Ahh Vegas…Gambling, Drinking, Showgirls. And Wait…A Technology Hub, Too?

Not long ago Las Vegas wasn’t part of the technology innovation. In fact, the basic premise of Vegas has kept it simple in a way—gambling, drinking, and showgirls. The nightlife is unrivaled and the entertainment is unforgettable. “Vegas means comedy, tragedy, happiness, and sadness all at the same time.” —Artie Lange. Artie has it right! Vegas is everything to everyone. But would you ever say Vegas was a technology hub?

Not until recently did I find myself in awe of some of the technology advancements going on in Sin City. I stay at the same room on the strip, great views and superb staff at the Paris/Bally’s, but then I hit the smokey casino floor, the waitresses clad in skimpy dresses, music was loud, and the craps table had a gang around it screaming and clapping. The sounds of slots and people from around the world engaging in all their vices. I found myself at a Pai Gow table. I play poker. I enjoy poker. The cards, the drinks, the felt tables where cards float across as if on a cushion of air, and that is when I noticed. There in the middle of this table, I couldn’t believe it, a small touch-screen LCD panel the dealer keeps tapping. As I watch for the next few hands—it hits me—that screen is a display of all the hands around the table. Wait, wait wait. I have been going to Vegas for years, but I have never seen anything like this. How did it know? If players had problems setting their Pai Gow hand the dealer would simple push the according seat number on the LCD and it would say how to play with best odds and correctly.

So I inquired with the Pit Boss and he explained to me that automatic shufflers not only shuffle, but continuously monitor the cards in the deck. It knows when cards are missing, what card is missing and which players have which cards. It knows everything on that table!

This technology acts to serve the casino two-fold. One, it shuffles cards better than any dealer. The shuffler, designed by Shuffle Master, not only shuffles but pops out the required number of cards that is to be given to each player. This increases deal times. And for those who don’t know, Casinos expect there to be around 20-30 hands of Pai Gow poker played every hour. Far cry from the 500-600 hands of Blackjack, but still a lot considering Pai Gow is a slower game. So with the new shuffler they are looking to increase the hands-per-hour to 30-40. Still difficult, but you see my point. If people ain’t playing, they ain’t paying. Second, security. Security for the casino and security for you. It’s not unkown that there are people trying to get any advantage over the casino’s, but here is how Shuffle master has tried to stop both sides from getting a little off track. The shuffler knows where every card in the deck is. Wether it be in the shuffler—or on the table. So if a player decides to pull the ol’ switch-a-roo, the shuffler will know. If that happens, this is the part it protects you, the hand can be called a misdeal. So if you are holding that Straight Flush, say goodbye to it.

So in a way it is trying to protect you and the casino. At first it seemed a little ‘big brother’ even for Vegas, and somehow I just couldn’t trust that something the casino owned would be of any help to me. But after playing with it, checking to see if it would play the way I think I should, I found it to be very useful. And kinda cool. It didn’t always do what I wanted, it plays the odds against the rules the dealer has to go by. Sometimes I want to play a little riskier.

All in all, Vegas is growing into a huge tech mecca. Handheld gaming devices, LCD panels on tables, and slot machines with advanced 3D LCD panels. It serves as a reminder that all things change. Vegas is a baby in the tech industry, but I think Vegas will come out ok. If all else fails, cards can be played with no technology. But if I know that town, they got more up their sleeves!

That’s Vegas, kid.