Casino Games That Never Caught On
We talk a lot about how the online gambling industry is one of the most innovative industries out there, always exploring new technologies and creating new ways to keep players entertained.
That could mean reinventing old classics – like creating a multitude of blackjack and roulette variations – or coming up with something totally new and unique – like the game show style games that really took off in the live casinos during the early 2020’s.
But like the old saying goes, you can’t win ‘em all, and while the casino might always win in the long run, there have certainly been several occasions where their attempts to enthral their clientele fell flat and hard.
This article is all about the games that for whatever reason simply never took off, never captured people’s imaginations, and even games that were once popular but eventually died out.
You might remember playing some of them, but since they are mostly flops, you probably didn’t play them for long.
You might have played this sort of thing at seaside arcades and there are still one or two games at some of the biggest casinos in the US, but Sigma Derby is pretty much retired these days.
It is a game based on horse racing, in which players choose the horse they think will come first and second and then bet on it, before the machine randomly creates the race using chains to pull the horses along.
The odds for each combination are displayed digitally so can change, but players can always see what they are.
A different horse comes first and second each time, so it’s pot luck as to whether or not our bet will be a winner, but the fact you can watch the race play out using miniature models on a replica track is great fun.
Although this game didn’t exactly fail, becoming a cult classic if anything, it hasn’t really taken off with the majority or stood the test of time either.
It’s a strange hybrid of a game that doesn’t quite fit in, and it takes up a lot of space on the casino floor too, while only taking low bets and playing slowly.
Frankly, casinos could make more by using the floorspace for more slots, and this is what many have done.
In the world of casinos, players are attracted by excitement. They either want big winning potential, exciting gameplay, the ability the outsmart an opponent, or ideally all three at once.
Casino War offered none of that.
It is a game no more complicated than playing snap, in which both the dealer and the player are dealt a card, both of which are turned over, and whoever has the highest card wins. The end.
It could be described as fast paced in the sense that each hand takes around 10 seconds to play, but that doesn’t make it exciting.
The only time things get any more complex is if both hands are a tie.
In this situation the player can surrender and lose half their stake, or go to war with the dealer, which equates to placing another bet, and both being dealt another card.
If they lose then both bets are lost; if they win then only the initial wager is paid out; if they tie then they lose their initial wager but their second stake is returned.
There was also a side bet on the tie paying out at 10:1.
As you can see, not only is it a bit dull, but it’s heavily weighted in favour of the casino with a 3% house edge.
It may have been an attempt to coax slots players, more used to simple game play with little to know skill involved, towards table games, but it didn’t catch on with experienced casino players.
Nevertheless, thanks to the favourable house edge casinos do still offer Casino War, although only tourists or those with very little experience would ever play it.
3 Dice Football
It seems to be a theme that if anything comes along that changes the landscape too drastically, players stay away.
This was certainly the case with 3 dice football.
It was an attempt to capitalise on the influx of football fans that hit Vegas during the football season, by combing two things they seemed to love; football and casino gambling.
However the game was very complicated, and people just didn’t have enough of an interest to put in the time necessary to learn it.
It was similar to craps in many ways, played on a similar shaped table with green and red dice being thrown to establish what happened to any bets made.
The idea was to get from one end of the table to the other, winning money along the way with different bet types.
Innovative it certainly was, but for the same reason we aren’t going to explain the rules in any detail here, players didn’t stick around at the tables for long, and the few casinos that trialled the game soon pulled it again.
That was in 2011, and nothing has been heard of the game since.
This game is one of those that was extremely popular in its day, but has since become somewhat extinct.
Reportedly extremely popular in the saloons of the wild west, in Faro the 13 cards from the suit of spades are laid out on the table facing up.
Players then place their bet or bets on the number they think the dealer might pull from the deck next.
The dealer then reveals a card from what remains of the deck (which is now 39 cards strong with the remaining 3 suits) and any bets on that number are lost.
The dealer draws a second card, and all bets on that number are winners.
Bets on the other 11 cards can be left to ride or pushed.
It sounds like a fun little game and it’s nice and simple too; but as time went on a gambling became a real industry, operators realised that they could make more money from other games and so Faro gradually faded away.
The other issue was that savvy players could potentially keep track of cards that had already been drawn and only place bets on numbers that more likely to be drawn based on what was left.
