting freerolled? You get a percentage of net revenues, of which there are none, so you’ve been dealing with these guys for a year and a half and it has brought you exactly nothing.
You have a piece of paper that says, if this distributor ever gets around to doing anything with this, you will maybe get money.
That’s after expenses. What are the expenses? Probably whatever the hell they want to say they are.
Dave: They did pay a few of my expenses. They covered my Cutting Edge entrance fee three times, which is in the neighborhood of $1,100.
There was a fee for the patent renewal, which it was in the contract that they had to pay.
Brandon: Right, because the contract gives them rights to the game.
Dave: I got a little out of it, but nothing to really shout about.
Brandon: Did you get anything from Shuffle for the private demo?
Dave: They paid part of my airfare.
Brandon: That’s something.
Dave: Yeah, but it’s insignificant.
Brandon: Okay, so it’s November now and you’re attending Cutting Edge again. This is the second Cutting Edge where Galaxy has the rights to your game.
Once again, it is not being demoed.
We have had four major events and zero demonstrations of the game actually in action.
Brandon: Okay, so what is Galaxy actually doing?
Is this being presented to anyone other than they talked about it vaguely in London? Is this game actually being presented to anybody?
Dave: I’d hope so, but I don’t know.
Brandon: Did you feel out of the loop? Did they ever contact you with updates, or ask you to contact them at certain intervals? What was the communication process with Galaxy?
Dave: It should have been a sign to me, but nobody other than Dan ever reached out to me. I don’t remember exactly when he got fired, but when he was out of the picture, they never reached out to me.
I always had to contact them, sometimes multiple times, before they would respond.
Brandon: Right. Did you not have a set contact there?
Dave: I had a person. They weren’t always available and did not always respond to E-Mails.
It should have been a sign to me, but my head was in the sand. I was thinking, “Oh, they’re busy, wheels turn slowly, and so on.”
Brandon: Suppose you had another game idea, would you go through Galaxy again? Would you ask them to improve their communication a bit?
Dave: I never complained about it to them. I figured it is what it is. I went to them with a new idea with the pick a card idea.
I went to Galaxy and to Roger, but I never really pushed it. I’m a little jaded about what happened to Poker for Roulette and I don’t want to go through the process of spending a bunch of money if I’m just lighting money on fire.
Brandon: Yeah, I think part of it is---if a person wants to get into game design---if your goal is profit, then you’re probably making a mistake.
I think if you’re getting into it in the first place, you’ve really got to believe in your idea.
EZ Baccarat was brilliant because it eliminated annoying commissions and the House Edge was adjusted with a certain situation that causes a push, as opposed to a loss.
I think people with a profit motive should use their creativity and intelligence in a venue where it is easier to make money, so this is something people should only get into if they want to really see their game maybe come to life and be played on a casino floor.
Dave: My original thing was that I wanted to make money, but I also wanted to know if my game had what it takes. I wanted to be able to say, “Hey, that’s my game.”
I even told Galaxy that I just wanted to see my baby live.
Brandon: I see the whole thing as an absence of communication on their end. It sounds like they were receptive enough to get ahold of you in a reasonable amount of time if you reached out.
Dave: I guess.
Brandon: Did you ever ask to be cut loose from the contact or to contact people about the game yourself?
Dave: I was free to talk to anyone I wanted, but if I found anyone that was interested, then I was supposed to turn the contact information over to Galaxy. We never discussed that, but that was my plan.
I have a shirt with Poker for Roulette on it I wear in casinos. People occasionally ask me about it and I give them business cards.
I’ll occasionally get asked by a Table Games Director, then I’d get a business card and give the information to Galaxy. They either (messed) up and didn’t pursue it, or maybe they did, and it just didn’t go anywhere.
I never tried to get out of the contract because, what would I do? There are all kinds of fees and red tape just to get a field trial. Beyond that, I’d have to get licensed as a gaming distributor, which is what Galaxy is for.
So, I just talked to people and gave the information to Galaxy hoping something would come from it.
Brandon: Okay, so a few months later, we had the unfortunate passing of Dan Lubin who was your foot in the door and it was his stories that got you interested in game design. What was your relationship with him from a business standpoint?
Dave: As I recall, his job was to find and evaluate new games. He probably would have been my first contact even if I hadn’t already known him.
On the other hand, we were friends, so I don’t know if he would have remained my contact if we weren’t.
Brandon: Right. That was May of 2017…
Dave: Back to November of 2016, I had the idea of Pick a Card in my head. I was at one of the dinners where Dan was present, so I showed him the game, and he loved it. We talked about it off and on over the next few months.
We were going to sit down in May of 2017 and sit down and come up with an agreement with him pushing it. We felt it had a better chance than Poker for Roulette did.
The game is simple, not a side bet and is a better concept.
All the money flowing in would be just for the game, so it’s not like a side bet where it’s harder to tell where the money is coming from.
