Top 3 Mistakes Table Game Inventors Make With Michael Shackleford
Today we are talking about the top 3 mistakes table game inventors make when inventing their game with our special guest, Michael Shackleford (The Wizard of Odds)!
Heather: Welcome to Vegas Aces. Welcome the Wizard of Odds back with us.
Michael: Hi Heather!
Heather: Always good to have you on. Thank you for being on.
Michael: Thanks for having me.
Heather: If you guys don’t know, Michael Shackleford you got to check him out. Go to his website wizardofodds.com. Check out his YouTube channel. He has a ton of information on there. So please go check it out. Subscribe and like, all that fun stuff.
Today we are doing a video on the top three mistakes. We are going to be continuing with that from last week. Top three mistakes table game inventors do. They don’t realize they are mistakes. So Mike, what are those mistakes that people make where they just don’t realize what they are doing?
Michael: First of all thanks for the nice plug. I know you deal with table game inventors too. So I certainly welcome your thoughts on the topic as well. So how do I know about this? It’s because I also consult for table game inventors, helping them with the math and general advice. So I see them making the same mistakes over and over. When you go to the gaming shows you see these same awful games all the time. And they are awful for very similar reasons.
So that said, my first reason table games inventors fail is their game is too complicated. It takes too long to explain. And even after you explain it the player has no idea about strategy, he doesn't like have a good feel for the game. No idea what to do. The rule of thumb is that you need to be able to explain the rules of your game in 30 seconds or less. A lot of people take 30 minutes to explain it. Nobody is going to have that much patience. You have a really short window to attract a new player to your game.
Players are not clamoring to play new games. Now you may get somebody that walks by a new game and they say, “What’s this?” And you are going to need to be able to explain the jist of it, like I said, in under 30 seconds. If they play they need to be engaged with the game. If they get a hand and they are like, “I have no clue here.” And there is no strategy card and the dealer doesn’t know what to do. That player is not going to have a good experience. He is going to lose like crazy. He is going to be frustrated and he is going to leave and not come back. He is going to say that game sucked to anybody that listens. So in summary, most games are just too complicated.
Heather: Yeah I completely agree. I have seen a couple games where I have asked the table game inventor a question about the game and they wouldn’t know the answer. It’s like that’s your game. If you don’t know the answer how do you expect the dealer to answer that?
I love what you said about the 30 seconds or less. A lot of people need to look at it as an elevator pitch. So in an elevator pitch would be 15 - 30 seconds. It is the exact same thing when you are pitching your game to either a casino manager or a player. You have to be able to tell them exactly what is going on in that time frame.
So what is the second common or biggest table mistake table game inventors do?
Michael: The number two reason they fail is they are under financed. Trying to get a new table game to market is expensive. Now there was a scene in one of the Oceans Eleven movies where somebody pitches a game at a gaming show and every casino table game manager was fighting to get this game. No! It’s not like that. You are the one that needs to do the fighting to give your game away for free. It’s a catch 22. Nobody is going to want a game that is not proven to make money. And you can’t prove a game makes money unless people try it. So it’s really difficult to get your foot in the door.
How do you get your foot in the door? You need to – first of all you need to make all the equipment like a tablegame cloth, any special equipment. Stuff like that. You need to pay to go to gaming shows to demonstrate your game. You should probably make a dedicated website of your game that preferably has a demo that players can play on the computer. Those are not cheap. You should probably make a video to put on YouTube that explains the game. And all this stuff is expensive. I think that a good budget is somewhere in the range of $50,000 - $100,000. Probably at least 95% of people that take this plunge, are never going to make a dime. So you have to think of it as an extremely risky investment. If you don’t have $50,000 to flush down the toilet, then turn around and run away, this business is not for you.
Heather: That is a really good point. I try to tell people that they have to view their new table game like a product that you are putting in a grocery store. You are not going to put a product in a grocery store without advertising and marketing it. You have to do that. It is just part of it. You don’t know if it is going to succeed or fail but you do have to market it and get it ready for the “grocery” store for example. The other thing you were saying, if you guys are interested Vegas Aces does do that. So we do table layouts, we do rack cards, we do logos, websites, all of that. Email me at [email protected] and we can help you through that process.
So what is the third biggest mistake that new table game inventors make?
Michael: The third mistake is the game is too bizarre. It’s too unconventional. It doesn’t have any connection to any existing game. I know this kinda has some overlap with the first reason. As an example you don’t want a dice game that uses anything other than a six sided dice. You don’t want to use dodecahedrons, icosahedrons, nothing like that. Forget it! If you want a card game, you want to use standard 52 card deck. Maybe you can add a joker, but please don’t make special decks that look like UNO cards or present different colors. NO! People understand games with standard 52 card decks, and standard six sided dice. At least they kinda have a feel for the odds for games like that. This is true also with board games. Games people like to use conventional equipment.
Okay, also I recommend taking an existing game and trying to improve it. Or atleast change it a little bit. Like blackjack. People have had successful games with Blackjack Switch, – what are some other ones?
Heather: Oh man there are so many out there.
