Mohegan Sun – Stadium Table Games

I made a short visit to Mohegan Sun Sunday to play and review stadium gaming, where 30-40 players can play at individual stations at the same time, but with only one dealer per game needed.

Casino Game Evolution

One of the first Electronic Blackjack Multiple Player games. Still can be found at Twin River Casino.

In many ways, casinos seem to be the same as they were 30 years ago – table games, chips, slots, etc.  But it has been a slow, continuous change not easily seen by the gambling eye.  Some changes have been for the better.  Remember when Ticket-In, Ticket-Out (TITO) was considered blasphemy because players supposedly wanted to use coins instead of paper, and wanted to hear the sound of coins dropping into coin bin? Until I looked down and saw my hands covered in filth from quarters, I thought so, too.  Now? – TITO is just fine, thank-you.

Table games continue to evolve.  New games are introduced, variations of old games continue, and additional side bets are invented.  But who knew a hybrid form of table games would become so popular.  Electronic table games began to be seen as soon as video slots became popular with the appearance of blackjack as an option.  Soon, experiments with group roulette blackjack & bubble craps were seen in the casino.  However, the latest evolution of electronic table games seems to be taking casinos and their patrons by storm across the country, and that was what I went to experience.

John Grochowski wrote in an early article of E-TableGaming for CasinoPlayer,  “It’s a matter of evolution, not revolution—they’re not threatening to take over anyone’s table pits, but they provide a way to bring more table-style games to more players, and player acceptance is on the rise.”  The Casino Answer Man’s article can be found here – E-Table Evolution.

The games available at Mohegan Sun are produced by SCIENTIFIC GAMING called Hybrid Fusion.  It features a live dealer and electronic betting interface, with a multi-game feature. This allows for up to four games to be played at once. This particular set-up included two blackjack games, one roulette and one baccarat. Each chair in the Stadium Gaming area of the casino (it takes up quite a bit of real estate) has its own interactive video display. Wagers are placed through the screens as live games are dealt by actual human dealers, nearby.

For another interesting article about stadium gaming, as well as a great podcast, visit Vegas FanBoy for his article,  Stadium Gambling: It’s a Big Footprint, but is it a Big Step Forward?

Five Advantages for Casino & Players:

  1. Stadium Gaming has obvious advantages for the casino. It takes just a few members of the casino staff to serve all those players, dealers for each game and a floor manager. Low cost, high return, just the way casinos like it.
  2. Planned time with friends can easily turn into a solitary evening since finding tables with multiple open seats can be nearly impossible. The “arena” makes strides to provide sufficient space for groups. While it’ll be hard to find an entirely vacant row, even scattered seats still allow for bands of gambling friends to win and lose together. Additionally, pairs can enjoy gambling side by side on different games.
  3. The arena is designed for a more social experience – is that millennials I hear  rustling in the background, eager to gamble with their buddies? And rumor has it that one game expected to be found soon would be enjoyed by groups of 25 to 75 year-lds.  The development in the future might include tournaments, tutorials, and yes – even Bingo.
  4. Every bet can be tracked, leading to player rewards data on table games as accurate as casinos collect on slot players. There’s no need for the pit supervisor to track buy-ins and estimate average bet and table speed to calculate a player rating. The data is collected automatically.
  5. Players control their own pace, and can opt out a hand anytime. For some, it’s a natural bridge between fully electronic table games and live table games. It also bridges the gap for players who prefer the solo experience, such as video poker, slot, and keno players by playing table games by oneself.
  6. Multi-station electronic configurations add potential for games with lower betting minimums. A casino that can’t justify $5 minimums at live tables might be able to swing it if one dealer—whether live or in a video representation—is serving 100 or more wagering terminals.

Mohegan Sun Experience

Mohegan Sun was the first casino destination resort in North America to offer their players the Scientific Games Corporation Stadium Blackjack game on the company’s Fusion Hybrid electronic table system which connects four live-dealt games to Mohegan Sun’s three on-property casinos.

How Blackjack Is Played

The game features shared starting hands for all players, followed by independent decision-making by each player as the hand progresses. For example, the usual procedure of receive a card, see the dealer’s up card, then receive a second card is still true.  However, after that, to stand or hit, surrender, double or split, remains the personal players decision. Then, “community cards” are dealt, one at a time until all players decisions are made. Finally, the dealer plays out his hand as the rules allow.

BlackJack Rules

I was pleasantly surprised by the BJ rules.  All were 3/2 (yeah, not 6/5 or even money!).  Splitting, surrender and doubling rules are typical and match the casino rules.  Three side bets are included. Undesirable rules includes: 1) dealer hits on Soft 17. 2) no double after splitting. Not a bad play, not great, but definitely beats 6/5 for a BJ.

