New games join mainstays blackjack, poker

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What you hold and how you play ‘em are still the keys to table games, but gamers are being offered some interesting twists on “old faithfuls” like blackjack and poker. | FILE PHOTO

Table players aren’t always looking for the newest, flashiest, most innovative takes on the games people play.

Game designers know that, and nearly always use reliable favorites such as blackjack and poker as starting points for new games they hope will carve a niche on casino floors.

Take BJ-Bac, from Toke Gaming Corp., one of the new games with a chance to break through in 2013. As the name suggests, it’s a hybrid of blackjack and baccarat. The game is blackjack, but as in baccarat, only two hands are dealt. a player hand and a banker hand. You can bet on player, banker or tie, just as in baccarat. And there are two optional side bets.

The banker hand hits on 16 and below, and stands on 17 and above, just like blackjack. And the dealers plays out the player hand according to a basic strategy chart. There are double down and pair splitting opportunities, but you don’t have to make the extra bets to get a decision on the hand. With only two hands, the game moves fast, something casino operators will like.

On the player side, the hand is played out by the dealer according to a basic strategy chart posted right at the table. The banker hand wins more often than it loses, but winning bets must pay a 5 percent commission, as in baccarat. Toke Gaming’s analysis shows a 1.22 percent house edge if you bet on player, 1.04 percent on banker, both among the better bets in the house. Just don’t bet on ties. With an 8-1 payoff in a six-deck shoe, Toke says the house edge is 20.3 percent. If a casino raises the payoff to 9-1, it reduces the edge to 11.5 percent. Either way, you’re better off sticking with banker or player.

SHFL Entertainment, long known as Shuffle Master, introduced Free Bet Blackjack with a Push 22 progressive side bet. The free part is that you may split pairs without an extra bet, except there is no splitting of 4s or the 10-value cards. You also may double down for free on any hard 9, 10, or 11, on any number of cards, including after splitting pairs.

The tradeoff? If the dealer busts with a total of 22, any bets you have remaining in action are pushes. You still win on your blackjacks; they’re paid before the dealer draws. But any of your other bets, just give you your money back if the dealer hits the magic number.

SHFL also has several new poker-based games, including Raise It Up Stud Poker. It’s a six-card poker game where the player combines his own three cards with three community cards. The object is to make a hand of a pair of 10s or better. The hand starts with equal wagers on ante and blind.

You then are dealt three cards, and three community cards are dealt face down in the middle of the table. After you look at your cards, you may make a “play” bet of three times your ante. If you wait until seeing the first community card, you can play for twice your ante. After seeing the second card, if you haven’t already made the play, you can either fold or play for a bet equal to your ante.

If you’re dealt a winner, then you can take full advantage with a 3x play bet. If not, you can wait for the free looks before deciding to jump in.

Away from blackjack and poker-based games, Riverboat Roulette from Double Luck Gaming creates multiple-spin wagers, a la craps. A traditional-looking wheel adds different colors in the spaces between frets, where the ball falls. The numbers themselves still are on red and black backgrounds. That means with green for 0 and 00, so you can still make all the traditional roulette bets. But you also can bet on the three light blue numbers, the four purple numbers, seven colors in all. Bets on colors pay odds — 2-1 on light blue or 8-5 on purple, for example — but non-winners push and stay in action if the winning color is anything but white. They lose only if one the ball drops in one of the eight white numbers.

It’s an interesting twist, and doesn’t intrude at all on the traditional game.