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Only in Vegas: Station Casinos Previews Games Created by UNLV Students

Nearly two hundred attended Station Casinos' First Look Gaming Preview of five games created by UNLV students.

Campus News  |  Nov 3, 2015  |  By Francis McCabe

John Nguyen deals Show Pai, a table game of his creation, during the First Look Gaming Preview of table games at Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa. (R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Photo Services)

Station Casinos’ top players met UNLV student game inventors in an ‘Only in Vegas’ event Nov. 1 featuring five new table games straight out of the university’s Center for Gaming Innovation.

The center, supported through a grant from the state’s Knowledge Fund, helps students develop gaming concepts into commercially viable gaming products and builds an entrepreneurial spirit within the student community. Steve Hill from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and UNLV Gaming Innovation chief Mark Yoseloff both attended the session as players interacted and gave feedback to the students on their games.

“This was a tremendous opportunity for our students to get real world feedback from top players. We are very grateful to our partners at Station Casinos for putting on this ‘Only in Vegas’ educational event,” said Yoseloff.

Hill said, “We’re really proud of the kids. We’re really appreciative of the work of UNLV and Dr. Yoseloff. This is a great opportunity for the kids to be engaged with the giants of game design.”

The five games featured at the event were all variations of traditional casino games, including blackjack, pai gow, baccarat, poker and war. UNLV students dealt the games to players who offered live feedback to the students.

"One tip I've learned from my time in the industry is that the best and most successful games are simple - they contain just enough strategy and playability to be exciting," said Yoseloff, a gaming innovator who was the former head of SHFL Entertainment. "If we think your game is good, we're going to get it in a casino."

Players also had the opportunity to fill out comment cards, so gaming executives can determine if any of the games might one day be played on a casino floor. Palace Station already features on its gaming floor Pai Wow Poker, a game created by former gaming innovation student and now Station Casinos’ team member Charlie Bao Wang.

“What an incredible opportunity to bring aspiring inventors to our best players to learn from one another,"  said Staci Alonso, Chief Marketing Officer of Station Casinos. "UNLV’s students get real life feedback from our players and we get to introduce new concepts that are in various stages of receiving patents and going before regulators for field trial.”

UNLV senior and game inventor John Nguyen was ecstatic to have VIP poker players and gaming executives trying out his game, Show Pai. “It’s very exciting for a game inventor like myself,” said Nguyen, who’s Asian-themed game combines the scoring of baccarat with the play style of Pai Gow poker.

Nguyen also explained some of the delicate details that went into inventing his game. “One of the hardest things for my game was the mathematics and figuring out the house advantage. And after we did that, we made the game more viable,” he said. Show Pai is expected to have a trial run at Palace Station soon.

UNLV’s gaming innovation program is central to the state’s effort to strengthen Las Vegas’ role as the intellectual capital for global gaming. In its first two years, the center has filed 25 provisional patent applications, three new companies have been formed, and nearly a dozen student patents have been sold.

According to Yoseloff, it was a State of the State address by Governor Brian Sandoval a few years back that encouraged him to start the program at UNLV. “When I heard him talk about gaming as an engine for the state economy, I thought about how UNLV can play a role and I knew I had to get involved,” said Yoseloff. “As gaming proliferates around the nation and world, we need to maintain our role as the intellectual leader and partnerships like this help keep us there."