Colorado-Based Developer Opens New Table Game at Las Vegas Casinos

Written By Phil West on 01/15/2024
Photo of Casino Gaming Development employees on a story about the company's success with a new table game.

Imagine a table game you invented being played in Las Vegas.

That dream became a reality for Angel Espino in November. The 3 Shot Poker game he created as owner of Casino Gaming Development was adopted at both the Flamingo and Harrah’s in the legendary gambling mecca. And, they’re still being played there today.

But the game has its roots in another gambling mecca closer to home: Black Hawk. The Colorado mountain town is where Espino, a veteran card dealer at the Ameristar Black Hawk Casino, was inspired to create table games people want to play.

“I’ve noticed that the popular games were pretty outdated … There are a handful that are staples, but they seem kind of outdated,” Espino told PlayColorado. “It’s almost like the players, the following, were an older crowd. And I felt that there was a surge of young new players, almost like a next generation of players. And it didn’t seem like they were gravitating toward the established games.

“So, what sparked my interest was to create something more enticing, a little bit challenging, but not too challenging where it was too complex. You still want to keep the game simple, but something more intriguing.”

Casino Gaming Development looks to ‘revolutionize casino table game industry’

Espino told The Denver Post that he considers Casino Gaming Development to be akin to giants in another industry.

“We’re Apple, we’re Microsoft in the garage. We think we can be Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates.”

Casino Gaming Development touts itself on its website as seeking to “revolutionize the casino table game industry by providing a dynamic, thrilling and unique gaming experience.” It puts forth the lofty goal of “becom[ing] the leading name in casino gaming, known for cutting edge, fun and endless entertainment.”

Espino started the company in 2016. He has since enlisted fellow Black Hawk dealers to help develop new games.

The key to success of new games is to keep it simple

Espino said the key in developing table games is to keep the rules simple enough to be easily understood in a matter of seconds.

What a table games decision-maker said on a podcast once has stuck with Espino and influenced his game development ethos.

“If you can explain the game to a player at two in the morning, that’s probably had a couple of drinks, and he understands it, he goes, ‘I don’t care what that game is. I’ll put it in,’” Espino told PlayColorado. “So that struck a chord … I’ve noticed that the simpler you can explain the game, the more likely they will sit down and play. So, you have to be able to break it down in a couple of sentences.”

Espino’s elevator pitch for 3 Shot Poker is “a multi-action three-card poker game in which the player has the opportunity to make three individual hands with their two hole cards.” The game combines elements of some familiar three-card poker games, like Mississippi Stud and Let It Ride, as well as traditional three-card poker.

It got a field test in two Black Hawk casinos, Saratoga Casino Black Hawk and Monarch Resort Casino Spa, and is currently still playable at Saratoga.

Black Hawk casinos, Cripple Creek casinos and Central City casinos make up the three central hubs for brick and mortar gaming institutions in Colorado.

Casino Gaming Development has won top table game awards the last two years

3 Shot Poker has gotten Casino Gaming Development on the map, The game won first prize at the 2023 Global Game Protection and Table Games Conference. The conference exists, according to its website, “to address and examine current and future casino operations and problems in both sectors, with a sharp focus on all integral aspects of table games, game protection, surveillance, compliance and their interaction with other departments in the casino.”

It also hosts a contest for new table games, which Casino Gaming Development has now captured two years running. Its take on blackjack, Pocket Rockets Blackjack, took top honors in 2022.

Espino’s company has two games ready for the 2024 conference, to be held March 5-7 at the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. One is BBQ Baccarat, developed in coordination with collaborator Kathy Luu. It is based around a scenario that sometimes happens in baccarat games. It is known as “barbecue” when there’s a seven over six winner.

The other game is Five Card Pai Gow, a take on the Asian variant of poker. Espino claims his company’s version “diminished 90% of the confusion” compared to the traditional seven-card game.

Company looks to create three or four new games each year

Espino, Luu and the rest of the team – Tommy Thammavongkeo, Collin Feindt and Megan Zippie – aim to create three to four games a year. Their goal is to annually debut at least one at the Global Games conference and the other at the Global Gaming Expo, slated for October at the Venetian Expo.

The Denver Post reported that each game takes about $50,000 to develop. Each must contain four key principles:

  • Entertaining
  • Dealer and player error minimized
  • Innovative
  • Profitable for the house

Game development includes a check-in with Gaming Labs International. It works with “gaming regulators, suppliers and operators in 567 jurisdictions all over the world.” Espino said the company will “confirm your math” to ensure “the game is viable.”

The Post also pointed out the daunting odds Espino’s company faces.

“Espino estimates that 5% of all games that are developed make the casino floor. Just 5% of those games are successful and survive the test of time.”

Despite the odds, Espino loves what he’s doing. His end goal is to remain innovative.

“I want to stay ahead of the competition.”

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Phil West

Phil West is an Austin-based writer and editor who has been published in a wide range of publications throughout his career, including the Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times,, The Striker, and The Daily Dot. He's currently writing about Austin FC (and more generally, about MLS and world soccer) at Verde All Day, an independent Substack-hosted and subscriber-supported site. He's also a Senior Lecturer in The Writing Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

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