A racing and casino legend is still going after over thirty years. No, not a horse or Jockey, it’s SIGMA DERBY! Let’s look at Sigma Derby – A Casino Legend.
“I think there’s something beautiful about its simplicity. The fact that you’ve got five horses and you’ve got to pick the first two and you’ve got that rhythmic beat associated with it, there’s just something that’s kind of nice,”Derek Stevens, Owner of The D, downtown Las Vegas
Would you play a casino game with roughly a 10-20% advantage and only take quarters – no TITO. Recreational gamblers have done so for years – on Sigma Derby – A Casino Legend. And you can only find it at the D in Downtown Las Vegas.
Yes, I mean cult favorite. Every time, many Vegas visitors return with one thing on the itinerary – Sigma Derby.
What Is Sigma Derby?
Sigma Derby is an electric mechanical horse race introduced in 1985. Its 37-year history has made it a legend. But don’t wait too long if you haven’t played it; this is the only remaining Sigma Derby machine in the country. Atlantic City was home to one Sigma Derby-type machine called Royal Derby in the Wild Wild West hotel and casino, but that has disappeared.
Of course, it is used for gambling at the D and has Hall of Fame Status. When you can get a seat, you get the feeling of a craps game with its excitement, fun, and camaraderie. Up to ten players can buy in with quarters and place bets on the five horses.
Yes, I said quarters. But, unfortunately, you can’t slide in a $20 bill or cash – only quarters you buy from the change machine or the cashier. (See Marc Meltzer’s advice about hand pays below.)
How Do You Play It?
- A series of odds ranging from 2-1 to 200-1 are displayed before each race.
- You have 30 seconds to insert your quarters and place your bets
- You wager one of 10 possible quinella combinations (two horses placing first and second)
- Next, you place your bet at one of the ten stations surrounding the toy track.
- Then you cheer on your chosen ponies as an elaborate series of gears hurtles them around the track for 60 seconds. (This is not mandatory, fun that everyone does it.)
- You win the corresponding odds if your chosen horses come in first and second.
Marc Meltzer on Sigma Derby
Marc is a freelance writer and reports on Las Vegas at many media outlets. He documents Sin City with informative and valuable information beyond the usual social media consultant. He says, “Writing about steak, booze, gambling, and Las Vegas is tough, but somebody has to do it.”
If you’re not familiar with Sigma Derby, it’s a coin-operated electro-mechanical horse race game. Simply put Sigma Derby is a horse race game where you have to pick the first two horses to win each race. If you pick the winning combination you’ll win the game. Each machine has seats for 10 players. Since the games are coin-operated you’ll need to come prepared with a pocketful of change, visit the cashier, or find a change machine for quarters.
There are five horses that run around the enclosed race track that’s surrounded by the bettors. Players can buy in with quarters and place bets on one of 10 horse combinations. Each combination is for the first two horses to go around the track. The winning horse combination is paid based on the odds posted around the track.
The player’s station is credited with quarters with each win. Unlike most casino game machines Sigma Derby hasn’t been upgraded to take dollars or pay out tickets. Since the game is played with quarters you’re paid in quarters when you cash out. The casinos usually have old-school money buckets to carry your winnings to the cashier.
Here are some quotes from this terrific article about Sigma Derby – A Casino Legend.
“It should be noted that if a horse pays out more than 500 quarters, you’ll receive a hand pay from the casino. If you’re betting a long shot at 200/1 or greater, you might want to risk two or three quarters, so you can get paid in cash if you win. Keep your wager to a quarter if you like the vintage feel of all those filthy quarters.”Marc Meltzer, from “Let your quarters ride on Sigma Derby before it’s gone for good.”
“… you’re not playing Sigma Derby because it’s a moneymaker. You’re playing it because you want to play a vintage casino game and yell at the horses while they make their way around the track.”Marc Meltzer, from “Let your quarters ride on Sigma Derby before it’s gone for good.”
The fandom around Sigma Derby is infectious. Every time I’ve introduced someone to the game they’ve wanted to go back to the casino to play it again. I’ll always play the game because it’s a hokey good time and it won’t be around forever.Marc Meltzer, Covers.com
“The low cost to play Sigma Derby often means that the games are packed with people (who are almost always pounding drinks). As a result, it’s not rare to see people standing two or three deep waiting to play or watch the game on busy nights at The D.”Marc Meltzer, from “Let your quarters ride on Sigma Derby before it’s gone for good.”
Summary – Sigma Derby
There’s only one iconic machine named Sigma Derby. “We’re going to do everything we can to keep [it] going,” Stevens promises. “I love that so many people want to come to the second floor of The D just because they want to get their Sigma Derby “fix” in. It’s a great attraction to us, so that’s why the game for us is a little bit more than a game.”
Marc Meltzer sums it up by saying, “Here’s the fun of Sigma Derby: I hate the game, yet I love it.”
Well said, Marc.