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The Excitement Factor

Is there a formula for determining the “funnest” game in the casino?
By Frank Scoblete

The game that has the highest level of excitement? Craps. The player gets to shoot the dice, and doing this gives him a strong sense of participation since it’s his roll that determines everything.

I want to say right up front: This is going to be a controversial column. Why? Because I’m going to give a formula for what I consider the best way to judge the various enjoyment levels of casino games. And it comes down to two words: “player control.” I think a strong case can be made that the games where a player has the most control are the games that contain the most excitement.

Players who prefer the games that I feel contain the least excitement are certainly entitled to their opinions. But quite a few of these players have never actually tried the games that I believe contain the highest levels. If they did, I think they might agree with me.

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Now, all casino games have certain aspects in common. You bet money; a decision is made; you win, lose or push. Everyone gets to decide how much to bet and when to quit. Betting, winning and losing are common denominators for all of the games.

One way in which the various casino games are fundamentally different is the degree of player control that they allow. Let’s take a look at roulette. The only choices the players have are which numbers or propositions to wager on. The game itself is totally out of the players’ hands. Once the bet is made, the players can merely root. They have no control over the outcome of the bets. In my opinion, roulette is therefore rated “low” on the excitement scale.

Using the same criteria, almost all slot machines fall into the lowest level of excitement. You put your money in, hope and pray, and the reels spin and the decision is made.

There are certain advantage-play slot machines where the player can get an edge at specific times, and if these machines are played properly then there are specific choices in the matter of when and how much to bet. There is some exercise of control in such cases. The excitement level on an advantage-play slot machine is somewhat higher than on the machines where the house always has an edge. My book Slot Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines!, which comes out in the fall, will specifically discuss these machines.

What about video poker? It’s a big step up from roulette and slot machines in its level of player control. In video poker, your decisions on how to play your hands determines your long-range expectation. Play those hands correctly, and you increase your chances to win. Play the hands incorrectly, and you will decrease your long-range monetary expectation. Video poker is quite an exciting game.

Excitement-wise, blackjack is the table game equivalent of video poker—but it requires a lot more decision-making. Each and every hand you receive requires you to make a strategic decision—stand on your hand, hit your hand, double down, split pairs, or insure your hands against the dealer’s ace. Card counters go a step further as they change their betting patterns depending on whether the remaining cards favor them, or the house. There are also major strategic changes card counters will make depending on the count. In short, card counting adds another added level of excitement to an already-exciting game.

Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, Three-Card Poker and other “carnival games” will give you some opportunities for strategic decision making, although these games come nowhere close to blackjack. I’d say these are moderately exciting games, since there aren’t too many decisions called for.

Pai gow poker gives the player quite a few decisions to make during play, and these decisions will ultimately determine the player’s monetary expectation over the long haul. It is nowhere close to blackjack, but far superior to the carnival games.

Mini-baccarat is much like roulette. You make your bet, the dealer deals the cards, and this determines everything. The player does nothing. Not much excitement there.

High roller-room baccarat on the big table is different because players get to deal the cards. This does add a level of excitement, even though the person dealing has no decision-making capacity. How to play the hands is predetermined. Still, dealing the cards at least gives the player a sense of some control. Baccarat is also normally played in elegant high-roller settings with several dealers taking care of you, which gives the fun and excitement levels an added boost. It’s much more exciting than mini-baccarat, but still can’t touch blackjack.

The game that has the highest level of excitement? Craps. The player gets to shoot the dice, and doing this gives him a strong sense of participation since it’s his roll that determines everything. It’s not just his fortunes that are riding on his outcome; everyone at the table has a stake in what numbers he throws.

The fact that almost all shooters (i.e. those who don’t practice dice control) are actually engaging in a random act—kind of like pulling the handle on a slot machine—is irrelevant, because the shooter is still determining the outcome. The other players make their bets based on whether the shooter is hot, or is hitting certain numbers The ebb and flow of the game goes according to what the shooter is doing.

Yes, there are certain shooters, known as Golden Touch controlled shooters, who do have some influence over the outcome of their dice throws. But these shooters are few and far between. To most craps players, the game really comes down to the casino saying to the player: “Here are the dice; try to beat us if you can!” There’s no feeling like it. You take the dice in your hands and then…well, everything then seems to be in your hands. And that’s why craps is the most exciting game in the casino.

Frank Scoblete’s newest book is Casino Craps: Shoot To Win!, which can take you from novice to dice controller. It comes with a DVD showing unedited controlled throws. Meanwhile, Scoblete’s Beat Blackjack Now! takes you from novice to advantage player with the easiest advantage-play method ever created. They’re available at Amazon.com; your favorite bookstore; or by mail-order by calling 1-800-944-0406. Want a free brochure, too? Just call the above number.

Is there a formula for determining the “funnest” game in the casino.

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