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Wasteland or Opportunity?

When you see a place where no competition looms, it could be the right place after all.

Wasteland or Opportunity?

Depending on how you read it, Wee Willie Keeler, a turn-of-the-century—no, the century before that—baseball player had the worst nickname in the history of sports.

Wee Willie Keeler or Wee-Willie Keeler? There’s a difference.

But he also had the hands-down, all-time best explanation for why he was so good at what he was so good at. When a beat reporter in 1894 asked the 5-foot-4-inch outfielder the secret of his success—success quantified that year alone with a .371 average, 22 triples and 94 RBI—the biggest little man in the history of the game summed it up like this:

“I hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

Duh. Now why didn’t anyone else think of that?

Don’t try to hit ‘em through ‘em; rather, hit ‘em over and around ‘em. Same could be said for hockey or soccer, where strikers or skaters may rip a shot with all the force they can muster, but it hits the goalie right in the chest and falls harmlessly back into play. What’s the point?

Finding the openings, you see. That’s the key: a grounder between short and third, a penalty kick headed for the top corner, the backhander through the five-hole, a progressive jackpot for baccarat, a scoreboard for craps, a progressive for poker rooms.

Wait. What?

That’s right. In our world, the world of table games, these segments are as greenfield as the drag-bunt, no-man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and where the second baseman plays. And you’d best believe, with the content clogging up the rest of the pits, fertile turf like this is about to be seeded and sown.

Here’s a rundown of the crops coming your way:

Crapping In. There’s an old saw about two salesmen trying to peddle their shoes in some faraway land. The first one comes back and tells the boss that nobody wears shoes over there, so there’s no market. The other one tells the boss that no one wears shoes over there, so there’s an unlimited market.

Same deal with craps. There are maybe 1,000 tables around the world, mostly in the U.S., and not a single one of them has a progressive jackpot, something that’s on a quarter of all casino card games. The same amount—nix, zip, diddly, bupkis—have a historical trend board, which makes craps the only common-outcome game (e.g., roulette, baccarat, sic bo) that doesn’t post past results.

Seems like it would be fun to play a craps game and see what numbers are hot (or not), to see what the longest roll of the day has been. Maybe the hardways are hopping and the hop bets are hard… or vice versa. Wrap this into a progressive, and it seems you’d have a winner.

So, like our two shoe salesmen above, that either means the potential for such products is either non-existent or near-infinite. Just depends on your point of view.

Baccarat Crystal Ball. Of the 14,000 baccarat tables in the world, about 200 have progressives. The two most successful titles—remember, we’re grading on a curve—are Royal 9 and EZ Baccarat Progressive. And this is not a new endeavor: several companies, and at least one operator, have tried over the years to get a progressive to stick with players, but it just hasn’t panned out.

One problem with progressives on baccarat is what’s known, at least for the last three seconds, as the bingo effect. You know what happens there: the caller yells out “B11” and half the crowd yells “Bingo!,” raising their arms and knocking over their trove of trolls in the process. Then the pot gets whacked up nine ways and by the time you tip the runner, you have enough left over to buy a cup of hot water.

Royal 9 (along with Fu Dao Le) gets around this: Royal 9 assigns different card combinations to each seat, while FDL uses the actual seat number to determine which player wins the jackpot.

With casinos looking to increase yields (baccarat is a notorious low-holding game), you can expect to see more of those products mentioned above, as well as more new content hitting the market. Hmmm. That sounds like a teaser. Something having to do with a bet that’s already on the table, perhaps?

Relax. All good things to those who wait.

Poker Room Progressive. Sometimes, it’s just in the cards. Brick-and-mortar casinos are being forced to limit occupancy on their poker tables, in many cases dealing them three- and four-handed. Well, by an amazing stroke of fate, the most popular form of poker online is a three-handed sit-and-go tournament that has—wait for it—a random prize pool. Here’s the skinny:

Let’s say three players buy in for $25 each. Instead of the winner collecting $75, which would be a free-odds tournament, or $70, which would give the casino a decent cut, he or she could walk with $100. Or $500. Or $1,000. Or a progressive jackpot of $248,862.29.

Of course, the player could also take home $50 or $60. That’s the random side of it. You plunk down your entry fee and some RNG—digital or analog—determines the prize pool. Imagine. What would it feel like to be able to win 100 times your buy-in and only have to beat two other players to get it, in a tournament that takes maybe eight or nine minutes?

Well, you’re going to find out soon enough. This version of tournament poker was made for the post-Covid world, and it should have appeal to survive post-post-Covid.

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.