Brandon: Right, so when this happens, were you and Dan talking about this as a side deal, or was it going to go through Galaxy?
Dave: He’d been fired from Galaxy a year before this, so this was something that we were going to do. Going to Galaxy for distribution might have been an option, so I didn’t know what we were going to do.
We were going to figure out a game plan, but he died a week before we were supposed to meet up on that.
Brandon: Some of his games are still with Galaxy, aren’t they?
Dave: The only game I am sure of is EZ Pai-Gow Poker which is with DEZ. They’re a rather small distributor and their big thing is electronic devices that can be installed at every player position and is a 2x2 display where side bets can be made electronically, even though the game is otherwise a normal felt game.
I think they also have EZ Baccarat, which is why Dan’s game is called EZ Pai-Gow. That wasn’t Dan’s working title, but it’s a great title.
Brandon: Yeah. It does what it says on the box. That’s why I like the Poker for Roulette name!
Dave: I hear you.
Brandon: (Laughing) You skipped the G2E of October 2017, so in February 2018, Rob Saucier from Galaxy Gaming resigns. Who is he and what is your relationship to him in the context of Poker for Roulette?
Dave: Rob was the CEO and I don’t know anything about the history, except what Dan told me and I pick up from trade magazines.
He was something of a shady character who had gaming licenses turned down in various jurisdictions, so him being the CEO of Galaxy was not a great idea for them.
He was the biggest stockholder, so you can’t just get rid of him. But, he stepped down, so Galaxy is basically a new company. I was hoping it might get on track and it would be a positive.
On the other hand, I think Rob was the only one at Galaxy who actually loved the Poker for Roulette concept, so maybe this is a bad development.
Brandon: A month later, you’d find out because the Poker for Roulette contract with Galaxy was set to expire at the end of March and they did not renew it.
Dave: That’s correct.
Brandon: I’m confused, were there any talks? I’m sure you reached out to them about renewing the contract, right?
Dave: Oh yeah. I reached out several times both before and after it expired. It was around November of 2019 that they finally told me that they weren’t interested.
If they called me today, I’d be ready to talk to them, but there’s no chance. That game is a dead horse that I beat a little too much, but that’s okay.
Brandon: I’m confused, if I’m Galaxy and I think there is more than zero chance---it’s not like you get paid without installs---why would I not renew?
Dave: I know.
Brandon: So, why did they say they didn’t want to renew?
Dave: They offered me a different contract with changes that I didn’t like. We couldn’t come to an agreement within the first few months, then they stopped responding to me.
Brandon: Who wanted to change the original contract?
Dave: Both parties.
Brandon: From there, you consider doing a patent for Pick a Card. I need you to punch back in and get on the floor, please explain Pick a Card in thirty seconds.
Dave: Have you ever seen Vegas Vacation?
Dave: Do you remember when the go to a casino with all the weird games and the last game is Pick a Number, but there’s nothing that would make it a fair game?
I’m going to make it a fair game. Instead of picking a number, you pick a card. The dealer spreads a deck of cards and one person gets three cards. Based on what the cards are, you either win or lose.
There’s also a side bet that is based on three card hand.
Brandon: This sounds like it might be the fastest-playing table game ever, except maybe One for the Money.
Dave: I’ve never seen that one.
Brandon: This sounds super fast. What’s the House Edge on base game and side bet?
Dave: Base Bet of Paytable 1 is 3.3%, side bet 6.5%. The other side bet is 8.5%. My other paytables are a bit lower.
Brandon: I like lower because it sounds like the player makes no real decision, so this game is going to absolutely fly.
Dave: You just make your bets, here are the cards, see if you won.
Brandon: Like Sic Bo, or something. Or Baccarat, but faster.
Dave: Yeah, so the base game has thirteen spots you can bet. You get three cards and it pays 3:1 for a single hit, 10:1 for a double and 40:1 for a triple.
Brandon: Okay, so now we’re in September of 2019. Is Pick a Card patented at this point?
Dave: No. I did the original preliminary protection, but haven’t moved forward. I talked to the lawyer a few months ago and asked him not to do it. I don’t want to spend another fifteen or twenty thousand.
Brandon: Where does that put it? You’d need a distributor, someone is going to need to patent it, right?
Brandon: You talked to Derek and Johnathan in September, 2019, so, who are they?
Dave: Derek is Derek Stevens, the owner of The D, Golden Gate and Circa. Jonathan is the CEO at The Plaza.
Brandon: Are you looking to go to them and directly do an install?
Dave: It was somewhat sneaky and deliberate, but I was 360 Vegas Vacation. I’m there with my T-Shirt, so Derek and Johnathan were the big guys who were the face at our event.
They asked me what the shirt was about and I told them.
Derek was somewhat interested and Johnathan was more interested and put me in touch with someone with whom I had several E-Mail exchanges. Then Covid happened.
Brandon: Were you talking to Galaxy at all about Pick a Card?
