Game Reviews

Poker


Poker has seen a massive surge in popularity recently thanks to many high profile events and tournaments, including many nationally televised competitions such as the World Series of Poker. While players from all around the globe have garnered substantial success recently, the vast majority of the top earners hail from the United States, with U.S. player all-time earnings totalling over $4 billion compared to Australian players as the next closest at $400 million total.

Big names in poker such as Antonio Esfandiari, Erik Seidel, and Phil Ivey – all hailing from the United States have found incredible success in recent years, earning over $65 million between the three of them and ranking them amongst the top five earners of all time.

Yet there can only be one top dog, and right now the most successful player of all time is undoubtedly Daniel Negreanu. At the age of 39, Negreanu has collected well over $30 million during his career. Daniel Negreanu was named the World Series of Poker Player of the Year twice, the first player in history to achieve the feat, once in 2004 and then again in 2013. With multiple $1 million+ prize pools under his belt, Daniel’s biggest prize came during the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, NV where he earned an astonishing $1,770,218!

As successful players such as Daniel Negreanu continue to dominate the offline poker scene, the battle continues to try to push legislation forward regarding online poker in states like California. A statement was recently published from twenty-five California card rooms which summarized concerns over Internet poker bills introduced by State Senator Lou Corrpokerea and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. The argument, as outlined from the card room supporters, focuses primarily on allowing offline poker establishments to be allowed to easily and legally transfer business interests into Internet poker markets.

“While the legalization of Internet poker will bring more attention to our poker games, we believe that it will increase competition for poker patrons and that the major benefits will accrue to those operators who have stake in Internet poker operations,” the statement reads. “It is essential that card rooms be able to participate in Internet poker in a meaningful way to protect our existing poker business, jobs, and tax base.”

The card rooms are focused on four key aspects of the legislation: fair methods of transferring card room ownership interests that focus on Internet poker, proper enforcement against unlicensed poker websites, prevention of “bad actor” companies that have operated illegal Internet poker sites within California to receive state gambling licenses, and moderation on oversight and regulations for day-to-day business operations.

 

Blackjack

Originally named twenty-one during its first known inception in the early 17th century around the area now known as Spain, blackjack has been a staple of modern casino gaming for centuries. The name blackjack came about much later in the United States, when bonuses for particular player hands were introduced to entice patrons. A famous example was a payout of ten-to-one for a player holding the ace of spades along with either a jack of spades or a jack of clubs (a “blackjack”). The name stuck of course even though the payout that manifested it did not.

While there are undoubtedly numerous highly successful blackjack players around the world, most of these pros generally elect to remain anonymous and out of the spotlight. Reason being? While blackjack can be played as part of a “team,” ultimately the two opponents facing off are the player and the house. If a blackjack professional becomes too successful and is recognized by a casino, that establishment has the right to bar that player; either for the day or permanently.blackjack

In some rare cases, however, a casino may not be legally allowed to bar a player for lawful conduct. One incredible example came about in 1982 during a court battle initiated by the late, great blackjack player Ken Uston in his case Uston v. Resorts International Hotel Inc. Upon the ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, Uston’s claim that skilled players should not be barred from casinos was found legally sound, and to this day, New Jersey casinos are not allowed to bar skilful players.

Unfortunately for blackjack players like Uston, casinos have since begun using other measures to increase the house edge in blackjack, such as increasing the deck count or altering the marker to increase shuffling frequencies. Yet in spite of these measures to push the house edge, clever blackjack players have found their own techniques to push the advantage back in their own favor ever so slightly.

One of Ken Uston’s mentors was the famous Al Francesco, who is commonly attributed with inventing blackjack team play and an accomplished card counter and player in his own right. Team play was first publicly written about in Ken Uston’s own 1977 book The Big Player and is mechanically a simple technique which had astonishing results.

A team will typically distribute a number of card counting players to separate tables to play for some time, playing for very little of their own money during this buildup process. Once the count indicates that players have an advantage over the house at a particular table, the counter indicates to a fellow teammate known as the “big player.” The big player maximizes bets for as long as possible until the count no longer favors the players, at which point another signal is given to tell the big player to take off.

While numerous examples of these team blackjack techniques have been acknowledged, the most famous, recent example is undoubtedly the MIT Blackjack Team, which consisted of members from Harvard, MIT, and other elite colleges and operated in one form another for over 20 years from 1979 through to the early 21st century.

Roulette

As one of the most exciting casino games for spectators, roulette has been a mainstay of modern casino floors since the creation of the roulette wheel in 18th century France. While the rules and wheel designs have varied throughout the games history, the modern day roulette wheel consists of 36 alternating black and red pockets, each marked with a number from 1 through 36, as well as one or two additional green pockets marked with zeros. The wheel is spun and a ball, spun in the opposite direction, jumps around the pockets until it eventually settles on the winning pocket for that round.

As with other casino games of chance, the game of roulette is designed and played in most modern casinos with a distinct albeit modest edge for the house. The actual advantage the house enjoys will vary slightly depending on the number of green, zero-marked pockets on the wheel, as determined by the wheel type in question. Traditional American roulette wheels feature two green zero pockets, giving the house a mathematical 5.26% edge, while European wheels utilize only a single green zero, dropping the house edge down to 2.70%. roulette

Since roulette is inherently favored for the house, most players tend to focus on betting techniques or mechanical flaws to try to eke out their own advantage. One very famous player was the British engineer Joseph Jagger, who is among the most successful and publicly known roulette winners in history. Jagger’s plan was both devious and ingenious, ultimately proving incredibly successful during the short period with which he employed it.

Jagger hired six accomplices in 1873 to secretly record the outcomes of the roulette wheels at the Beaux-Arts Casino in Monte Carlo. After enough time passed to allow proper analysis, Jagger discovered that one wheel in particular which had a notable scratch in it was producing far more pocketed balls on nine numbers in particular: 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 22, 28 and 29. On traditional European roulette wheels such as the flawed wheel in question, a whopping six of these nine biased numbers appear in consecutive sequence: 9-22-18-29-7-28.

Beginning July 7th, 1875, over the course of the next three days, Joseph Jagger was able to earn the equivalent of $4.8 million today! As his winning streak became recognized by the casino, wheels were shuffled around to different tables and even the metallic frets dividing the pockets were swapped frequently. These measures lead Jagger to a significant losing streak for a period before bouncing back a bit, seesawing his winning and losing over the next two days until July 12th, 1875, when Jagger elected to cut his losses and left Monte Cristo with the equivalent of around $5.5 million.

Slots

The twinkling lights, tantalizing beeps and bops, and the rapid thunk of a winning payout; these are a few of the alluring qualities that have led slot machines to becoming the most popular game for nearly all casinos worldwide. Simple to play and understand yet providing hours of entertainment, slot machines account for roughly 70% of US casino income.

While the first mechanical device similar to the modern slot machine was devised in Brooklyn, New York in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt, the first actual slot machine was created in San Francisco, California by inventor Charles Fey. Fey’s machine was the first to use three spinning wheels containing five symbols each and similar to modern slot machines, a match of three symbols on Fey’s slot machinesdevice was a win. The true selling point for Fey was that his machine was the first to provide automatic payout, a technical possibility due to the limited nature of potential combinations.

Fey’s machine, known as Liberty Bell due to the Liberty Bell symbols used on the drums, enjoyed immense success and ultimately warranted such a high demand that competitors began creating their own copies to sell. By 1908, Liberty Bell machines (or their derivatives) were installed in the majority of locations where gamblers were thought to frequent, such as saloons, brothels, and smoke shops.