Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino uses technology to make table games a social, accessible experience | Gaming Issue | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino uses technology to make table games a social, accessible experience

“It’s a live game, but it’s very inviting.”

Dealers get ready to go at the Rivers Casino Rush Table Zone. - CP PHOTO BY CHARLIE DEITCH
CP photo by Charlie Deitch
Dealers get ready to go at the Rivers Casino Rush Table Zone.

Anyone who has played table games at a casino, especially newcomers, knows that it can be a bit intimidating. As you sit among other players and the cards fly or the dice rolls, you often wonder if you’re doing it right, or if you’ll make a mistake and mess the game up for other players. In fact, it can be so intimidating that some players won’t step up to a roulette wheel or blackjack table at all.

But a new form of “social gaming” at Rivers Casino makes it easier for players to learn roulette and blackjack in a low-stress environment called the Rush Table Zone. The game features live dealers dealing cards and spinning the wheel, while players play at their own private terminal.

“It’s a live game, but it’s very inviting,” says Andre Barnabei, the vice president of slot operations at Rivers Casino. “It’s only a $5 table minimum, and it’s the perfect entry point for people wanting to play live table games. In November, we became the first casino in the state to offer this system.” Rivers offered the game exclusively for the first 90 days it was active.

The system is made by Interblock Gaming and, before it could be placed in Rivers, it had to be specifically approved by the state gaming commission. (Every table game and slot machine has to be approved before it can be placed on a casino floor.)

In the center of the system are two gaming tables, one for roulette and one for blackjack. Live dealers run the game by either spinning the wheel or dealing the cards, respectively. Players can see the action either on the screen at their gaming terminal or on a large screen above the dealers. There are 25 stations surrounding the dealers, and there are another 12 terminals at the bar near the Rush Table Zone. The action of the game and the variety of players makes for a social experience.

“These games appeal to table-game players as well as slot players, and we also get players of all ages,” Barnabei says. “If you come in here Thursday through Saturday, there are people playing and people watching, and it’s so energized.

“When you get 37 players playing together, it’s just a fun, social gaming experience.” 

Rivers customer Merle Apel, of Greenfield, has been playing roulette on the new system since it opened; in fact, he and his friend, Frank, were the first two to place a wager. But he’s not a newcomer. The former federal-mortgage-company auditor has been playing roulette since 1977 at casinos around the country. Over his lifetime, he says he’s up more than he’s lost, and he plays a number of different “systems” to try and maximize his wins. He’s played the game at live tables and on basic video machines, but he says he likes the new system at Rivers.

“What I really like is how it improves the speed of the games,” Appel says. “When you play at a regular table, it can take 10 minutes in between spins while they get all the chips sorted out. This way, my friend, Frank, and I can play together. Not that we team up, but we can sit here and just enjoy the game.”

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