Conclusion

All in all, it was fun.  Not having to put up with pompous “know-it-all” or obnoxious drunks was another positive.  But it does lack the camaraderie found at a traditional blackjack table.  Depends what atmosphere floats your gambling boat.  I found it to be very user friendly. It is easy to switch between games on a wide screen that’s easy to navigate.  If you know how to play the table game, it only takes a quick look to find the buttons needed such as table status, countdown, wagers and results.

Foxwoods is rumored to be the next New England casino to introduce stadium gaming in the Great Cedar Casino where the 360 slot area was.  Most likely, it should be added to the Fox Casino, where one of the best night-clubs on the East Coast resides.

I can’t see this being used for video poker, some other table/carnival games, and standard craps.  Then again, I was against TITO when it first came out, so let the evolution continue!

Binbin

 

Blackjack Variations

blackjack-humorI play blackjack, but it’s not my go-to game. I’m a low-roller, basic strategy kind of player.  So, when I started looking at blackjack variations, I was amazed by the list.

So I found a great website that lists most of the blackjack variants you can find in the casinos – both brick-and-mortar as well as online.

CountingEdge.com seems to be a wealth of information, including articles about “how & When” to do things, card counting, online blackjack and is a great teaching source.

Back to the list of Blackjack variants that come right out from CountingEdge.com post called, “Blackjack Variations That Are Popular.” The article includes links with more information on each game.

Cats Playing Blackjack

Cats Playing Blackjack – I just love this.  No idea which variation they are playing.

The following list includes those that can be found in brick-and-mortar casinos. Those only online are not included.

  1. Bonus Blackjack – Bonus Blackjack is played exactly the same as standard blackjack, but with an optional side bet that gives the player a chance to really cash in on a blackjack. As it is only ever played with two decks, bonus blackjack is one of the most popular blackjack variations amongst card counters and professional players.
  2. Blackjack Switch
    Blackjack switch table and deal.

    Blackjack switch table and deal.

    Blackjack Switch has quickly established itself as one of the most popular blackjack variations found in casinos. While generally played the same as blackjack, the twist is that each player plays two hands and has the chance to switch their cards after the initial deal.

  3. Double Exposure Blackjack – it is one of the few blackjack variations that actually increase the odds for the player. Because of this, it is quite rare, as most casinos would rather not let players play blackjack variations where they are able to win more money. So if you ever do find one of these tables, sit down and play.double-exposure-blackjack_sa
  4. Free Bet Blackjack – According to Michael Shackelford, aka the “Wizard of Ods, “The twist to this one is the player doesn’t have to risk his own money when splitting or doubling (most of the time). It is like playing with a generous boyfriend at the table who makes all the supplemental bets for you and lets you keep the winnings. What is the catch?  if the dealer gets a 22, all bets left standing push.freebet-blackjack
  5. Pitch Blackjack – You already know Pitch Blackjack, even if the name is new. Pitch Blackjack is simply blackjack played with one or two decks, and gets its name from the pitching action the dealer uses to deal the cards. Online poker variations of Pitch Blackjack are typically just called single-deck blackjack
  6. Spanish 21 – There are a few twists to Spanish 21, the first being that it is usually played with a four deck shoe of cards. spanish-21-logoThese decks are what is referred to as a Spanish deck, meaning all of the tens are taken out. Some of the payouts are varied as well- all blackjack hands are paid on 3:2 odds no matter what the dealer has. Doubling down is allowed at anytime, including for split pairs. In fact, a player can double down anytime, not just on the initial two cards. So if you already took a card into your hand, you can still double down, though the rule of only one additional hit after doubling down would still apply. There is also a great rule called “double down rescue”, which is unique only to Spanish 21. Double down rescue means that a player can invoke the early surrender rule on a hand that they doubled down on. They would then lose only half their bet instead of all of it if they were to lose.spanish21_02
  7. 21 + 3 Blackjack – The “21 + 3” blackjack side bet is based on examining the player’s two cards and the dealer’s up-card. If the three cards form a flush, straight, three-of-a-kind or straight flush, the player wins. In the original version, the payout for each of these was 9-to-1.

    21-3_layout-paytable1

    21 + 3 Table layout and Bonus paytable

  8. Blackjack Surrender – This is called an Early Surrender. The second option takes place after the dealer has looked at his cards to reveal if a Blackjack hand was dealt. This is called a late surrender. In both circumstances the dealer takes your surrendered cards, along with half of your bet.