Triple Zero Roulette
Technically this one hasn’t failed yet, but it surely has to.
More casinos are starting to introduce it as they can make a lot more money on it, upping the house edge from 2.70%/5.26% in single zero/double zero roulette, right up to 7.69%!
This makes it one of the worst value games on the casino floor, with only the Wheel of Fortune games looking worse at 11.2%.
Clearly designed to take advantage of tourists and newbies, triple zero roulette will be avoided by anyone with even the slightest knowledge of roulette and gambling.
There are online games with extra slots but these tend to be there to trigger a bonus round or some such, rather than to simply fleece players for a bit extra while giving nothing back in return.
Casinos may make enough off of triple zero roulette to keep the odd table running, but hopefully it will remain a lesser spotted option on the casino floor.
7 Reel Slots
Hailed as the next big thing when they first started appearing in the late 2000s, 7 reel slots disappeared almost as quickly as they turned up.
They were the slot equivalent of one hit wonder Kavana, except they don’t still make people ‘feel good’ on the radio on Throwback Thursday.
After so much fanfare from developer WGS and the casino industry at the time, expectations were high, but poor quality graphics, a lack of features, lower RTPs, and a tendency to lean on more classic designs stopped them feeling contemporary.
On top of this, progressive jackpots were just becoming a big thing with Mega Moolah and Mega Fortune both being released at around the same time, stealing the limelight, not to mention the rise of mobile gaming which the super sized 7 reelers did not suit at all.
You can still find 7 reel slots dotted around the internet, but they never took off like they were expected to.
Plus, many games with 7 reels are designed to completely differently, such as having many more rows or having winning combination being formed by grouping icons together rather than making combinations on paylines. They aren’t really the same thing at all.
Failed Poker Variations
When the online poker boom happened in the 2000s, game developers were literally throwing new poker variations at players by the handful.
Like any other market, when it becomes saturated some of the products will win and some will be roundly ignored.
This is precisely what happened to the poker games below.
They were developed to capitalise on a trend but for a variety of different reasons they ultimately failed to attract enough players to keep them around.
5 Card Draw
Considered to be the simplest form of poker – which is possibly why it lost popularity – 5 card draw is technically still around at casinos in the form of video poker.
You won’t find any tables offering it though.
It’s the game the cowboys often play in the movies, where each player is dealt 5 cards face down, then decides whether to play, fold, or call.
Players can then replace up to 3 cards per round with new cards from the remaining deck, and a second round of betting occurs.
Players once again raise, fold, check and call based on their new cards, until they reach the showdown.
This happens when no one is willing to raise any more and all remaining players have to show their cards to reveal who has the best hand and takes the pot.
A combination of factors resigned 5 card draw to living rooms and ‘just for fun’ games, including the sudden appearance of so many other poker variations, and the casino’s ability to make more money faster with alternative games.
An interesting idea, Duplicate Poker was designed to be played at tournaments or anywhere with at least 2 tables running at the same time, with the same number of players on each.
All decks on all tables would be ordered in exactly the same way, so that every player in seat 1 would have the same hand, every player in seat 2 would have the same hand, and so on.
The people in the corresponding seats to yours at other tables would become your opposition, so you could not do very well at your table but still score highly among your competitors at other tables.
It could also be played as a team game, with team members sat at different seats at all tables to ensure no team member was ever playing against one of their own.
The people who founded the game even set up a website dedicated to this new form of poker, but it only lasted 12 months, closing down in 2008.
Other attempts to relaunch the game have occurred since then, but they have never really made the kind of waves that those running the games were hoping for.
So named because folded hands are revealed to the table.
It was PokerStars who came up with this game but it was an epic failure despite a huge marketing push, lasting only a few months.
This was simply a case of the game being a bad idea.
It was Texas Hold’em but you got to see folded hands, which gives with one hand but takes away with the other, because anything you learn about your opponent they are also going to learn about you.
Players didn’t like it at all, preferring the secrecy of mucking which gave them more room to play tactically.
Failed Blackjack Variations
The game of blackjack is one of the most frequently tinkered with, so it stands to reason that there are going to be a good number of ideas that came to market but didn’t stay there very long.
It’s a game that can be adapted fairly easily, but the key to its popularity is the fact that players can use strategy and skill rather than just dumb luck.
If developers try and take that element away, or make changes that have too much impact on the core of the game, they do so at their peril.
