9 May

Casino Games that Didn’t Catch On – Tic Tac Toe

Casino Tic Tac Toe: The classic children’s game that no one wanted to bet on (thanks to a fraudulent chicken!)

Death by Chicken: The Rapid Demise of Casino Tic Tac Toe

For every game that finds a successful following on the casino floor, there are hundreds more that never do. Some concepts were so ridiculous, they never made their way to an in-house trial. Others seemed like a good idea, but just never caught on. Then there was the gambling version of the children’s classic game, Tic Tac Toe.

Wait—what?! Tic Tac Toe was a casino game? For a very brief period of time – and only in a single casino – yes it was. It garnered just enough interest from the casino industry that the idea was given a chance at a trial run in a southern US casino. But thanks to bad timing and one suspicious chicken, it never even had a chance to go mainstream.

The Birth of a Doomed Casino Game

This oh-so-common Xs and Os children’s game was the turned into an adult’s gambling amusement by long-time casino games inventor T. Christian Anthony Schlumbrecht; the same Mr. Schlumbrecht that brought us Three Card Blackjack, Casino Flop Poker and Real Deal Texas Hold’em.

Schlumbrecht received the patent for his casino version of Tic Tac Toe in early 2009. He was sure of its impending success due to its ability to present a truly random and fair outcome with each play of the game. However, the house edge wasn’t the most affable for players, ranging from 3.15% to 5%. Let’s take a closer look…

How to Play Casino Tic Tac Toe

This game could be closely compared to baccarat. Players don’t actually play the game. They bet on one competitor or the other. Like the Banker, Player or Tie bets in baccarat, Tic Tac Toe permits bets on Xs, Os and Tie (i.e. Cat, as most of us called it growing up).

In deciding which opponent plays where, the dealer holds a standard deck of cards. 26 of the cards are Xs, and 26 are Os. The deck is shuffled, and cards are dealt out one at a time. Each card is played in a specific spot on the Tic Tac Toe board, labeled with numbers 1-9. by the time all 9 cards are played, a winner, or a Tie, will have been determined.

A bet on Xs or Os, paying even money for a win, comes with a house edge of 3.15%. A Tie bet, paying 14 to 1, has an edge of about 5%. But you won’t get to experience the game yourself, unless you decide to build an at-home version, all thanks to one flightless bird named Ginger.

Death by Chicken!

As I said, Schlumbrecht’s game did make it to the casino trial phase. It made its debut at the Coushata Casino Resort in Kinder, Louisiana in the first half of March 2009. However, this wasn’t the only Tic Tac Toe casino game in town.

Tic Tac Toe Chicken Challenge

One very famous chicken (likely more than one over time, given the same name) had been traveling to casinos all across the US since 2001 to compete in the $10,000 Chicken Challenge. Her name was Ginger, and she gave casino goers the chance to play a real game of Tic Tac Toe against a chicken.

She just so happened to be in town that week at Casino Coushata. As such, no one gave Schlumbrecht’s concept a second glance. Why bet on a game you don’t really play, when you could play for real – and against a chicken?!

And who would have thought chickens could be so good at Tic Tac Toe anyway? This particular chicken was a real triple-T phenom; an awesomely intelligent fine-feathered hen, capable of beating just about anyone at this classic children’s game. That didn’t stop people from trying, which kept them far from the less-interesting Tic Tac Toe game that was debuting at the casino.

Ginger a Fraudulent Bird of Prey

Eventually the truth came out. Ginger was no smarter than the average chicken. The game was rigged to the core! As it turns out, a red laser pointer was being used to goad the chicken into pecking the best position on the Tic Tac Toe board to get the win, or at least end in a Tie. And since Ginger always got to play first, she was virtually unbeatable, but not impossible.

There’s no way of knowing now whether Casino Tic Tac Toe would have had a chance at going mainstream. Had it not been for the fraudulent antics of that ruthless chicken, perhaps Schlumbrecht’s idea would have been a hit. More likely, it still would have gone down in history as a failure, but with a far less interesting story surrounding its demise.

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