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Gambling deal isn't all that Vegas

Some gambling favorites, like craps and roulette, haven't been invited to the party.

By SCOTT LONG
Published November 14, 2007


For gamblers, Florida's compact with the Seminole Tribe might feel a lot like getting invited to the MTV Music Awards and finding out that some of your favorite stars are no-shows.

While new games like blackjack are on their way to the Hard Rock, some faves like craps and roulette haven't been invited to the party.

Here's what you'll see, as soon as the Hard Rock can make it happen:

Slots: Easily the most popular game in any casino, these spinning, flashing, machines of joy get a promotion, not that you'll be able to tell much of a difference. Why? Because the "Class II" bingo machines you're playing now look almost the same as the "Class III" slots that will replace them. On the outside, they even act the same. But it's the guts that will change.

Instead of your machine being linked to a bunch of others, with a lightning-fast game of bingo deciding whether your three cherries line up, "real" slots use a random number generator to decide whether you - or the Hard Rock - win on each spin. One intriguing change for slot players, which wasn't specifically allowed or banned in the compact, is the possibility of "progressive" jackpots. If the Seminoles link some of the Tampa machines to ones at their other Florida casinos, top prizes could quickly escalate into life-changing amounts where every press of the button is a lottery ticket.

Slot machines are usually among the worst bets in any casino. The compact mandates that the Seminoles pay out at least 85 percent of what each machine brings in.

Video poker: The compact doesn't specifically talk about video poker, but it appears to be allowed under the slot details. If so, it's a much better game for players since skill is involved. In fact, with proper play, and decent "pay tables," which spell out how much a player wins with each hand, a skillful players can turn this into a winning game.

Blackjack: Everything thinks they know how to play this popular card game, but few folks really do. The object seems easy enough: beat the dealer by getting as close to 21 without going over, but the reality is this a game of numerous choices based on the card combinations. Played skillfully, and with generous casino "conditions," or rules, the casino might only have a slight edge over players. But if you play on "gut instinct," well, you'll likely feel like you've been slugged in the gut over the long haul.

Baccarat: This elegant card game popular with Asian players was James Bond's choice until Daniel Craig learned how to play poker. No skill is involved - a dealer dishes out two hands based on prescribed rules, but it's an amazingly good bet for players who usually need to know what they're doing in order to get decent odds.

Other "banked card" games: The compact doesn't spell out a list of these games, but any card game in which you're playing against the casino, instead of other players, appears to be okay. Three Card Poker, Let It Ride and Pai Gow Poker are three of the most popular. They're poker variations, and because some skill is involved, a player can shave some of the casino's edge with proper play.

Live poker: Little appears to change from what's offered now. The tribe must abide by the state laws that greyhound and horse racing tracks have to follow in terms of wager limits and pot sizes. One interesting deletion from the last draft and the final compact: the word "hours," which would have meant the Hard Rock have needed to close its poker room for 12 hours a day. It's unclear why the change was made, or whether it still applies.

Live poker differs from its table siblings, like Three Card Poker, because players compete against each other, with the casino taking a few dollars out of every pot that is contested.

Scott Long writes the monthly Bet On it column for tbt*, and co-hosts TampaBay.com's weekly poker podcast, Ante Up! He can be reached at long@sptimes.com or 727 893-8556.