Three Card Blackjack
Piggy backing on the wave of online poker’s rising popularity, Three Card Poker brought poker style betting to the game of blackjack… but not with very good results.
Although the aim remained to get as close to 21 as possible, the way in which this was achieved was very different to regular blackjack.
Both the player and the dealer were dealt 3 cards instead of 2, with one of the dealer’s cards facing up and two in the hole.
After the deal, the player had to make their best hand using 2 or 3 of their cards, and then decide whether or not to make a second bet to go up against the dealer.
Obviously the player knows what their best hand is, and they know the dealer’s up card, but they don’t know which cards the dealer has in the hole.
If the player folds at this point they lose their initial bet, if they ‘raise’ and place a second bet and go on to lose, they lose both bets. The dealer must have at least 17 in order to qualify, and if they do and the player wins then both bets are paid out, but if the dealer does not qualify then only the ante pays out while the initial bet is a push.
It sounds fun, but it’s not blackjack (the only decision the player really makes is whether or not to play on after the deal) and the house edge was a whopping 3.42%, so anyone in their right mind would stay clear.
Which they did.
Never Bust Blackjack
You can still find similarly named games scattered online sometimes, but Never Bust Blackjack was a game that players very quickly shunned.
It committed the cardinal sin of removing the skill element from the game, dictating to players what they must do rather than letting them decide for themselves.
It was actually created by Geoff Hall, of Blackjack Switch fame, but unlike many of his other efforts this one did not go down well at all.
The player became a spectator in Never Bust Blackjack because the rules dictate that they must hit until they reach hard 17 or higher, at which point they must stand.
However, if they are ever dealt a card that takes them over 21 then that card is simply binned off and a replacement card is dealt.
Not only did this take all skill out of the game, but it wasn’t particularly favourable either, with a house edge of 1.89% rather than 0.5% - a huge difference.
There was even a version that paid out 6:5 on blackjack instead of 3:2 creating a house edge of 3.25%!
No wonder players stayed away.
It was actually the casinos themselves that ended War Blackjack, because it was proving too advantageous to the player.
The variation effectively tied the traditional game of blackjack and the traditional game of War (a very basic high card game) together.
Players would place 2 bets, one of blackjack and one on war, with the war bet being settled first by a single card being dealt to both the player and the dealer.
If the player had the lower card or tied then they lost, but if they had the higher card they could end the hand and take the money, or choose to parlay.
Parlaying allowed players to add the profit from the war bet to the blackjack bet, which would then play out as expected with the extra cards being dealt before player choices were made.
But parlaying when the cards in view look favourable meant players could increase their bet on a strong looking start, essentially for free because they are doing so using the casino’s money.
With much more profitable side bets available, casinos simply stopped offering Blackjack War, despite the fact that it won awards when it first launched.
Two Face Blackjack (Double Exposure)
Another game that the casinos didn’t like, Two Face Blackjack (also known as Double Exposure) was incredibly player friendly to anyone who knew how to play.
The 10’s had been removed from the pack leaving each deck at 48 cards strong, and only the face cards left with a value of ten.
But the real gift for the player was that whenever the dealer’s up card was a face card, they had to also reveal their hole card.
This meant that the player had all the information they needed before they had to make any decisions – an incredible position to be in for even novice players.
The payout on blackjack was reduced from 3:2 to 6:5 to offset this a little bit, but the house edge remained at just 0.34%, so casinos started paying out 1:1 on blackjack as well as regular winning hands.
Even this wasn’t enough to make the game profitable enough for the house though, so casinos eventually just stopped offering it.
Lucky 13s Blackjack
Talk about making changes that are just too big, well the guy behind Lucky 13s blackjack, Vinny Sandhu, took a giant step too far.
He introduced extra cards to the deck in the way of an 11, a 12, and a 13, but the aim of the game was still to hit as close to 21 as possible without going over.
This meant a deck was 64 cards strong rather than 52, and it also meant that a player could go bust right out off the gate if they were dealt a 22, 23, 24, 25, or 26. No wonder no one played it.
There was a new rule which allowed players to split an initial hand if it was a bust made of a pair (so 12 and 12, for example), but it wasn’t enough to interest anyone.
People who have spent years learning the maths behind the game and developing strategies didn’t want to have to start all over again, and Lucky 13’s Blackjack was roundly ignored and quickly forgotten.