Michael: Free Bet Blackjack, where the player gets to split or double for free. Of course there is always a takeback. You try to give something to the player that makes the game more fun and you take away something they are not appreciating very much to begin with. For example Spanish 21 did that brilliantly. They said here is blackjack but you can double on any number of cards. You can double on anything. You get these bonuses for 6-7-8 and 7-7-7. You can surrender any time. A blackjack is an automatic winner including against the dealer blackjack. 21 Cards is an automatic winner. 5 Card Charlie, 6 Card Charlie…all of these bonuses.
And what did they take away? They took away the 10s from the deck. Not every ten point card, just the 1-0 tens. And players didn’t notice. I have played a lot of Spanish 21 and I have yet to meet a player who even knew that they removed these cards from the deck. Removing the 10s from the deck is strongly in the dealers favor.
That is a perfect example of removing something, players don’t appreciate and giving them something that they do. Again taking an existing popular game, probably blackjack or baccarat and just twisting it a little bit.
Heather: I really like that. And I like what you – Go ahead.
Michael: What was I going to say? And this is kind of – let me just say something that is a little bit off topic. But every table game inventor will fall in love with his game. They say, “Mike this is the exception to the rules. This is going to be the next 3 Card Poker.” Every table game inventor says that. You are not special! Trust me. And everyone will say, I have demoed this to my friends and my mother on my kitchen table and they all love it. Of course they are going to say that. They don’t want to hurt your feelings and tell you your game sucks.
I know somebody who demoed her game on Fremont street and got 99% positive feedback. Trust me this game was terrible. I hope the person behind this game doesn't watch this. When people see you face to face and ask them, “What do you think of my game?” They are not going to be honest. They are going to tell you what you want to hear. That is just the way people are. Just wanted to give you that warning. You are not special and your game is not special. I am sorry to say it.
Heather: Oh my goodness. So going back to what you were saying before with the custom equipment and everything. I just wanted to talk about that real quick. Casinos – if you come with custom cards for example. If you have custom playing cards and you come in with that, most casinos will not take that. Most casino managers will just be like NO immediately.
Michael: Yep! And they don’t want to stock all this special equipment.
Heather: Exactly! This is going to cost them a lot of money and everything. And the inventor is like, “What if I cover the cost?” And it ends up being a big cost for the inventor. So it’s not really a very good scenario having custom equipment because the inventor is covering the price and they are already paying for so much as it is.
Heather: So I don’t really want to make a comment on your other suggestion because I don’t want to go around telling our players that they are not special. I was trying so hard not to laugh my but off when you were talking about it.
Michael: Well one tough thing about me when I go to the gaming shows. I just see these people demonstrating these terrible games. Then after they do this demonstration they always ask me, “So Mike, what do you think?” and they have this big wide eyed look on their face. Just ready for me to say wonderful things about it. And then I will say, “Before I answer that question I want to warn you that I am going to give it to you straight. And I am going to tell you what I really feel.” And then 100% of the time they say I want your true feelings, I want your honest opinion. Give it to me straight. And then I say terrible things about their game. And then they get this dejected look on their face. They might be a little bit angry. Like, “Mike, I think you are being a little bit rude!” And I said, “I warned you, I am going to be honest with you.” And then I will probably say, “My advice is to turn around and run for your life. This game is awful and you are never going to make a dime.”
Heather: I can attest to that. I have been there. I have seen it. I have seen it happening more than once. Like a lot actually. Oh man! But the advice you give them is always good advice. It is always very straight forward and you tell them exactly what it is.
Michael: Sometimes you have to pass out some tough love.
Heather: Well the alternative is they keep going and they end up spending $50,000 or $100,000. You really are helping. The event you were talking about is Cutting Edge and G2E and what other events are there throughout the year?
Michael: Those are the two big ones. I know there is also a tribal gaming show. And then there are smaller versions of G2E around the country and around the world. But I do recommend that if you are going to go the route of showing your game, go to Cutting Edge. This is a show that is only about table games and it has a table game showcase. This is going to be a room that has about 30 table game inventors demonstrating their game. And I am not going to say that casino managers are going to fall in love with your game, but they will be there. That is why they go to the show, because they don’t just go to look at new table games. They talk about very valuable topics that have to do with existing games and how to protect them and how to make more money and so on and so forth.
While they are there they will – you will get the attention of the decision makers that count. You will get the people that run the table games here in Las Vegas or wherever. So when you demo your game to them, they are going to give you good feedback. They might hold back a little bit to avoid hurting your feelings, but I would pay very good attention to any criticism that you get.
Michael: If you leave that show and you get a lot of criticism, if you think they don’t know what they are talking about – you can think that but these are the people that you need to sell.
Michael: It’s going to benefit you nothing to have a game that you think is the next sliced bread that nobody will take.
Heather: Yeah. And a lot of the times they are getting the same feedback from people. It’s like if you are getting five or six different people saying exactly the same thing. Maybe you should listen to them.
Michael: Yeah. Maybe you should. You know one thing I like about the show Shark Tank, is they are not afraid to say that a bad business idea, is a bad business idea. Usually when they leave and they get the person's feedback when they are out of the tank, they will say, “I’m going to show them, they don’t know what they are talking about.” And I bet none of these make it. Or very very few.
Heather: Well thank you so much for being on and sharing your wisdom. If you haven’t already check out his website and YouTube channel, The wizardofodds.com. Fantastic information, a lot of good resources. Thank you again so much for being on!
Michael: You're welcome.