Dave: I am a fatally friendly and optimistic guy, so I was hoping it would stimulate interest and I wanted to get Poker for Roulette renewed.
I also showed it to Roger Snow, “Remember, way back when you wanted me to come up with a card game?” Roger told me that ShuffleMaster has changed since then, so he liked the idea personally, but they’ll pass.
Brandon: So, where are you once everything is back to normal? I take it Poker for Roulette is essentially done?
Dave: I guess. If someone called me tomorrow, I’d talk to them.
Brandon: Yeah, but you were with Galaxy. Roger knows about it. You can’t go directly to casinos---who else is there?
Dave: I don’t know. I don’t know where to go from here. I have contacted internet casinos, but they haven’t responded.
What got me thinking I should just give up is that I started dealing with Heather Ferris, she’s a sweetheart, but she was helping me with table felt design and, in the process, it occurred to me that Pick a Card will be complex to the point that a dealer will not like it.
There’s no way to simplify it to where the dealers won’t hate it. I think I’m going to give up on it?
Brandon: What’s the problem with Pick a Card? Just use a shuffle machine.
Dave: That’s not the problem. It’s all the chips with fifteen betting spots, per person, and can be a winner on any of them.
Brandon: What about a shared betting area, like Roulette, and different colored chips for each player?
Dave: I’ve had that concept, more like a Big Six Wheel. It’s doable, but it has some drawbacks.
Heather’s idea was that I should contact companies that do Monte Carlo nights and offer my services as a dealer on a new and unique game and they don’t have to pay me. I thought that was a good idea.
Brandon: That’s a great idea.
Dave: Four different local companies, no replies. I can’t win.
Brandon: It sounds like, number one, even with a leg up over other people to start--you had trouble breaking in in the first place. Number two, once you got a contract on Poker for Roulette, my take is they didn’t communicate as well as they should have.
It sounds like you’re optimistic and wouldn’t mind talking to Galaxy again, though.
You didn’t really know where the game stood or where it was in their list of priorities. It doesn’t sound like they ever communicated that to you.
So, for someone who even had a bit of a leg up in terms of contacts, it shoulds like it’s still tough as hell and would take awhile before you would ever hope to see positive return on investment, unless you hit the next one out of the park with the new Let it Ride or Pai Gow Poker.
Dave: The Pai Gow Poker inventor was told it wasn’t patentable, but it was.
About two years ago, the patent office changed the rules. I’d have a hard time getting a patent on these games without adding an electronic component.
If I shuffle and deal the cards in a new way, there’s nothing patentable about that. If I do it with something electronic to keep track of some part of it, now it’s patentable. It’s a pain in the ass.
If someone else comes along with a similar game or flat out steals yours, okay, so you have a patent---would you sue them? Now, you have legal expenses. Also, how are you going to know how much you’re trying to recoup?
Brandon: You’re trying to recoup a theoretical if you’re in the early part of the process, because you’ve not even demonstrated that the idea is actually worth anything.
“Oh, how much money does your game make?”
“Well, none, Your Honor.”
Dave: Yeah. It’s a minefield every step of the way.
Brandon: Is there anything you feel we haven’t covered that you’d like to get out there in terms of Table Games design?
Dave: I don’t want to discourage anybody, but it’s a discouraging process. The number of people who have ideas v. the number of people who get field trials v. the number of people with games that actually produce revenue---it’s a long shot. I’m not saying that you can’t win, but the odds are definitely against you.
Brandon: That segues nicely into my final question:
You’ve invested a lot of time and money, and time is money, so it would be much more if you had to put a dollar amount on opportunity cost.
Going back to October of 2009, if you had this to do all over again knowing that this would be the result, over ten years later, would you do it again?
Dave: I’d do it differently, but I’d do it again.
Brandon: What would you do differently?
Dave: That’s a good question. I think I’d try to find a way to break into the industry in some other capacity before introducing my game.
Whether that means moving to Atlantic City or Vegas, I don’t know, but I think you definitely need to be in the industry or have stronger contacts than I did. Or, I hate to say it, a contact that doesn’t end up dying.
Brandon: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me, great advice! People should demonstrate that they have knowledge of the industry and then maybe other insiders will take them more seriously. Even a great idea might be dismissed if you’re a person without any clout.
I’d like to thank Dave for his time telling his story about trying to bring new games to market that didn’t result in success.
Dave spent more than ten years (with varying levels of intensity) and $15,000 (and he felt he got off cheap) to come up with his game might have been mentioned in London once. That’s the closest that Poker for Roulette ever came to an installation.
For those of you out there who think inventing new games is easy, or that a high number of newly invented games see the light of the Table Games pit, unfortunately, you need to check your expectations at the door.
If you’re prepared to spend a lot of money, time and passion trying to get your game into casinos, and you expect nothing, only then you might not be disappointed...because that’s the amount of money you’re most likely to make---nothing.