Roll them cases out and lift them amps / Haul them trusses down and get ‘em up them ramps / ’Cause when it comes to moving me, you know you guys are the champs.
Jackson Browne, a legend for writing and singing “Doctor My Eyes,” “Somebody’s Baby” and “Running on Empty,” and perhaps an even bigger legend for wooing and dating Daryl Hannah—remember, this was in the ’80s—would always conclude his live shows with a tribute to the folks that put him on stage.
Like, literally the folks that put him on stage.
“The Load Out” was a six-minute salute to the guys and gals behind the scenes. “The first to come and the last to leave,” as he put it. The ones that drive the tour bus. The ones that set up the gear. The ones that go scrounging around after a show in Chicago (“or Detroit, I don’t know, we do so many shows in a row”) trying to hunt down a guitar string or a saxophone reed.
This is such a beautiful song, as much for its melody as its message. Gratitude. Appreciation. Thanks.
It’s easy to observe a finished product and ignore how it was made. Consider the pencil. Or the smartphone. Or the monthly column of a popular trade magazine.
Or the new table game.
When you see Zombie Blackjack or Mystery Card Roulette or Blazing 7s Blackjack, you might know it was created by someone like—or in these cases, someone exactly like—Geoff Hall, Mark Jones or Ryan Yee. But behind the headliner is a menagerie of people, smart people, talented people; people who did for them what Browne’s crew did for him. Without them and their efforts, there are no games. Or if there are, they are unproven, unprotected, unattractive, unsold, unapproved and unviable.
And now, let the roadies take the stage:
Inventors are inventors and analysts are analysts, and never the twain shall meet. Well, except for a few exceptional exceptions (see: Ko, Stanley; Shackelford, Michael; and Frome, Elliot). Most game inventors, on the other hand, couldn’t decipher the ciphering for anything more complicated than a two-card side bet or a one-die dice game. Big, complex undertakings (Fortune Asia Poker, Money Suit 31, Double Draw Poker, etc.) require a combination of skills: math as well as computer programming, the like of which you won’t find just anywhere.
The first lesson of dealing with lawyers—after Shakespeare’s recommendation, of course—is brevity. Such is life with a profession that charges by the 10th of an hour. To wit: Attorneys, particularly those specializing in the soft sciences of intellectual property, are critical to the game-creation process. Attorneys help inventors file patent applications to protect any novel ideas, as well as secure trademark rights for the name. They put the “proprietary” into proprietary table games.
See? That took less than six minutes. That’s pro bono, baby!
Artists and graphic designers, those conjurors of color and texture, work in the background to create the, well, background for these new games. And as you may have noticed, much of the creations today are exquisite. And getting more so. Getting more fun, as well.
Look for this to continue. Brand recognition, which begins and ends with the artist, will play an increasingly important role in this business. That means more and more elaborate designs. Brighter hues, watermarks, slot-type signage.
These are all coming soon to a casino near you.
As much as these games don’t design themselves or analyze themselves or protect themselves, they don’t sell themselves either. And every Mississippi Stud or High Card Flush you see in a casino was at one point pitched to the head of table games by an account executive.
Selling games isn’t easy. There are a hundred reasons for not taking a chance on something new, and the best salespeople are the ones who overcome those concerns through the building of relationships and the establishment of trust.
“Nuclear energy… Pharmaceuticals … Gaming.
“Uh, heavily regulated industries?”
Before the first bet is placed and the first card is dealt, new games require approval from the local regulatory body. That could be Nevada or Atlantic City or Singapore or Macau. It could be a card room in Los Angeles or a tribal casino in Florida. The greatest game—or any casino product, for that matter—is worthless without regulatory approval. And thus, the responsibility of securing that into the hands of compliance officials, the people who work diligently to navigate the many and myriad rules or the many and myriad markets around the world.
The last group on our curtain-call list is, coincidentally enough, the last group to see a new game before it goes live. There are people with the job of visiting each property and teaching the rules and procedures of Whoop Ass Poker (real game, real name), Keep ‘Em Coming (real game, real name) or Bootylicious Blackjack (OK, that one’s made up) to the staff.
Sounds easy? Well, it’s not.
Casinos have dozens, if not hundreds, of dealers. Plus floor supervisors and pit bosses and surveillance operators. And they’re spread across three shifts, which makes training a 24-hour on-call gig.
And the trainers, from a travel standpoint, truly live the life of a roadie. Always on the hop. Sacramento one day, Seattle the next. Then off to Cripple Creek, Colorado or Mount Airy, Pennsylvania. Quick ins, quicker outs.
It’s as if the final stanza of “The Load Out” was written for them:
‘Cause when that morning sun comes beating down / You’re gonna wake up in your town / But we’ll be scheduled to appear a thousand miles away from here.