We live in an age where new entertainment is always in demand. New television shows, new movies, new video games, new books; the only problem is, after a while, there isn’t anything ‘new’ left!
But this isn’t a problem for casino games developers. The industry isn’t like the video game industry, it doesn’t need new games to be released every few months. In fact, there hasn’t been a completely new casino game invented since the slot machine at the end of the 19th century.
What the casino industry does well is reinvention. Classic casino games like roulette and baccarat are branded as ‘retro’ in order to tap into the public’s affection for nostalgia. Another option is to offer new versions of games: different versions of poker have been in vogue at different times as casinos seek to reinvigorate the market.
So how can they get away with recycling old games again and again? The answer is simply that these retro casino games are so good they are hard to improve upon. Many of them have evolved over centuries and across countries to get to the formats that are played today.
Now, with the invention of the internet and the popularity of online gambling, online casinos have digitalised many of these traditional casino games to introduce them to a new generation of players. So, if you’re hankering to try something old, here are some of the best retro casino games that are worth a second look.
3 Card Poker
This poker variant is a great way to get started with the game as it is played against the dealer rather than against other players. In this way it is more similar to the game of blackjack. The aim of 3 Card Poker is to make the best poker hand you can out of three cards in order to best the dealer.
The hand rankings are similar to 5 card poker hands, except there is no Royal Flush or 4-of-a-kind, making a Straight Flush the best hand you can have. There are no chances to redraw cards or be dealt extras, making 3 Card Poker a very straightforward and simple game to play.
There are three main variants of baccarat found in casinos today, with the most popular being Punto Banco. This is another game which sees the highest hand total win, but Punto Banco plays slightly differently in that players can bet on either hand. While one is designated as the banker’s hand and the other assigned to the player, neither has any say over what cards are drawn. Instead, there are strict rules governing what the dealer should do, depending on the standing value of each hand.
Two cards are dealt to each of the player and banker hands. The values of these are added together, but only the unit value is used – for example, a hand with a 3 and an 8 totals 11 and is therefore worth 1. The highest hand value is 9. The player is dealt another card if their total is less than 6, with the banker’s response depending on what the player now has.
While it might seem pointless to bet on a game you aren’t actually playing, Punto Banco is hugely popular because it is the casino game with the lowest house edge, meaning that players often win and win big. There are only three possible outcomes – player wins, dealer wins, or a tie – and no knowledge of strategies, mathematics, or card combinations is needed, making this a simple but enthralling game to try.
The French word for ‘little wheel’, roulette was invented in 18th century France and survives today in two forms – European and America. The main difference is that American roulette wheels have both 0 and 00 slots while European wheels only have the 0. This means that the odds and win probabilities for each are slightly different.
Players bet on the outcomes of the wheel spin. A small ball is spun around the wheel until it settles in one of the numbered slots. Players can place bets on single numbers or set combinations. Betting on a group of numbers – for example, reds, odds or 1-12 – increases your chances of winning but reduces the value of the payout.
Roulette is entirely a game of luck as nothing can legally be done to influence where the ball lands. This is what makes it a great game for casual players. It is also a very popular online game, with live streamed roulette games offering a great alternative to digital wheels ruled by random number generators.
Classic One-Armed Bandit
Nothing says ‘retro casino’ more than the sound and sights of a row of classic slot machines. Called ‘one-armed bandits’ because they were originally operated by pulling a level, these devices were invented in America at the end of the 19th century and used to be found in bars and shops. The first machines didn’t have the capacity to pay winnings themselves, so they dispensed tickets which could be swapped for whatever the owner decided; drinks, cigarettes, sweets etc. Eventually machines were fitted with the ability to pay rewards, but as gambling for money was illegal, they dispensed fruit gum instead.
Slot machines were replaced with video slots in the 1970s, doing away with the need for that hand-operated lever. While slot machines and online slots are still the most popular casino game, they’ve definitely lot that classic feel. Some are now designed with a retro theme, but it can’t replace the original mechanism. If you want some proper nostalgia, you can try and buy a machine to keep at home, but these classic models are few and far between.
Casino games have endured for centuries, and they still appeal to players today. Retro entertainment has never been more popular, and games like roulette and poker will always be associated with days gone by. If you’re looking to try something new, why not try something old instead?